The Earth is unique in that 70% of its surface is covered in large saline oceans. As a nation, the U.S. has a relatively unique relationship with the world’s oceans because it has a great deal of coastline touching two of the planet’s largest oceans, the Atlantic and Pacific. These oceans are significant sources of food, energy, and other natural resources for much of the world’s population and serve as an important means of international trade.
Despite how important these oceans are to the U.S., both economically and ecologically, only a tiny fraction of them has been thoroughly explored, charted, or developed for the harvesting of natural resources. This is due to their sheer size and depth, and how difficult it is to take accurate measurements or map the ocean floor while dealing with strong currents or off-shore weather patterns. The technology necessary to make this kind of in-depth study feasible has only recently been developed, so modern oceanography presents an opportunity to learn more about the world’s oceans than has ever been previously discovered.
While further exploring and developing the world’s oceans is certainly an achievable goal for the U.S., there is some debate as to whether or not the nation should actually pursue it. Proponents of exploration and development say that understanding the world’s oceans would prepare us for predicted climate change and the environmental changes that would accompany it. They also suggest that ocean exploration and development could help preserve and improve important natural and economic resources. Opponents, however, say that in the current economic climate, exploring deep sea trenches and distant locations that are inaccessible to most Americans would be a waste of taxpayer dollars that could be better spent on dry land.
This collection of articles will provide resources for developing arguments regarding U.S. exploration and development of the Earth’s oceans. The articles examine the history of oceanography, the economic, ecological, and scientific relationship that the nations of the world have with its oceans, and future developments and potential issues related to the oceans. The collection is drawn primarily from our back issues at The World & I eLibrary.