Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Our oceans: have we brought them to their knees?


I read this article-- The Ocean of Life’—And the Sorrow Beneath the Sea-- while I was waiting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. I forgot all about my exam as I read this haunting story about the state of our oceans.

It is incredible how we have so vastly altered the oceans in a few decades—70% of our Earth’s surface. I like the author’s use of ‘shifting baseline syndrome’ to explain what seems normal to one generation like a relatively small catch can see enormous if you have little knowledge of what plenitude there was just a short time ago.

Just a short time ago our oceans were vibrant with vast amounts of large fish and our grandchildren may live in an era where only jellyfish rule. Jellyfish, is seems, love pollution, our pollution.

It’s ironic that as I read this article I am also watching BBC One - The Blue Planet, where the ocean is depicted as operating as a pristine world unaffected my humans.

But with Climate Change, acidification, pollution, and over-fishing, we have dramatically changed the oceans of our planet. And, we aren’t changing our behavior.

The Ocean of Life’—And the Sorrow Beneath the Sea | Imagine an underwater world without whales, sharks, and dolphins, where jellyfish and algae rule. It's already happening, says marine biologist Callum Roberts in his new books, The Ocean of Life.  Like children the world over, my daughters love turtles. At once incongruous and graceful, they connect us to the world of 15 million years ago, when very similar turtles swam alongside megatooth sharks, or 75 million years ago, when they rubbed shoulders with dinosaurs. Only eight species of marine turtle remain from a lineage that stretches back little changed deep into the age of dinosaurs. The largest living reptile is the leatherback turtle, a barnacle-encrusted eminence that can reach 10 feet long and weigh two tons. Today we confront the stark possibility that people will drive the leatherback turtle to extinction within the next human generation. Already there is just one leatherback left in the Pacific for every 20 in 1962, the year I was born. Human dominion over nature has finally reached the sea. (March 14, 2012) Newsweek Magazine

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