HOW ONE PERSON CAN CHANGE THE FATE OF THE OCEAN
The ocean is our origin. Since the beginning of our existence, we have depended on the ocean. The ocean affects every human being on this planet. It is the reason we can breathe. It provides us with food and supports national economies. The ocean is at the heart of our existence, connecting the land, the atmosphere, and ourselves.
Every day, our society impacts the ocean. Every day, each one of us makes a series of choices that affect the ocean, its future, and therefore, our own. For many, many years it was believed that the ocean was so vast, so mighty, and so resilient, nothing we could do would ever harm it. We were so wrong. In our short time on this planet, we have impacted the ocean environment more than any other species or force has, and most likely ever will. We have altered the very nature of the sea. We are overfishing critical species and degrading habitat so rapidly, that half of all marine life has been lost in the last 40 years. By 2050, its predicted that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. Arctic ice is shrinking at rapid rates. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have reached highs that haven’t been seen in more than 800,000 years. Nature is resilient, but there are limits. We will continue to impact the ocean unless we make a change. We have come so far with understanding the ocean. We know how valuable it is to our future and have witnessed and quantified our impacts. We must learn from the past before it is too late.
Just as each one of us impacts the ocean, each one of us has a responsibility to protect it. Yes, that responsibility can be daunting… While what is happening in our ocean can be overwhelming, that doesn’t mean we should depend on someone else to make a change. So often when a person finds out that I am a marine scientist I hear, “we really need more people like you to save our ocean.” Of course, more marine biologists would be great, but all the ocean needs is you. It doesn’t take academic training to care. Our society cannot keep depending on government officials, marine scientists, and activists to make a difference in how we take care of the ocean. Because so many of us depend on someone else to make the effort in ocean conservation, we are in the current state that we are in. So many of us have this mindset that we are “just one person,” believing that as one person we don’t make a difference and our actions are futile. We are just one person… and that is huge. Believe it or not , one person makes an enormous difference in ocean conservation. Therefore, we need to make changes in our own lives, as individuals. We need to ask ourselves, “What is my role in ocean conservation?” It is time we begin to see ourselves in the story and take the initiative.
If you have never spent significant time exploring how you impact the ocean, it can be very difficult to know where to begin. Begin thinking about a typical day and think about how each action can affect the natural environment around you. How much plastic do you use? Where does your seafood come from? What brands and industries do you support? Start with one habit or daily activity that has negative impacts on the ocean. It’s not realistic that we are all collectively going to make huge life changes, like becoming a vegetarian, eliminating all use of plastic, or driving an electric vehicle. No, being part of ocean conservation isn’t about making dramatic life changes in favor of the ocean. It is about finding something you can be passionate about and committing to it. It is about taking small steps in the right direction. Every choice makes a difference. Think big, but start small.
Once you begin to think about how your actions affect the ocean, you’ll feel motivated to do more and more for the ocean. Every choice adds up. There are so many easy changes you can make today. Make sustainable seafood choices. Reduce your energy consumption. Shop local. Reduce your waste. Eliminate your dependence on single-use plastics and to-go cups. When you travel to a coastal destination, choose eco-friendly hotels and restaurants. Support local fishers. Choose chemical-free sunscreen. Be a conscious beach-goer. Pick up litter where ever you go. Educate yourself. Support organizations that are helping the ocean. Be a citizen scientist. The list is endless. We are the only species on this planet that can see the nature of our issues and know how to fix them. We are our own hope. When you start keeping the ocean in mind with everything you do, people will notice, and you will inspire them. That is how a movement starts.
If we were all to vanish from the earth tomorrow, the ocean would be fine. Our impact will last, even in the deepest parts of the ocean, but the ocean would bounce back. For us though…if we lost the ocean, our existence would be impossible. We are so privileged to have a gift like the ocean and all that it is. We should want to save the ocean each day, with every action…for ourselves, for our future, and for the next generations. We need to make more people care about what’s happening to our ocean. Let us rewrite how we look at our relationship with the ocean. What we have on this planet is all we will ever have. If we care for the ocean, it can recover. It won’t go back to what it was, but we can make it better than what it is and treat it better than how we have. Now more than ever, we all need to care. If we each thought about our connection to the ocean each day and made one change, we would have billions of people being better to the ocean. Together we can create waves.