‘I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,’ we would belt out, in ragged unison, aged 10. ‘And all I ask is a tall ship, and a star to steer her by.’
Our teacher’s idea of imparting English literature was to get the class to learn by heart her favourite poems. This was one of our favourites too, judging by the decibel level at which we would deliver it.
John Masefield’s lines speak to the pull of the sea, that elemental compulsion that makes the time it takes between spotting that distant stretch of blue and getting into it or riding its waves far too long.
My great-grandfather most likely felt it – running away to sea not once but twice during his teens, according to family lore. He carried on charting his own course through life, becoming a vegetarian and, when forced to be on land, wearing only suits of green tweed. His fiery temper gave him a fearsome reputation, but I remember him as a salty dog with an aura of the sea’s freedom about him, good to four-year-olds and no trouble at all.
The romance of the freedom of the seas is so potent that a question like ‘Who owns the sea?’ might seem absurd. But as this edition’s Big Story shows, it is of profound relevance in times of accelerated resource grabbing, militarization of the seas, plastics pollution and climate destruction. And so is the follow-on question: ‘How can we save the sea?’
Vanessa Baird for the New Internationalist co-operative.
Blake Morrison grew up in Yorkshire – and made his escape from his traditional conservative background via literature. As he discovered writers from other cultures, borders between cultures and nations seemed to fall away, leaving him as a citizen of the world. But since the Brexit referendum he has often felt like a stranger in his own country.
Anti-EU sentiment is rising across much of the continent. The European Union’s institutions can appear undemocratic. And the wisdom of its commitment to austerity policies in member states like Greece has been roundly questioned. Almost everyone agrees that the EU needs to be reformed. But is it possible? Hilary Wainwright and Grace Blakeley take sides.