Life would not be possible without the ocean. 50-80% of life on Earth lives in the ocean, including the creatures that generate every other breath we take: phytoplankton. Aside from providing crucial oxygen, these blue-green bacteria are the foundation of marine life. They feed everything from plankton to humpback whales. The food chain would fall apart without this crucial link, so the fact that we’ve lost over 40% of phytoplankton in the last century is a threat to life itself.
The ocean is our best defense against climate change, but it’s also vulnerable. It stores a quarter of all emissions and absorbs 90% of the heat on our warming planet. However, rising temperatures are disrupting delicate ecosystems, like the Great Barrier Reef, which has lost 89% of its baby coral to mass bleaching. Most of the blame belongs to large-scale fossil fuel consumption, a solution that requires better regulations, but there are things we can do to minimize our own impact.
Reducing Your Carbon Footprint
Ride a bike. You can save a pound of carbon dioxide for every mile you don’t drive.
Plant a tree. One tree will absorb one ton of CO2 over the course of its life.
Recycle. By recycling just half of your household waste, you can save up to 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide.
Compost. Landfills are one of the biggest emitters of methane, which traps heat at 25 times the rate of CO2.
Cutting Back on Plastic
Greenhouse gases are a huge threat to our oceans, and plastic only compounds the effect. Studies have shown that an entire garbage truck of plastic is dumped into the ocean every minute. This may be hard to envision, but the picture becomes painfully clear when you see the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Much of the decline in the phytoplankton comes from plastic pollution. Phytoplankton float near the ocean surface, absorbing sunlight for energy. However, plastic clouds the surface, blocking out the sun and suffocating the very beings that give us breathe.
It is quite ironic that we are hurting the very thing that hydrates us with the ways we hydrate. Luckily, we have the power to control our plastic use. There are so many great alternatives, from metal water bottles to mason jars, and we can influence companies to join the growing wave of bio-degradable packaging. If saving the oceans isn’t enough to stop you from cutting back on plastic, hopefully this video of Jason Momoa from Aquaman will scare you into action.
In the same way that itty bitty phytoplankton can affect the health of all marine life, our actions matter, no matter how small. Every ounce of greenhouse gas and every plastic bottle saved is a win for our planet. Fighting to reduce our impact is crucial to the future of our planet, but it’s also important to remind ourselves what we’re fighting for. So, if you’re lucky enough to live by one of these beautiful bodies of water, celebrate this World Ocean’s Day with a swim. Bask in the beauty of your human birthright and be grateful– because we could lose it all if we’re not careful.