Thalassa! Thalassa! The snotgreen sea.

Kusadasi could have made me cry out like Buck Mulligan of Dublin in James Joyce’s great novel about an evening of drunkenness. I live in a city by the ocean, and I’d been away from towns for four days. The sea front of Kusadasi had the look of laid back small towns along the Cote d’Azur, at the other end of the Mediterranean. The day had been hot, but here a lively breeze whipped up waves. I walked along the strand, on the seaward side of Atatürk Bulvari, enchanted by the light on the sea-facing buildings.

Kusadasi is a port of call for many cruises in the Aegean, and the Aegean itself is one of the most widely traveled seas in human history. On World Oceans Day (June 8) it is interesting to think about the ecology of the Mediterranean. There are only about 17,000 different marine species in this sea. That is about 1% of all marine species. And it seems that many of them are endangered. The 1988 Convention on Biological Diversity was followed by a setting of targets; one aims to protect about 10% of all seas and oceans. Until now about 7% of the Mediterranean is protected (but see this contrary article).

Driving into Kusadasi earlier, we had passed a wild stretch of land on a cliff high above the sea. This part of the world is beautiful in the middle of spring. The air is cool, wild flowers cover the ground. The setting sun painted everything in shades of gold. We stopped to take photos of the green land and blue sea. A postcard put out by the UN for World Oceans Day reminds us that 70% of the earth’s area is covered by oceans and seas, and that 70% of the oxygen comes from there. All the oxygen in the air is due to plants, created by photosynthesis, as they soak up carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen. It seems surprising that the oceans contain proportionally as many plants as the land. We do not see a green ocean, after all. But these numbers are not lies. Contrary to the evidence of our eyes, the sea is green. Maybe even snotgreen.