Opinion: There is a need for ocean environment education

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Humans have polluted the earth for many centuries, and now the damage is becoming too great for the earth to bear. We dump millions of tons of garbage into the ocean, exploiting natural resources, endangering countless species of flora and fauna, and chopping down our trees.

According to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report in 2013, we have 11 years to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 45% in order to limit global warming to 1.5 ° C, avoiding catastrophic effects.

Year after year, our reckless and ill-informed actions gradually degrade the planet, and even when we theoretically know the damage we are doing, we are unable to change the course of our actions.

So what can we do about it? As Einstein said, we have to change our perspective to change the conditions of our world.

The average American does not experience the devastating effects of climate change in their daily life. With the advent of a more tech-prone world, we are moving away from nature every day, making it difficult to care about a world we know little about.

A recent Gallup poll shows that more than half of Americans don’t believe climate change will affect them personally. Suddenly, they end up taking actions such as using single-use plastic bags or supporting companies that pollute the environment.

Animals can consume non-digestible single-use plastics, resulting in deterioration of their health; while supporting businesses or industries that heavily pollute our world can cause a steady increase in greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide or methane.

Ultimately, these seemingly trivial actions combined with poor environmental education contribute to further degradation of our environment.

As a result, increasing environmental literacy is one of the most important issues in the world today. Education will enable future generations to care about their environment and repair the damage done to our planet.

The disconnection between humans and the world is even greater in the oceans, where the devastating effects of pollution, global warming and habitat destruction are underwater life

Although water bodies cover 70% of the Earth’s surface, the knowledge of water bodies of average Americans is limited to swimming pools. Most Americans are unaware of the beauty of the oceans and the devastation that takes place there.

This “out of sight, out of sight” mentality is detrimental because our oceans are the world’s greatest asset.

The oceans contain 94% of the life on earth, produce almost half of the oxygen we breathe, and hold 50 times more carbon than the atmosphere. Thus, crippling the oceans is a huge threat to humanity.

Before we dive into environmental education, let’s review some of the most pressing ocean issues.

An example of marine pollution is plastic pollution in our oceans.

By 2050, scientists expect more plastic than fish in the oceans (by weight). As a result, many marine animals are forced to feed on plastic, but because plastic is indigestible, it gets trapped in their digestive systems, taking up gastric space intended for food.

About more than one million seabirds, 100,000 marine mammals and about 300,000 dolphins or porpoises are affected by plastic pollution each year, according to Coastal CA.

Plastic directly and indirectly affects the health of marine organisms by affecting coral reefs, an organism and an ecosystem. Coral reefs are vital to the health of the marine biome, containing over 25% of the marine life. Yet they are threatened by human activities.

For example, the likelihood of a coral being diseased increases from 4% to 89% when it comes in contact with plastic, as shown in thThe article “Plastic Waste Associated with Disease on Coral Reefs” by Joleah B. Lamb, so excess plastic near corals could wipe out the homes of thousands of marine animals. Coral reefs as well as the marine life living within it would die.

Mouth of the Los Angeles River in California. (Photo courtesy of © Bill McDonald, Algalita Foundation / Heal The Bay)

Despite recent attention to this problem, plastics are not the only form of pollution affecting marine biodiversity. The nutrient pollution caused by runoff from farms contains pesticides and is high in nitrogen and phosphorus which cause an overabundance of algal blooms.

This causes eutrophication, where algae suffocates other marine life by cutting out sunlight and reducing oxygen levels as it decomposes. The food chain of this body of water would be compromised and the habitats would deteriorate. Around 415 dead zones have been identified worldwide due to eutrophication.

Another type of pollution occurs when coal-fired factories or power stations release chemicals into rivers and oceans. An example would be mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants.

The mercury released into the water is consumed by fish like tuna and bioaccumulates, so when we eat these fish there is mercury present in our body. Almost 90% of the mercury in our body comes from the mercury found in fish.

The immense amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that causes global warming also affects water bodies. When carbon dioxide comes in contact with water, it forms carbonic acid. This leads to the decrease in the pH of the oceans every year.

