Saving the Seven Seas

When the Mediterranean Sea was on the way to becoming a polluted toilet bowl from unregulated dumping, all shoreline nations risked losing its beautiful waters supporting vacation tourism as well as industrial fishing. But, who would give up free dumping first? A compact agreement was proposed to halt and reverse the damage, ultimately signed by all Mediterranean nations. Regulation saved the sea.

Global oceans need similar protection. Efforts beginning in the 1950s to draft such agreements have been revised dozens of times to address objections of this or that powerful nation. The current U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) came into force in 1994, and has been signed by 152 nations. But not the United States.

A handful of conservative senators, led by Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, has blocked American ratification of the treaty, claiming that it would impinge upon US sovereignty. Inhofe argues that signing any treaty curtailing U.S. activities in any way is antithetical to U.S. national interests. Tom Coburn has also been an opponent both as a US Representative and now as a Senator.

UNCLOS has been officially endorsed by Presidents Bush and Clinton, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, and by all living State Department Legal Advisors. UNCLOS is also supported by more than 60 U.S. environmental, business, military, legal, and public interest organizations.

While earth’s human population continues growing toward seven billion, all the rest of nature is in retreat. Species extinction rates are unprecedented. Changes in the planet’s atmosphere are not in question, though the consequences are debated. Baby birds soiling their nest grow up to fly elsewhere. There is no elsewhere for humanity. Earth is a sacred trust to human stewardship. Our spherical planet can no longer afford flat-earth thinking.