Oceans are one of the critical sustaining life forces of our planet and our very existence. If we look at the earth as a macrocosm for the body, the oceans are synonymous with the proportion of water in the human body and the importance of water to the human body. Just as water makes up 90 percent of the body, the oceans make up 90 percent of the earth’s water. Consequently, water is a major factor in both our optimal health and the health of the earth—we need water just as much as the earth itself needs it. Focusing on protecting our oceans, therefore, is a win-win for us and the planet.
The ocean plays a major role in our everyday life—the air we breathe, water we drink, and food we eat are all dependent on the oceans. Did you know that ocean plants produce more than half our oxygen? And like our forests, the oceans themselves absorb one-third of carbon dioxide emissions. Further, they form the clouds that bring us fresh water. Sadly, while the oceans play an enormous role to protect and regulate human health, they are, at the same time, threatened by human activities.
Most significantly, oceans are one of the major earth systems vulnerable to global warming. Global warming relates to changes in the earth’s delicate balance, caused directly by human behaviors and activities. Much of this directly relates to our industrial behaviors—that is, the amount of emissions and pollutants produced by our industries. These emissions and pollutants are melting glaciers and causing rises in sea levels. A rise in sea levels limits our water and food supply, as groundwater drinking supplies may be contaminated with the ocean’s salt water, and food is lost because farmland is being consumed by water. A rise in sea levels also jeopardizes coastal communities by threatening to flood those living at sea level. In the future, this may cause human displacement and forced migrations. As mentioned, in the same way that forests absorb pollutants in the air, oceans absorb carbon dioxide—literally digesting the effects of industrialism. Yet, like the atmosphere, oceans are absorbing more carbon dioxide than normal, resulting in acidification. Acidification increases the ocean’s pH level, and that increase disrupts the proper functioning of marine ecosystems.
We are making quite the impact on the oceans—and not always in the best way. Challenge yourself to protect the oceans by making a few small adjustments to your habits and lifestyle. It sounds daunting, but if everyone makes just a few small changes, together we can make a positive impact.
- Curb plastic habits. Over time, discarded waste forms a giant collection of plastic, not-so-affectionately dubbed the “great Pacific garbage patch.” Gross and upsetting, for sure, but how does it affect us? Well, fish confuse the plastic for food, and so they are consuming toxins, which, if it doesn’t kill them, does mean they are not getting enough nutrients to live an optimally healthy life. In turn, we are eating less-than-healthy fish. This illustrates that what we introduce to the food system truly ends up on our plates. To help, grab yourself a nice refillable water bottle to carry around, and say no to disposable products like bags, bottles, and containers by bringing your own to the store.
- Watch what you flush. All water returns to the source, which means that everything we flush down the drain eventually end up in the oceans. Imagine your dish soap, toothpaste, shampoo, fertilizer, and even pet food ending up in the home of the fish you eat. Natural products like lemon, vinegar, and baking soda are effective and sustainable choices for keeping your home and body clean. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning.
- Eat clean. Pesticides used in farming are designed to kill or repel insects, kill unwanted plants or weeds, and kill mold, mildew, and other fungi. It goes without saying, considering they are designed to kill—pesticides are toxic. They leech into and pollute the soil and groundwater, and end up flowing back into our water systems and oceans, harming aquatic life and our drinking water. Buy organic and local food to eliminate pesticides in the oceans and in your diet. Learn how to eat locally and in season for your body, and for the earth.