According to the National Ocean and Atmospheric Association, the surface oceans have decreased by 0.1 pH since the start of the Industrial Revolution, which means the pH has decreased by 28% since then. All calcifying species will be affected and food webs will be imbalanced.

The decline in biodiversity is disadvantageous, as marine organisms such as phytoplankton produce around 50-85% of our oxygen.

The delicate state of the ocean is made worse by overfishing, illegal fishing and poaching. The irresponsible approach to fishing alters the balance of our ecosystem, which degrades food chains and food webs, leading to a further decline in biodiversity.

Warming oceans cause coral reefs to bleach, which can lead to the loss of up to 25% of marine life, according to NOAA.

All of these problems arise because of the disparity between humans and the ocean environment. But, it is difficult for those with virtually no connection to the ocean to gain a deeper understanding of the ocean.

Additionally, most schools never teach our hydrosphere or have a strong science curriculum, so most people grow up without this vital knowledge of our oceans. In fact, only about 20% of the population has any scientific or environmental knowledge, according to tenstrands.org.

Climate change is a difficult concept to understand because it is a very complex and abstract fact; it is difficult to relate all the effects of climate change.

Improving education about our own world is crucial if we are to save the environment. By harnessing the power of education to inform people about the effects of their daily activities and the actions they can take, we can make the world a little better.

Environmental education has several levels. Just learning what is causing global warming is unlikely to inspire action. To be an active and world-aware environmentalist, everyone must also be educated about the effects of global warming, feel a personal connection to our planet, and learn to keep abreast of environmental policy.

However, I was confused on how to bridge the gap between the ocean and the majority of the public if they never see the ocean, so I interviewed a research analyst. Lucie Hazen from the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions to better understand how to forge an emotional connection with the ocean.

Hazen said that there are “big middlemen” in the United States who do not feel a personal connection to the ocean and, therefore, ignore the devastation. It is therefore essential to harness the power of social media and technology to educate these “big middlemen.” “

She added that documentaries such as “Blue Planet” capture the horrors that occur under the sea and evoke strong emotions in audiences, and that technology like virtual reality allows the user to experience the ocean more. close.

Dr Erika Woolsey, an Ocean Design professor at the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions and founder of the environmental nonprofit association Hydra, does just that; she uses virtual reality to educate the public about the wonders of the ocean.

I had the opportunity to see his work and I was fascinated by it. I wanted to understand her opinion on ocean environment education and set up an interview with her.

Encouraging the public to ‘think like a scientist’ is the best way for them to become more involved in climate justice and environmental action, says Dr Woolsey.

“Thinking like a scientist” can range from interrogating the media with misinterpreted information such as denial of climate change to exploring or passing time in nature.

Giving everyone the ability to become a scientist would make them more likely to engage in climate activism and change their own lifestyles.

Dr Woolsey agrees that seeing and understanding the vast destruction that is happening in the world could sometimes render others helpless. “Just because you can’t do everything doesn’t mean you can’t do anything,” Dr Woolsey said.

These words are particularly significant in the current political climate.

While our current administration in the United States is opposed to beneficial climate policies, it is our responsibility to remain environmentally conscious, whether by taking daily action to mitigate climate change or by being politically active through protests and demonstrations.

It’s important to remember that we shouldn’t have to wait for government action through our current administration to make a difference in our world. California is spearheading this movement to reform US environmental policy with bills such as SB 837 on prevention of offshore drilling and AB 1826 on waste management.

Their actions begin to change their communities and, ultimately, our world.

To make a difference today, educating the public and encouraging them to take initiatives to help the planet is the first step.

By studying climate change education and talking with Dr Woolsey and Dr Hazen about climate change education, one thing became clear: For people to take action, they need to feel a deeper understanding of our world and be motivated by a love for this beautiful planet.

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on the Project Planet blog page. Planet Project is an environmental non-profit organization that aims to educate the public about global warming or climate change to help create an active and environmentally conscious population. I am the founder and CEO of this organization.


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