Protecting Our Oceans Protects Our Lives

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No matter how far from the shore you live, oceans still affects your life and the lives of your families, friends and classmates.  The air you breathe, the water you drink, the food you eat and the products that keep you warm, safe, informed and entertained, all can come from or are transported by the ocean.

While most of us never venture far beyond the coast, the open ocean provides a range of goods and services that are an integral part of our health, economies – and even our weather.  For example, the Gulf Stream carries warm water from the Gulf of Mexico all the way to Western Europe, according to protectplanetocean.org. This water warms the air above, which is then blown across the land.  As a result, northwest Europe is much warmer that other lands at the same latitude.  The oceans are also an integral part of the water cycle.  Vast amounts of water evaporate from the ocean surface, rising into the atmosphere as water vapor.

When this vapor collides with colder air, it condenses to form clouds and rain.  Probably the most important item our oceans provide is oxygen.  It’s not just ocean life that depends on phytoplankton.  These tiny marine plants are estimated to produce over half the oxygen that we, and all other land animals, breathe.  Ocean waters also have the capacity to absorb vast amounts of the greenhouse-warming gas carbon dioxide (CO2), and thus have held to buffer human-caused global warming and climate change, reports National Geographic.

We have long thought that we could never take too much out of the ocean, or put too much waste into the ocean.  The sheer numbers of people who use and depend on the ocean and who have used unwise practices have created problems such as overharvesting of resources and degrading of marine habitats and specicies.  We are risking the very ecosystems on which our survival depends states the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

National Geographic gives us 10 things we can do to save our Ocean:

  1. Mind Your Carbon Footprint and Reduce Energy Consumption.  Reduce the effects of climate change on the ocean by being conscious of your energy use at home and school.
  2. Make Safe Sustainable Seafood Choices.  While shopping or eating out, help reduce the demand for over-fished species by choosing seafood that is both healthful and sustainable.
  3. Use Fewer Plastic Products.  Plastics that end up as ocean debris contribute to habitat destruction and entangle and kill tens of thousands of marine animals each year.
  4. Help Take Care of the Beach.  Always cleans up after yourself.  Explore and appreciate the ocean without interfering with wildlife or removing rocks and coral.
  5. Don’t Purchase Items That Exploit Marine Life.  Certain products contribute to the harming of fragile coral reefs and marine populations.
  6. Be an Ocean-Friendly Pet Owner.  Never flush cat litter.  Avoid stocking your aquarium with wild-caught saltwater fish, and never release any aquarium fish into the ocean or other bodies of water.
  7. Support Organizations Working to Protect the Ocean.  If you live near the coast, join up with a local branch or group and get involved in projects to help protect the ocean.
  8. Influence Change in Your Community.  Talk to your parents about patronizing restaurants and grocery stores that offer only sustainable seafood.
  9. Travel the Ocean Responsibly.  Be responsible when boating, kayaking and participating in other water sports.  Never throw anything overboard and be aware of marine life in the waters around you.
  10. Educate Yourself About Oceans and Marine Life.  All life on Earth is connected to the ocean and its inhabitants.  The more you learn about the issues facing this vital system, the more you will want to help insure its health—then share that knowledge to educate and inspire others.