Our oceans and lakes are vital to us. Not only do they provide over 70% of the world’s oxygen, but they also provide food and resources to humans. They also act as a carbon sink, mitigating the effects of climate change. But our bodies of water are under attack. We are overfishing and polluting them to the point of no return.
The ocean and lakes provide 3.3 million jobs in the US, according to this report. Without it, several industries and jobs would collapse. People would lose their jobs, and suffering would become more commonplace. If people continue to abuse these bodies of water, eventually those industries will diminish. According to this Scientific American article, the amount of fish in the oceans has declined by 50%, with some species almost completely wiped out. As the largest-traded food commodity in the world, seafood feeds billions of people internationally. It also is the main source of animal protein for 3 billion people worldwide. That means that the end of our healthy oceans will also mean the beginning of an unhealthy and starving population.
But, you might ask. How can we give people a reliable source of protein without destroying our oceans?
Good question. One solution is to establish no-fish zones, or no-take zones. In those zones, fishing or taking wildlife from the habitat is banned, therefore allowing populations to recuperate. Then, the healthy population spills over into the zones where fishing is allowed. When placed strategically, no-take zones can allow fishermen to catch normal yields while the fish population overall remains healthy. According to this New York Times article, Ngiwal, an island in Palau, used no-take zones to great effect.
Unfortunately, no-take zones cannot prevent the devastating effects of climate change. Eventually, those measures will become obsolete in many areas. However, they are still a great short term method of protecting our fish. There is still another reason to continue no-take zones. Healthy oceanic areas act as a carbon sink, mitigating the effects of climate change. The plants and phytoplankton living there also generate oxygen, acting as the lungs for the world. In fact, over 70% of the oxygen in our atmosphere comes from the ocean! That is more than all the trees in the world combined! In fact, many scientists believe that the Amazon has only a small impact on the atmosphere’s oxygen, due to the fact that oxygen is consumed by microbes and the trees themselves. However, the Amazon and other forests around the world are still important as carbon sinks and global air conditioners.
To prevent the destruction of our oceans, we have to mitigate climate change. The major categories of sectors to decarbonize include energy, transportation, agriculture, and industry. To save our oceans, decarbonizing each sector is vital. Additionally, carbon capture and storage (CCS), plays a role in reversing our impact on the climate. It is not too late!
Decarbonizing our energy sector means no longer burning fossil fuels for electricity. To do that, we will have to develop new technologies and make use of existing ones. For example, developing a nuclear fusion reactor that runs on nuclear waste could help society find a use for nuclear waste as well as generating energy. Developing a method for solar panel and wind turbine recycling is also important. In the meantime, we can make use of the ever-cheaper renewable options available to us. Yes, this change will take time. Many people and companies cannot afford renewable energy. Thankfully, it is getting cheaper and more plentiful every day. Having a renewable grid also requires energy storage. Traditional lithium ion batteries are limited and should be used for electric cars to decarbonize that sector. That means we have to find another way to store electricity. Luckily, getting enough people to work together can accomplish anything!
‘Thank you for reading my articles. I hope they inspire you to take action!