Our oceans, our responsibility
In the face of the latest oil spill, uncover the challenges we face in the name of ocean preservation, and how you can lend a voice to the cause.
Friday, June 11, 2010 - 01:19
The sea, the great unifier, is man's only hope. Now, as never before, the old phrase has a literal meaning: we are all in the same boat.
— Jacques Yves Cousteau
(Happy 100th birthday, Jacques!)
In the wake of the second annual recognition by the U.N. of World Oceans Day, we continue to face the sobering reality that is crude oil gushing into the once pristine waters off the Gulf of Mexico. The images and disturbingly vague statistics have saturated the media for nearly two months, yet the dilemma continues to unfold. As the pressure from the Deepwater Horizon disaster weighs heavily on the hearts and wallets of the American people, we must also satisfy the need to explore the entire catalog of issues that face the bodies of water that drape nearly three-fourths of the Earth's surface, and furthermore, how to become an ocean defender in your own right.
The title of the article is borrowed directly from that of the first official celebration of World Oceans Day in 2009, and serves as a blunt admonition to apathetic and ignorant members of society. My personal appreciation for the sentiment lies in the word "responsibility," a powerful and often feared word that in context suggests that accountability is a necessity to be carried by humanity as a whole. The opportunity suggests that if we feel entitled (as we so often do) to the abundance of the ocean, that preservation and conservation cannot be disregarded.
This year's World Oceans Day theme, as declared by the United Nations, was "Oceans of Life." Ironically, the primary issues facing oceans directly threaten the existence of marine life and the clean water needed in order for biodiversity to thrive. Regarding the international scale, the most critical and most widely publicized issues include pollution, global warming and the wide range of various fishing related threats that are seemingly more obscure to the public.
One such issue is the cruel act of whaling, which has, in the name of Japanese "research," expanded the goals in 2010 to include 50 humpback whales and 50 fin whales, both of which are endangered species. Other such related issues are factory fishing, pirate fishing and bottom trawling, all of which are decimating species populations and fragile coral, while blatantly disregarding all sustainable methods of fishing.
These processes not only disrupt the balance of the food chain, but disrupt a way of life for smaller human populations and tribes that depend directly on the ocean for survival. It is the delusion that the overfished and hunted species will naturally replenish themselves that has led to the critical state of the world's marine life. Lastly, as an incredibly redundant statement of the obvious, we must prevent further offshore drilling efforts, while instead exploring the technologies for alternative sources of energy, as originally promised by our president in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. These particular acts invested $80 billion in clean energy, and with its guiding principles, let us drastically reduce our fossil fuel dependency, and therefore many of the security and environmental issues in which we are helplessly drowning.
In the face of enormous perils, specifically those noted above, it can become overwhelming when trying to determine the individual's role of defense. Aside from the simple act of donating funds to marine related non-profit organizations, it is wise to consider efforts at the local level first. Georgia's coastline encompasses nearly one-third of the eastern seaboard's salt marshes and thousands of acres of tidal freshwater wetlands. Not only is this combination unique and rare, but extremely fragile, and therefore in need of protection from over-development and the proposed oil and gas exploration off the coast (refer to my previous post "Black gold: The crippling effects of offshore drilling").
By involving yourself in local grassroots politics in combination with groups like Environment Georgia, it is proven feasible to prevent damaging resolutions and legislation. See below for a list of Georgia's coastal dilemmas and how you can help reverse the signs of damage.
In closing, let us reflect on a sentiment expressed by Amnesty International that reads: "corporate accountability doesn't have to be an oxymoron." In response to the oil spill in the Gulf as well as the other critical issues on the marine defense agenda, let us insist upon our democratic rights, and assert our resolutions to local and federal politicians as well as large corporations, while challenging loquacious lobbyists. It is our ocean and our responsibility.
Georgia's coastal issues
• Protecting critical coastal lands with sustainable land use and development practices
• Marshlands protection
• Effective stormwater management
• Barrier islands conservation
• Coastal hazard management
• Coastal wildlife habitat protection
• Protecting coastal water resources
• Savannah Harbor deepening
• Offshore oil and gas drilling
Protecting Georgia's coastline
• Coastal Georgia Adopt-a-Wetland (through the University of Georgia's Marine Extension Service)
Defending the world's oceans
• Ocean Futures Society (Jean-Michel Cousteau)
Photo: David Paul Ohmer/Flickr
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