Following article by Arnd Bernaerts was
published 1994 in ‘L.O.S. Lieder’ of the Law of the Sea
Institute, William S. Richardson School of Law; University of Hawaii .
Law of the Sea Institute
William S. Richardson
School of Law,
University of Hawaii;
BACK TO WATER - CHEERS
The most fascinating thing about the day
on which the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention comes into force in a few
months' time will presumably be the fact that hardly anyone will be
fascinated. While the Earth Summit forced 170 countries to fly their
leaders and delegates to Rio in order to plan the planet's
preservation, not even two heads of state will meet on 16th November
1994 to pay tribute to the 1982 Convention, although this paper will
pave the way for rediscovering that water matters and that its source
is the oceans.
The 1982 Law of the Sea is to further
understanding on the natural commons buried since the industrial
revolution 200 years ago. To the ancient Greeks, Mother Earth was Gaia.
Once she and her fellow planets had found their place in orbit they
lived as fire spitting rocks. Only Gaia had a son, who is still alive,
Prontus, the oceans. Thales of Miletus (640-546 B.C.), the
earliest philosopher and considered to
be one of the Seven Wise Men of Greece, called water the fundamental
element of all things. As this thesis was only preserved for several
hundred years by oral tradition before being written down by Aristotle,
Thales' thoughts fit well into the picture of Gaia and Prontus. A
mother born in the depths of the universe, aged, wrinkled but still
alive, as shown by volcanic activities, and a son in his best years,
strong, dominant and the source of life on earth.
More than 2000 years later the poet
Johann-Wolfgang v. Goethe (1749-1832) gave Thales a voice in his drama,
comes from water!!
is maintained through water!
us your eternal power.
Goethe, known for his interest in the
young discipline of modern science, never lived by the sea. The
Mediterranean was the only sea he ever saw. While 20,000 people from
all over the world flew across the oceans to the Earth Summit in Rio,
Goethe only crossed the sea from Neales to Palermo in 1787. A bit
seasick, he stayed in bed enjoying the unfamiliar environment as he
felt relaxed and wrote in his diary "Italian Voyage":
one has experienced the sea around one,
one has no
idea of world and its relation to the
He himself was delighted by this 'simple
but great' line and mentions that it changed his thinking. The
foundations for the dramatic figure Thales in Faust II, finished 40
years later, were laid. At the same time, global average temperatures
fell dramatically, something which Goethe called the Cold Epoche.
While this expression is still used in
science, the Epoch after Goethe lost touch with basic principles. They
strived to understand the natural commons by means of mathematical and
statistical tools, most visible in the field of weather and climate.
The rule of the oceans was forgotten and
buried for two centuries. Now the 1982 Law of the Sea provides a chance
to rediscover the lost common understanding of how nature works. In
addition, Prontus still offers politicians and other interested people
the sea for personal experience, either now, or while traveling by sea
to the next Earth Summit. A lesson which he was able to teach Goethe
and the Greeks, should still be possible today. Even though only few
will probably have taken the opportunity to relearn the basics by 16th
November 1994, welcome the 1982 Law of the Sea anyhow.
A nip from the ocean, a glass of water
will be just fine.
Arnd Bernaerts, “ BACK TO
WATER - CHEERS ” , L.O.S. Lieder #33 Vol. 6, No. 1, April. 1994 ,
Professional correspondence from the Law of the Sea Institute, William
S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawaii.