Monday, 28 July 2014

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Our blue highway, supermarket, and… dumpster

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8 June 2014 – Our rainwater, drinking water, weather, climate, coastlines, much of our food, and even the oxygen in the air we breathe, are all ultimately provided and regulated by the sea. Beyond their life-giving power, oceans have been vital conduits for trade and transportation. Approximately 71 percent of our world is covered in salt-water oceans, containing 97 percent of the world’s water supply, a plethora of diverse species and an irreplaceable source of food for millions.

Effectively, oceans make the world go round.

The statistics surrounding the fundamental roles oceans play seem endless. Over three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods. Oceans absorb about 30 per cent of carbon dioxide produced by humans, buffering the impacts of global warming. Globally, the market value of marine and coastal resources and industries is estimated at $3 trillion per year or about 5 per cent of global GDP. And according to scientists estimates, we’ve only explored 5 percent of the oceans. We know so much, yet so little at the same time. In short, oceans mean opportunities, life, business, food – and unfortunately, at the moment, our dumpster.

Today, our oceans are being used as a global dumping ground, suffering from some of the worst symptoms of climate change. As much as 40 per cent of the world oceans are heavily affected by human activities, including pollution, depleted fisheries, and loss of coastal habitats.

The magnitude of this problem is so immense that many speak of new continents – continents made of plastic waste in the form of tiny bits of plastic, called microplastics. For many people, the idea of a “garbage patch” conjures up images of an island of trash floating on the ocean. In reality, these patches are usually made up of plastics which can’t always be seen by the naked eye. These microplastics, and other litter, swirl around like a clock, choked with dead fish, marine mammals, and birds that get snared.

Beyond pollution, a considerable challenge, oceans are also affected as glaciers melt and sea levels rise threatening small island states with physical disappearance. As we celebrate the World Oceans Day today, the international focus is on protecting the oceans, and on the need of cleaning and caring for the beating heart and lungs of our world. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says in his message: “If we are to fully benefit from the oceans, we must reverse the degradation of the marine environment due to pollution, overexploitation and acidification.”

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