by Youth Ocean Advocate Lily B.
When exploring space and encountering unknown planets on expeditions to find a habitable place to live that humans may one day transfer to, relies on one factor. Water. Water is the backbone to any successful civilization. Without it, life as we know it would be no more. No living creature could survive. So why do we tend to overlook the vast power the water ecosystems have over our life? Maybe because we have only explored about 5% of the ocean, or maybe because people don’t understand how utterly amazing our marine environment is. Whatever the reason may be, protecting the marine environments are of the utmost importance.
My love for the ocean, and wish to instill the idea of conservation into everyone’s minds, began when I was younger. I was fortunate enough to live on the Puget Sound, and had a front row seat to the most amazing show mother nature could put on. I knew since I had been old enough to go walk on the beach that the marine environment was special. Every chance I could, I would go run on the beach, playing with little crabs, looking at the seasonal jellies that would float in, catching bullheads on the end of my dock, walking on the docks searching for the starfish, and respecting the serenity it brought. Some of my family members called me a baby “Jacques Cousteau.” Although I didn’t dream of being an underwater explorer, I was fascinated with all the things the ocean was. The first time I went kayaking out in the bay, I saw a river otter. I was fascinated and amazed. Although river otters are common where I live, I couldn’t stop obsessing about it. Every time after that, I would spend hours just waiting in the water, hoping maybe I would see another. A newfound love developed for me. I couldn’t truly explain how much the ocean means to me, or simply putting it into a few sentences wouldn’t do it justice. All I can say is the feeling the ocean gives me is unmatched.
As I began to learn more about my marine environment I learned that not only was the river otter an amazing creature that inhabits Puget Sound, but so many other fascinating vertebrates and invertebrates inhabit it as well. Fish eating anemones rely on the ability to paralyze their victims (fish) that swim through their tentacles, with a harpoon like structure which shoots venom into the fish. The sea cucumber is like an underwater vacuum which engulfs the dirty sand full of debris, and produces clean sand. The sea star is capable of growing another leg if one is damaged or hurt. Octopuses are capable of manipulating the colors they show on their skin by how they feel and their background. These marine animals are capable of things humans can only dream of. Things out of a story book, almost like super powers. So why aren’t we protecting them?
The ocean is a carbon sink, with carbon that is emitted into the atmosphere by industrial processes, land use changes, and burning of fossil fuels being absorbed partially by the ocean. The absorption of CO2 previously had been at an equilibrium state where both the ocean and the atmosphere were healthy and sustainable. Industrial carbon dioxide emissions have increased dramatically since the 1950s. With that, the oceans are becoming more acidic.
The acidity is taking its toll on many creatures. Shellfish are unable to form their shells due to the calcium carbonate being dissolved due to the enormous amounts of carbon. The Great Barrier Reef in Australia has recently gone through a bleaching event. Death among the organisms that build the reef’s structure is most likely linked to rising temperatures in the ocean, the government announced. This means that due to carbon emission, the water temperatures have been rising and becoming more acidic, making the environment unsuitable for organisms that once thrived.
Although this is only a small demonstration of how fossil fuels and human pollution are hurting our marine environment due to the exponential growth of industries CO2 production, imagine how much damage could happen in the coming decades. I want my kids to be able to share the love I had for the oceans in real life, not from pictures that were taken 50 years before.
Although this may seem like a task that is too big to tackle, it isn’t. On your own at home you can choose to walk instead of drive a car, recycle, compost, pick up trash, beach cleanups, even noticing some leakage of chemicals or runoff from construction sites and reporting it can make a difference. One step can lead to another. It takes one person to make a difference and inspire another. Think if everyone was able to participate in one of these actions, we could make an enormous difference. As Ryunosuke Satoro said, “Individually we are one drop, together, we are an ocean.”