Our Dirty Fuels and Overconsumption are Changing Our Oceans

Published on October 13th, 2009 | by

This article was originally published by our friends at Twilight Earth, Adam Shake writes thoughtfully about how our way of life is impacting our oceans.

I think we’ve got to be simply dense, or maybe just in denial, to think that the combined actions of our population of 6 billion people doesn’t have any impact on our planet. Plenty of us will go to great lengths to deny any sort of global warming effects, and want to argue about whether we’re truly going to experience any hardship due to peak oil.

photo by jesse.millanOur oceans are impacted by our way of life
Our oceans are impacted by our way of life

I wonder what those people will say to this: Our oceans, which cover 70% of the planet and are vital to our own existence, are already being changed due to our fossil fuel addiction, and the effects are being felt in local economies that depend on the ocean.

“Significant environmental changes, such as sea level and sea temperature rise, oxygen depletion and ocean acidification, will dramatically change the landscape, restructuring an array of natural and physical assets as well as cultural and economic. Over the next 30 years, the nation will see the most significant changes in the ocean and coastal economies since the arrival of industrialization and urbanization.” – Judith Kidlow, National Ocean Economics Program

This comment was made at a hearing before the oceans subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee, which was intended to discuss the ways in which the declining state of the oceans affects businesses and coastal communities dependent on the sea. Instead, reports say that the hearing focused on the changing nature of the oceans due to the effects of climate change.

According to the Miami Herald, oysters in some areas of Washington state haven’t reproduced for four years, and preliminary evidence suggests that increasing ocean acidity may be the cause. Falling oxygen levels in the water of the Gulf of Mexico have forced shrimp to migrate elsewhere, and unusually high levels of acidity in the North Pacific and Alaska have been reported in federal studies.

Brad Warren, of the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, said that diseases that thrive in acidified, oxygen-depleted seawater, or the effects of ocean acidification might be responsible for the oysters not reproducing in Washington, and cited a federal study which found that when exposed to high acidity levels, 2/3 of larval blue crabs died.

According to the NRDC, the U.S. ocean economy provides more jobs and more economic output than the entire farm sector, the oceans contribute more than $230 billion to the Nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) each year, and over 2 million jobs and over $128 billion come from ocean-related tourism and recreation and from living marine resources. In an economy that’s already tight, why would we not try to keep the negative impacts to a minimum?

It amazes me that when we talk about reducing our CO2 emissions in order to try to lessen the effects on our planet, and in turn, ourselves and our economy, a segment of the population either cries “socialism” or believes that something like a cap and trade system will really reduce our use of dirty fuels.

I wonder when we’ll wake up and truly begin to change, to use less, to consume less of what we don’t need, and to take care of ourselves and our home.


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