Thursday, August 5, 2010

We must save the oceans

I have long been afraid that the real fight to save the environment will not start until it is too late. It is easiest to see the damage we are doing on land because that is where we live. It is easy to recognize that a barren landscape stripped of trees and devoid of greenery has had real damage to it. But a lake still looks the same when it is full of fish as when it is empty. but a lot of devastation we are causing is easy to see, if we look.

I have often been asked to help save the rainforest by helping to buy protected forest land. I just saved 7.4 sq feet of rainforest by clicking the link on this site. The biodiversity of the rainforest is astounding and so is its rate of destruction, this is also true of the ecosystems of the ocean. Unfortunately unlike the rainforest I can't simply donate to a charity (or click a link) to help have a couple of acres of ocean added to a sort of wildlife reserve. Many barriers stand in the way of creating a similar program for the oceans as already exists for rainforests. The ocean belongs to no country and no one and unfortunately this simply makes it all the easier for the ocean to be a victim of a tragedy of the commons.

Sylvia Earle has been building an organization in an attempt to create a program to create these protected areas of ocean she calls "hope spots". In 2009 she was a ted prize winner and she gave this ted.

Creating these protected waters is a wonderful idea and I think it is probably something we will have to do if we want to really save the oceans, but it isn't the only thing we will need to do. The ocean is getting screwed over not just by our practices of directly exploiting it but also by the way we live. Plastic and garbage that find their way to the ocean stay in the ocean and we now have something called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch of course the patch is called "great" not because it is rather nifty but because it is gigantic. Estimates of the size of the garbage patch vary but the LOW estimate is that is about the size of Texas and there is another similar patch in the Atlantic. The buildup of plastic and other detritus in the oceans is killing birds and whales and no doubt is causing other sorts of trouble which are more subtle. Just as worrying is the acidification of the oceans caused by the uptake of atmospheric CO2. The acidification will adversely affect the organisms which create corals. While I think global warming is tragic because of the loss of the polar ice caps and to a lesser extent because of the raising of the sea levels and the displacement of people that will cause; I am more afraid of the loss of our coral reefs and just of screwing up the chemistry of the oceans in general.

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