This week marked #worldoceansday a day to celebrate the incredible waters that bring life to our planet, a day to open our eyes to the unforgiveable damage and destruction we have caused and a day to educate ourselves better on the urgent work that we need to do together.
I’ve always loved the sea, it’s always been my happy place, sitting by water has always brought me perspective, humbled me, reminded me of how small we are next to it’s expansiveness and I’ve always found a huge amount of peace & grounding in the knowledge that so much of it is undiscovered. But whilst we indulge in it’s beauty, flock to it’s shores and splash in the shallows there are some very sad, hard truths to face about our relationship with our oceans. Whilst we disconnect and presume that as ‘land mammals’ our existence is not intrinsically linked with those waters, we are polluting and destroying at an alarming rate the very environment that sustains our lives.
“They might cover over 70% of our planet’s surface, but only a tiny fraction of the oceans has been protected: just 3.4%.”WWF
So what are the big issues that we are contributing to that are destroying this irreplaceable resource?
To say that fishing is a problem would probably be one of the greatest understatements I could make. What used to be a the livelihood of small coastal communities, with small boats, nets & spears to feed their families and villages has become in recent decades an industrialised system where giant shipping vessels quite literally hoover fish out of the waters, claiming the lives of any and all creatures in their paths. The desired catch are collected in eyewatering volumes whilst the unwanted by catch including turtles, dolphins and seabirds are often killed in the process and discarded back into the sea to rot.
We are fishing well beyond the oceans capacity to replenish & our practices urgently need reformation.
And yes we are told we need our omegas, and for many communities fish is an essential protein source where others are not available BUT, here in the west, in the UK, where we are constantly told that we ‘need’ fish, and fish oil pills because ‘fish is healthy’, I challenge you to look at some of the alternatives that we are lucky to have readily available to us. Look to get those valuable and needed omegas from the supplies the fish themselves use – seaweed!! You can easily pick up omega capsules that do not use fish oil from the likes of Holland & Barrett and you can also get essential fatty acids & proteins from chia seeds, flaxseeds, hempseeds and walnuts.
“To meet the ALA recommendations of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), you would need to eat about a tablespoon of chia seeds or ground linseed, two tablespoons of hemp seeds or six walnut halves daily.TheVeganSociety
8 million tonnes of plastic now enters our oceans every year and those amounts are rising. A substance that could take up to 1000 years to fully breakdown is being thrown away each and every day, leaching toxic chemicals into the environment.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, one of FIVE offshore accumulation zones, spans an estimated area of 1.6million square kilometres, that’s three times the size of France. A giant floating 80,000 tonne soup of plastics, the equivalent mass of 500 jumbo jets.
The terrifying crisis of plastic pollution should not be new information to anyone’s ears, but the actions we take to change it need to amp up. Swapping our toothbrushes, carrier bags and water bottles is fantastic but we need to demand more from our councils, governments & corporations to prevent plastic from being produced at such a rate in the first place and to create more effective and responsible recycling systems. We need to be writing to our supermarkets, challenging businesses and demanding real action & change.
Rising Ocean Temperatures & Acidification
Our oceans absorb around 25% of the CO2 we create and produces more than half of our oxygen. If we don’t take care of it, these two fundamental functions will cease and life as we know it will disappear.
As our CO2 emissions rise so does the temperature & acidification of our oceans which dramatically impacts the life that lives there, wiping out huge areas of coral and destroying entire eco systems. Systems that aren’t just beautiful but necessary to our survival. And of course rising water temperatures also means an increase in melting icecaps and consequently sea levels rise too. “By 2050, scientists predict that 86 percent of the world’s ocean will be warmer and more acidic than anything in modern history“ (NationalGeographic)
We need to dramatically reduce our carbon footprints to relieve some of the pressures building on our oceans.
So what difference can I make?
The actions you can take today that will help save our oceans are actually pretty simple and generally revolve around two central issues, plastics & chemicals. I tend to break it into one simple thought. Everything you throw away, whether it is into a bin or down the sink WILL end up in our water systems so get intentional about what you buy and how you dispose of it. This is a lesson in conscious consumerism.
- Refuse to purchase products that contain micro plastics, check your toothpastes and body scrubs. Thankfully in the UK micro plastics in personal care products were made illegal in 2018
- DO NOT BUY chemical sunscreens that poison our water systems. They contain toxins like Oxybenzone which kill coral reefs. Shop for reefsafe, natural alternatives.
- Don’t use toxic fertilisers in your garden
- Shop from independent businesses that are actively eradicating plastics from their supply chains and choosing a more conscientious approach to consumerism
- Use your vote wisely, yes climate change is political, there is money to be made and lost so make sure you always research your candidates and vote for those standing on the side of history that wants to protect & urgently prioritise the saving of our oceans. What actions are they taking to demonstrate this? It is our responsibility to hold our politicians accountable. Here in the UK, Environment Minister Rebecca Pow is calling Governments across the world to join the #30by30 initiative, the promise to protect at least 30% of our oceans by 2030 through Marine Protected Areas. Let’s make sure it happens!
- Get educated. We are painfully disconnected from our oceans, and from the link between our actions and their environmental impacts. So watch documentaries like Mission Blue, A Plastic Ocean & Blue Planet II (all available on Netflix), read articles, follow accounts on Instagram to inspire you and start a conversation within your circle of friends & family.
- Reduce your carbon footprint, make sure your electric is from a renewable supplier, dramatically reduce your consumption of animal products, don’t support fast fashion companies, offset any carbon when you travel.
- Support organisations that are on the front lines of this crisis doing the work. There are so many incredible organisations like MSCUK, SeaShepherd, The Ocean Clean Up & PlasticOceansUK to name a few as well as species specific charities like TurtleSurvivalAlliance & BirdlifeInternational so whether you can donate monthly or shop a one off item, read about the projects they are working on and find a way to get involved!
What we have on earth, is all we will ever have. Let’s start protecting it.