Happy World Oceans Day!Of course it won't surprise you to hear that my opinion is there's nowhere in the world with more beautiful ocean and ocean views than Hawaii!
And, although I know Hawaiians have deep reverence for both the land and the ocean, not all people do. And, as time goes on, this is showing more and more... climate change, species extinction, etc.
So let me ask... How do you really feel about the ocean?
The ocean not only makes our world livable, it provides us with food, water, commerce, recreation, and medicine. The ocean has suffered some serious blows lately:
- 90% of the big fish in the sea are gone
- the gyres are filled with more plastic than previously estimated
- the Deepwater Horizon disaster dumped 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, and
- coastal dead zones from agricultural runoff are worse than ever
The ocean has definitely seen rough times lately, and World Oceans Day is a good opportunity to rally and start turning things around.
Most Americans would probably tell you that they support a healthy ocean—after all, the beach is one of our all-time favorite vacation spots. But how does the Nation as a whole feel about protecting the ocean? The Ocean Project’s ongoing survey of more than 30,000 Americans, both young and old confirm our gut feeling that Americans care about healthy oceans; and has further insight on what Americans think and feel about ocean conservation.
Surprisingly, we don’t realize the ocean is in danger
Most Americans think that the ocean is healthy and “too vast” for individual action to have an impact. (The exception to this is in the wake of catastrophic events such as the Deep Water Horizon disaster ~ see below).
In fact, the American public believes that ocean waters bordering the US are significantly less imperiled than “foreign” waters.
We have a short attention span
In the wake of the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the American public was very concerned about the health of the ocean, believing it to be threatened. But in a few short months...by Aug 2010, a mere 4 months after initial explosion... the level of concern was on the decline. (See The Ocean Project’s April 2011 blog post for more details.)
We feel powerless to affect ocean & environmental issues
‘My actions have little impact on ocean health.’ is the general sentiment when respondents are asked ‘In your opinion, how much of an impact can individual people have on solving our environmental problems?’. Even more troubling: 40% responded ‘None” or “Not very much.’
On the bright side, we’re the sort of people who care!
We think we’re green
In 2010, 22% considered themselves to be active in the environmental movement, and 57% said they were sympathetic but not active.
We’ll change our buying habits to protect ocean health
The American public expressed strong support for a willingness to change their seafood habits to protect and/or preserve an endangered species
The children are indeed our future
Young people were the most knowledgeable about environmental & ocean issues, and parents look to them for guidance when making green household decision-making. They also were overwhelmingly more likely to believe that the actions of individuals can make a difference!
It’s time to transform that concern and “green-friendliness” into action!
Each one of us has the power to make a difference because every little thing each one of us does adds up and makes positive change. Here are some ideas for you:
1. Be mindful about your seafood consumption.
• Choose species that are abundant and fished or farmed with minimal harm to the surrounding environment.
• Eat locally caught species when possible. For those in the US, check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Guide or download the Seafood Watch app to find some sustainable seafood recommendations. You can also check out the international WWF’s seafood guides for global recommendations.
• Vote with your wallet by supporting companies that show a real commitment to protecting the environment. Fish2Fork has a guide to ethical restaurants in several countries, and visit FishChoice.com to link up sustainable buyers and sellers.
• Cut down on your meat consumption. As much a third of the annual global catch is ‘forage fish’ which become fish meal—much of which is then used to raise cows, chickens and pigs in factory farms, as well as some aquacultured species, like farmed salmon. By cutting down on your meat consumption, you will reduce demand for these forage fish which are a vital component of the complex oceanic food web.
2. Take action to prevent plastic from harming ocean wildlife by reducing your use of plastics.
• Find better alternatives to plastic water bottles, plastic bags, straws, cups-to-go, food containers and utensils.
• Be aware of packaging and how much incidental plastic comes with what you buy (candy, headphones, pens, etc) and reward companies that package responsibly.
• You could even organize an aquatic clean-up or start a campaign to stop plastic bag use in your town.
3. Help combat climate change by reducing your carbon footprint.
• Use and advocate for cleaner and healthier alternatives to fossil fuels. Buying green energy for your home is one of the best ways to reduce your carbon emissions. You can find some resources on Global Energy Network Institute. If you live in the US, check the EPA’s Green Power Partnership.
• Commute wisely. Get out your bike or buy a used one, take public transportation more regularly, try car sharing, seek carpooling partners, or consider telecommuting on the phone or video service such as Skype. Every time you skip the car for one of these alternatives, you help our ocean!
• Buy less stuff. Think before you buy and ask whether you really need something, or if you can get it used. Not only will you be helping the ocean but also the fun new hobby of thrifting is a great form of self expression, especially when it comes to things like clothing or home goods, where a vintage item can have more personality and quality than buying new at a store. If you’re in the US, you can click here to find a thrift store near you.
• Start getting national governments to take adequate and timely action by getting your mayor to commit to signing on to a coalition for the protection of the climate (e.g. Cities for Climate Protection Campaign or Mayors for Climate Protection). This push at the local level for a safer, healthier blue planet is helpful. Plus, the more we do on the local front, the easier it becomes for national and global action with real “teeth” to make a difference in our lifetimes.
• Vote with your dollars and support socially responsible companies. Do your research to make sure it’s not just green washing or lip service to environmental protection. Use websites like EthicalConsumer.org to check and compare companies and products.
Together we CAN make a difference!
Let us come together and take action for our world ocean. There are hundreds of events being held all over the world today. Find one near you and celebrate with a purpose this World Oceans Day! Or organize an event yourself! Go to www.theoceanproject.org for ideas, free materials, and event listing.