“In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught” – Baba Diom, Senegalese Environmentalist
The first Earth Day was celebrated on 22nd April 1970. Causa Proxima for that was the devastation caused by 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill that killed millions of fish and thousands of sea mammals and birds. 47 years later, millions of people from hundreds of countries around the world are celebrating Earth Day today.
We are concerned about global warming, pollution in our neighborhood, vanishing rainforests and damages done to the terrain. We should. However, there is also another part of planet earth that needs our immediate attention- our oceans.
(An islet in French Polynesia)
Why are our oceans so important?
Oceans cover 71 percent of earth’s surface and is home to millions of marine organisms. From single-celled bubble algae to blue whale, the largest animal on earth, millions of species call oceans their homes. But we live on the land, how are our lives dependent on Oceans?
Let us start with oxygen. The first image that comes to your mind would be that of a tree. Trees provide us oxygen to breathe. However, they are not the major source of it. Rain forests provide us 28% of oxygen in the air. Trees and plants of other areas add another 2% to it. The rest of it is produced by sea plants- consisting of tiny algal planktons that help produce 70% of the oxygen we consume. In simple words’ if we ruin the marine flora, we all will choke to death.
Next vital element of life is water. You got it already! Water in the land is maintained by the water cycle. The water of the ocean evaporates and forms clouds and rains on the land.
The third essential is food. Seafood is an important source, but the story doesn’t end there. All our food sources, plants and animals need water to grow and absorb nutrients and without the water cycle, we just won't have any form of food to eat.
In a nutshell, apart from sunlight, every single essential for life on earth is dependent on oceans. Ruin them and ruin the life on this planet.
Christmas tree worm
How safe are our oceans?
Sadly, not very. The increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide is a major threat, causing an alarming increase in ocean acidity, which is a threat to all life forms including planktons, the lungs of our planet. Many sea creatures such as the beautiful coral to sea bottom-dwelling clams are under serious threat. Pollution, plastic pollution, in particular, is another serious threat. The increase of oil, mercury and pesticide pollution is yet another. Destruction of mangroves and over fishing adds to it. It is time we seriously do something.
Plastic and other marine debris in Hawaii Beach
What can we, as individuals do?
A lot. Let us identify the important ones.
- Reduce your carbon footprint to slow down ocean acidification. Save energy in every way you can. Habits as simple as switching off lights when you exit a room helps. So do buy locally produced vegetables. A google search should get you dozens like these.
- Never buy products with microbeads. These get into the sea and cause serious hazards to sea life. Called the plastic soup, micro beads are the worst form of marine plastic pollution. Next time you buy a cosmetic product , check and avoid the ones that contain micro beads.
- Use less plastic and turn to recyclable materials.
- Do not litter on beaches.
- Do not buy fish that are below minimum legal size. Catching juvenile fish prevents them from breeding, causing a fall in their population.
- Do not buy ornaments made of endangered or threatened marine wildlife. This includes corals and turtle shells.
- Spread the awareness and be aware of ocean pollution and its devastating effects.
“The earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites one family. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. The earth is sacred and men and animals are but one part of it. Treat the earth with respect so that it lasts for centuries to come and is a place of wonder and beauty for our children.”
All pictures in this blog post are from Wikimedia reproduced under creative common license.