OUR OCEAN PLANET – Protect it, say the experts and Pope Francis

FEATURED IMAGE: Robaird O’Cearbhaill

– Robaird O’Cearbhaill

Given that Earth is 71% covered by water should we not be saying Ocean planet not the planet Earth. Without oceans, life as we know it, could not live here, and if we continue to destroy the oceans, human life will no longer exist.

And not just for our species but half of all living organisms. The oceans provide 50% of the the world’s oxygen and 50% of all life here. So why is real effective action not taking place? Is it scientific ability at stake? Is it political insouciance? How much is public ignorance to blame? Then there is, of course, public ignorance and denial. In interviews with O Clarim, veteran oceanologist David Wilson addressed the multi-sided issues, and that the biggest biggest problem was big business, false news and climate change denial. 

“This is a very complex problem as all elements of the ocean are interrelated. The biggest problem we have is industry-funded false news and climate change denial. This is political and effectively nullifies the action needed to counter the current trends of self-destruction.” For Wilson if people do not have access to honest education, fake news and social media manipulation will win. “So we desperately need respected education to refute the mass media / social media attacks,” says Wilson. The principal double edges of the dangers of climate change for this ocean expert are “ocean pollution and sea level rise,” the biggest threats to the human race. “Both of these have the potential to eliminate mankind.” Wilson also said that the miniature oxygen-producing plants that provide half of our oxygen are in grave danger too.

“We are currently killing (these plants) phytoplankton (usually described as plankton) at an alarming rate. Upwards of 40% since 1950. Phytoplankton creates 50% of the atmospheric oxygen. Without it we will die out. If this rate keeps up (now it’s accelerating) we will potentially be unable to breathe before the end of the century,” Wilson goes further. “That sounds alarmist, but we are adding large amounts of other gases to the atmosphere as well as reducing O2 (oxygen) so the implications are scary. Sea level rise has now been upgraded (substantially) by the end of the century – due to accelerating collapse of ice sheets and positive feedback issues loops five years ago.” And Wilson said it’s horrifying how large a population would be affected and the consequences, and how can we solve it. 

“This would displace approximately 1 billion people globally.” Imagine the wars that occur because of this. What is the solution then? EDUCATION. Change the knowledge of the population and you can change the politics.” Politics in the United States was a major barrier to help climate change, the official policy of denial of climate warming is supported, or ignored, or plain sidelined by many of President Donald Trump’s supporters. Surprising that is when global warming is without doubt and with no solutions the world the world will face disastrous penalties as the vast majority of scientific experts agree.

As marine scientist Samantha Joye said in the David Attenborough-presented television program The Future of The Oceans Blue Planet II, “If the oceans weren’t healthy and if the oceans don’t stay healthy and regain their health, human beings are doomed. That’s the bottom line.” In the BBC Earth series, she added: “The oceans make Earth a habitable planet.” But what are the main issues affecting the marine environments which will affect many human environments? Global warming leads to sea rise and pollution but how do they play out?

The oceans face several dangers affecting marine wildlife and the fate of mankind. Water by being warmed expands. The spread of warmth to colder waters increases ice melting. The ever-increasing concentration of carbon dioxide from vehicles and coal in the atmosphere ends up falling into the sea. There it decreases oxygen levels and increases ph value making the water more acidic. More acidic and reduced oxygen water not only kills coral a vital fish breeding grounds but other ocean species for example pacific krill and oysters but has helped propagate massively voraciously feeding, sometimes toxic, and almost unkillable jellyfish, killing people, wiping out fish farms, blocking nuclear and water desalination plants operations.

Protecting, as I like to call our home, Ocean Planet, is crucial and that was Pope Francis’ message in his 2015 encyclical, on ecosystem health and global warming and our throwaway society and inequality all of which and more is most damaging to the poor.

To coincide with the Pope Francis’ landmark encyclical, On Care for Our Common Home (Laudato Si’) the Earth, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) had this to say: “The faith of Christians motivates them to care for the most vulnerable of their brothers and sisters.” The president of the bishops’ conference, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, alluding to the encyclical, explained in a statement.

“Drawing extensively from the teaching of his predecessors, the Pope teaches that care for the things of the earth is necessarily bound together with our care of one another, especially the poor. This interdependency extends from the deep respect due every human person to all living beings and to the earth where we make our home. As His Holiness said in the document: ‘Each creature has its own purpose…and the entire material universe speaks of God’s love.’”

The Archbishop added: “The need for urgent action is clear and he appeals to us to become ‘painfully aware’ of what is happening to the world and ‘to grow in solidarity, responsibility and compassionate care.’ “The Holy Father makes it clear that we were given the earth as a gift from our Creator. It is our responsibility to avoid contributing to a culture of acquisitiveness, individualism, or exploitation,” he concluded. 

David Wilson underlined as well the need for urgent action and agrees with Joye how critical the situation is. If we don’t change the ways we badly treat the oceans we will reach an irreversible crisis. “The ocean is dying,” he said, adding that education is the first priority. Unless people know about, understand oceans and how we are destroying them there will not be the progress we need.”

Of course, there is room for hope and it may be the from the young where that make happen. As voters and activists, they can sway politicians but action must be taken soon. Some experts say we only have 10 to 15 years to solve the oceans deterioration but recently in headline news the world saw many young people pushing energetically for climate change action and better ocean health. 

If this green trend among young people in developed economically powerful countries continues in next national parliamentary elections green parties will become stronger and major parties will have to strengthen their promises on climate change. Larger green representation in elected national political assemblies can effectively influence when largest parties don’t have a majority. Coalition governments make agreements with the smaller parties or fail to pass needed legislation or legislation wanted by the majority of the voter base.

As the Archbishop said, “Pope Francis repeatedly urges us to renewed and urgent action and honest dialogue about our environment – both social and ecological” and asks “what kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us?”

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