Draw a deep breath through your nose, fill your lungs and hold it there a moment. Now slowly exhale through your mouth. Perhaps you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that rainforests are responsible for producing 28 percent of the oxygen you’ve just inhaled, but what if I told you that 70 percent came from the plants in our oceans, the same plants that will absorb 30 percent of the carbon dioxide that escaped your chest?
Consider that and then the warning from Lea d’Auriol, founder of not for profit Oceanic Global, as she says, “Our oceans are in a dire state and conditions are only getting worse. We have approximately six to sixteen years until the damage humanity has done will become irreversible.”
Growing up with a mother involved with Plastic Oceans, d’Auriol was always aware of the issues impacting our seas but it was when she was made aware of the urgency of the situation that she decided to form Oceanic Global, an organization that shies away from the traditional means of advocacy sometimes associated with aggression. Instead they embrace arts, music and emerging technology to communicate on multiple levels while appealing to existing interests and engaging new audiences.
“People aren’t generally receptive to being preached at or told what they are doing is wrong.” d’Auriol says, “So, rather than harping solely on the issues at stake, Oceanic Global seeks to demonstrate the beauty and delicacy of our oceans and inspire others to love them and want to protect them as much as we do. Facts and statistics help us express the magnitude of the issues, while the arts bring them to life appealing to emotion and igniting empathy.”
So what are the issues at stake and what can we, as consumers, travelers and citizens of the world do in such a short amount of time?
Our Choices Matter
Nearly all of the issues impacting our oceans, global warming included, are derived from human activity. While the impact of waste and consumption are evident in issues such as pollution and the depletion of fish populations, ocean acidification caused by an increase in carbon dioxide, can be traced back to industrialization and mass tourism amongst other things.
This is why Oceanic Global has recently launched their #ourchoicesmatter campaign. Through demonstrating how individual choices can significantly lessen humanity’s collective footprint, the hope is to create a shift in consciousness and empower behavioural change towards a more sustainable future.
More than eight million tons of plastic are dumped into our oceans every year–that’s the equivalent of one full garbage truck every sixty seconds–and believe it or not, current projections are that by 2050 there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish.
The #ourchoicesmatter campaign highlights such estimates and then offers practical advice as to how we can all help restore our oceans’ health.
You have the power to help
Every one of us can begin making a positive impact on the future of our oceans right away by only making the smallest of adjustments to our lives. For example, go out today and simply say no to plastic straws and you could make a huge difference. We use them for just a few minutes and the USA alone tosses out 500 million of them every single day, yet they will easily outlive our great grandchildren on this earth.
Limit fish consumption
70 percent of the world’s fish are already fully exploited or depleted but the high demand for certain fish has led to huge decreases in their wild populations, forcing them perilously close to the edge of extinction and causing imbalances in the very aquatic ecosystems we rely upon to supply the air we breathe. Eel populations, for example, have decreased by 95 percent in Europe and North America in the last 10 years alone, therefore, avoiding eel (or tuna) when ordering sushi is a great way to start helping to protect ocean life. You should also try to avoid farmed fish wherever you can. It may seem like the ideal solution for managing depleted species but farmed fish are often kept in pens that are pumped with antibiotics and chemicals to keep them clean. These chemicals then enter the waterways, exposing ecosystems to toxins which in turn disrupt the natural development of wild fish.
Select your sunscreen with care
Another way we can help reduce chemicals in our waters is to consider the sunscreen we use. Oxybenzone, a popular UV-filtering ingredient, is threatening coral — especially in tourist-heavy areas such as Hawaii, the Caribbean and parts of Australia. Not only does the chemical kill coral, it also causes early DNA damage that stunts the growth of the organisms living in it. Try to avoid any sunscreen that includes oxybenzone and instead, opt for mineral-based varieties that use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. (Be aware that just because a product is certified as organic, it doesn’t mean that it is safe for the environment). A number of plant-based oils can be toxic to reef organisms. The best thing all around is to utilize the array of specialist sun clothes designed to reduce UV exposure and apply coral friendly sun screen only to the neck, face, feet and backs of your hands which can help reduce water pollution by 90 percent.
Greater than one tenth of all the land on earth is currently protected for the benefit of mother nature and yet, despite vast rolling oceans smothering over two thirds of our watery planet, by comparison we have protected a miniscule number of aquatically important sites. For too long perhaps it has been out of sight and out of mind but it is evident now that we are living with a plastic time bomb in our waters.
It is not too late for us to defuse the situation, and it doesn’t necessarily require world treaties or the boycotting of giant corporations, we, as individuals, can all begin to make a difference and we can all start right now. As Lea d’Auriol says it, “every day, we (can) choose to either pursue the illusion of human comfort or to preserve the livelihood of our ecosystems.”
If you’re inspired to stand tall and help us live in harmony with our oceans, visit www.oceanic.global and the #ourchoicesmatter campaign. Time is running out. We all need to do our bit, so let’s help make a bigger splash and create a communal shift toward responsible consumption.