There are several things in our environment that we have to keep reminding ourselves are not precious to everyone. Despite a direct correlation to the future of life on our planet, people somehow fail to make a connection.
The ocean is one of these things. You remember the ocean. It was represented by all that deep, soothing blue on your childhood globe. Well, the ocean is suffering as a direct result of what we’re doing to it. According to this year’s Global Ocean Commission Report the world’s oceans are dying. The causes of this vast and exponentially devolving oceanic crises are threefold. Climate change, pollution (specifically, direct pollution to the oceans, and not general pollution that would be associated with climate change) and over-fishing comprise the malevolent triumvirate suffocating an unspeakably essential ecosystem.
If you were to ask a group of people, any group, from any walk of life, if the ocean was “important” to them, they would overwhelmingly say something like “of course.” Which is fine, but then, upon looking at how the oceans are regarded as evidenced by our behaviors, a very different story begins to unfold.
The Ocean: Humanity’s Workhorse
(Pay attention here. This is why you should care.)
The ocean, aside from being the most alluring elemental amalgam ever, is kind of a workhorse for humanity. In this case, if you’ll allow, we would call our ocean an over-workhorse because we’re asking too much of it. The ocean is responsible for (deep breath) up to 70 percent of our oxygen, regulates our climate by absorbing a whole buncha carbon dioxide and holds 97 percent of Earth’s water supply.
It provides us with a livable world and we don’t even know about most of what’s going on down there, well, other than the massive puddles of petrol, courtesy of BP. Simply put, and this is the very conclusion at which the Global Ocean Commission arrived, “No ocean, no us.”
Oceanic Dead Zones
So, let’s examine how we’re doing armed with that sobering knowledge. According to One World One Ocean there are a reported 405 ocean “dead zones.” A dead zone, or “Hypoxia,” is an area where there is little to no oxygen due to fertilizer run off and nitrogen pollution (Put down those golf clubs Stanton, you’re killing my ocean!). As the population increases and agricultural entities farm more land – more than 90 million acres for corn alone last year says Scientific American – dead zones are doubling every 10 years.
By our count, that gives us (mumbles) lets see, minus 37… plus nine, carry the one … yeah … about 40 years left at our current rate before the ocean is more dead than it is alive. All that means, no big deal, is that we are also going to be more dead than alive. Oceanographer Sylvia Earle says that what we do about the oceans over the next 10 years, will affect the ocean for the next 10,000.
The Fish Are Dying
(We’ll connect the dots here. As fish go, so go humans.)
We all know about the five gyres of plastic soup in the oceans. We all know about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Do we all know about the massive fish deaths being reported almost daily since the beginning of 2014? We’re not so sure. There is a list of mass fish deaths compiled here by End of the American Dream. To say that the list is disquieting doesn’t do it any justice, but to our knowledge there’s no formal word for “makes you want to crawl in a hole and mutter the Charles S. Dutton speech from Rudy to yourself over and over until darkness comes.”
A few highlights, or shall we say lowlights, include: 500,000 carp in Kentucky’s Cumberland river, 7,000 Atlantic Menhaden in Maryland and 10 tons of dead fish were found floating on a lake near the town of Komotini, Greece. There are similar reports from India, Armenia, Canada, England, China, Bulgaria, Denmark and on and on like this. Most of the causes have been classified as “oxygen deficiency” or “pollution.”
So What Do We Do?
Well, we know that legislation in support of ocean protection is ludicrously, laughably, lacking. Two percent of all the Earth’s oceans are protected. That’s literally insane.
To only have safeguards on two percent of 71 percent of our planet shines a light on a colossal flaw in our priorities as a corporate dominated people. Understand, as important as the ocean is to our well-being, and we’d all feel comfortable using the word integral to describe it’s importance, we’ll still allow 69 percent of our planet to be abused with virtually no legal penalization.
So, while it’s not as exciting as a clandestine, late night, victimless, sabotage of known ocean contaminators (by the way – totally disposed, inclined and available for this so if you know someone who’s going, get at me) we need to support legislation in this regard. This year, the United Nations began discussing the future of the oceans and how they should be governed. You can sign this ongoing petition, it’s actually an enormous help.
Lead image source: Awesome Ocean