Fun fact: the United States of America is actually comprised of more ocean real estate than actual land. How is this possible, you may wonder? Not to get overly technical, but it all has to do with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea – a 1982 international treaty that codifies nations’ claims to waters surrounding their shorelines. Collectively, America’s oceans (off the east, west, and Gulf coasts of the mainland and surrounding Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) make up 4.5 million square miles – which is 20 percent larger than the U.S. landmass.
This fact is more than a bit of trivia to bust out around the grill to impress your neighbors at your Fourth of July barbecue this year, though. According to the Surfrider Foundation, it’s an oft-forgotten idea that underscores our collective responsibility as Americans to be good stewards of not just the land but the oceans.
From “This Land Is Your Land” to “God Bless America,” popular references to the broad expanses of America’s lands and wild places are wrapped up in the stars and stripes of American patriotism. Surfrider, though, is out to remind us that this land (and the oceans!) is your land… this land (and oceans!) is my land…” And they’re doing it with a re-imagination of the classic Stars and Bars and with the help of the likes of Eddie Vedder, Jack Johnson, Sal Masekela, and other big-name ocean advocates.
“I owe so much to this ocean,” says Jack Johnson in a video posted to Instagram. “That’s why I’m holding this flag as a commitment to stand up for healthier seas and coastlines free of plastic for everyone around the world who enjoys or depends on the ocean, for all the future generations.”
Surfrider launched its United States (and Oceans) of America campaign in November of last year, and since, images of their soon-to-be-iconic flag being held by everyone from Kelly Slater to Carissa Moore to the stars enumerated above have fluttered across Instagram and Facebook feeds.
“American people are so excited about being patriots, right, but patriots for the land,” says Sal Masekela in the video above. “But, if we became patriots for the ocean, then we’d have a movement.”
With preparations for the Fourth of July in full swing across the U.S., Masekela’s words beg the question: can the warm sense of unity the holiday brings also be a call to action to stand up for the ocean? Flying a pretty rad-looking flag seems like a good place to start.