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What is the Future of Our Oceans?
To quote Sylvia Earle, “No water, no life. No blue, no green.” The oceans of the earth are a food factory, a significant climate regulator, the lungs of the planet, and the global life support system.
You have the oceans to thank for the air you breathe (70% of the earth’s oxygen comes from marine plants), the life-sustaining global temperatures, countless livelihoods, food (16% of animal proteins), anti-viral drugs (e.g., Acyclovir and Zovirax), and even some of the best holiday destinations.
“How inappropriate to call this planet Earth when it is quite clearly Ocean.”
—Arthur C. Clarke
According to BBC Future, the earth would quickly become an inhabitable landmass if the oceans (i.e., two-thirds of the earth’s surface) were to suddenly disappear—even shifting the orbit further away from the sun. Sure; such extremities are highly unlikely, but it shows the vital role our oceans play and the complex cycles they support.
Yet despite the undisputable importance of the ocean in sustaining all life on the planet, we continue to damage it through unsustainable human activity. We are pushing ocean ecosystems to a tipping point.
Simply put; our future is closely intertwined with the future of our oceans, and it’s unfortunate that most people don’t realize this—with some even destroying it. For this reason, this article aims to highlight the current state of our oceans and the future we can help build before it’s too late.
Current State of Our Oceans
The once pristine ocean environment is threatened by destruction and contamination on a global scale. Researchers and environment groups are conducting more and more studies on the extent of the destruction—casting a grimmer picture of the current state of our imperilled oceans. For example:
- The temperatures in the Arctic Ocean are increasing rapidly and so are its storm waves—posing a great danger for coastal settlements and shipping.
- A recent discovery shows that a part of the Antarctic ice sheet is increasingly vulnerable to collapse. If this happens, the sea level could increase by several feet—and this does not bode well for the future.
- Some studies suggest that human activities are altering natural “climatic episodes,” whereby the earth’s climate alternates between cool and warm periods. Currently, this cycle is not happening and we’re to blame.
- According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, over 30% of global fish stocks are either overfished or fished to capacity.
- The International Union for Conservation of Nature reports that over 8 million tons of plastic waste find their way to our oceans annually. This has devastating effects on marine life, habitats, tourism, and even humans when the harmful pollutants circle back to our food chain.
- Agricultural and industrial chemicals end up in coastal waters—killing marine life and depleting oxygen.
To sum up the current state of our oceans; we’re doomed—unless we act at an individual, national, and global level. Like other natural resources on earth, oceans are vulnerable and finite.
The Future of Our Oceans
The good news is that more and more people are taking note. Awareness is increasing, the reach of organizations dedicated to saving the oceans is growing, some lawmakers are making commendable moves, and the body of research is growing.
- Greenpeace, the University of York, and the University of Oxford have created a blueprint—dubbed 30x30—to protect 30% of our oceans by 2030. Along these lines, marine protected areas are a great way to protect marine biodiversity (Indonesia is a good example).
- Governments and international bodies are promoting better management of oceans to restore them and prevent further degradation. Case in point, The Blue COP by the UN—which sought to integrate climate efforts and oceans into the same narrative.
- Marine conservation groups are making significant strides in driving environmental change. For example, the Ghost Fishing Foundation has partnered with FIVB (International Volleyball Federation) to collect discarded fishing nets and turn them into volleyball nets.
- There’s now a World Ocean Day that “rallies the world to protect and restore our blue planet!”
So as bleak as the future may seem, there’s a flicker of hope—and we must keep it burning for the sake of future generations.
A Brighter Future Starts with You and Me!
The current destruction of our oceans is the product of different factors—most of which stem from unsustainable human activities. And as the root cause of the problem, it’s only right that we mend our mistakes.
Each one of us has everything to lose if change does not come sooner than later. So, take an active role in safeguarding the future of our oceans! Remember, protecting our oceans is basically protecting ourselves.
“For most of history, man has had to fight nature to survive; in this century he is beginning to realize that, in order to survive, he must protect it.”