The Ocean Belongs To Us

Fox News posted an article today (August 27, 2016) about a presidential action taken by Barack Obama to enlarge a protected marine area near Hawaii.  Normally, I could really care less about what Barack Obama or anyone else in the political realm decides to do, because single voices have no impact on national and global issues – like I once said to a police officer who was giving me a ticket for allegedly not wearing a seat belt, you can’t argue with a badge.  Or a politician.  Or a president.

The thing that sparked my ire, however, with this article is a comment attributed to former Hawaiian governor, George Ariyoshi.  In the Fox News article, the cite him as saying:

The ocean belongs to us.  We ought to be the ones to decide what kind of use to make of the ocean.

I beg to differ.  I strongly beg to differ. The ocean belongs to no one.  The ocean belongs to the planet.  The ocean belongs to the creatures and plants that call it ‘home.’  It most certainly does not belong to a bunch of small-minded, self-serving, destructive-in-the-name-of-progress homo sapiens who are so overwhelmed with hubris that we dare to think we hold dominion over anything on this planet other than our own future annihilation.

In my opinion, the entire width, breadth, and depth of all the oceans on the planet should be protected habitats.  You want fish?  Build a hatchery.  You want oil?  Tap into the northwestern part of North America; Alaska and western Canada are a veritable oil goldmine.  Something you might not know – Texas is actually the most oil-producing state in the U.S., with almost 5 times the production and reserves as Alaska.  Texas Pipeline, anyone?  The U.S. actually has the largest untapped oil reserve in the world.

But we can’t drill for oil on land, can we?  Have you ever stopped to wonder why that is?  Why we are so upset when someone wants to build an oil rig and run a thousand-mile long pipeline across the broad expanse of North America’s ‘untamed wilderness’?  It’s because we can see and feel the destruction when it’s sitting in our backyard.  Who cares about what happens in the depths of the sea, right, because we don’t see it happening.

The proof is in the numbers – roughly 13 percent of the Earth’s land surface is protected, while only 2 percent of the Earth’s oceans are.

Would you like to know what you are doing to the ocean?  How you are killing hundreds and thousands of marine species every year because of your selfish consumerism?  How the powers-that-be are destroying fragile oceanic ecosystems because we are addicted to technological advancement and industrialization?

The human impact on ocean life, where we rarely venture compared to how often we tread (and damage) the land-based parts of the planet, is accelerating to a point where a mass extinction is entirely possible, almost probable.  In another 20 years, it will undoubtedly be a foregone conclusion.

We have already destroyed almost half the natural coral reefs on the planet.  ALMOST HALF.  It takes years (and years and years) for reefs to build themselves up, and here we come – bent on having a nice cruise anchored above some pretty reef somewhere where we can get some great underwater selfies with a stingray or dolphin – and just like that, we destroy decades and centuries of ecological habitat in a year or two.

By the way, did you know that cruise ships dump their waste (trash, garbage, human waste, fuel waste, bilge water, etc.) directly into the ocean?  The Environmental Protection Agency conducted a study that discovered cruise ships dump 150,000 gallons of sewage into the ocean EVERY WEEK.  One ship dumped half that amount all by itself IN A SINGLE DAY.

Every year, more than one billion gallons of raw, untreated, contaminated, toxic, harmful sewage is being dumped directly into the ocean that you are so flushed with sun-bathed bliss to see from atop the upper decks of that luxurious cruise liner.  Why don’t you get a selfie of that.

Princess Cruises has an environmental responsibility statement on their website discussing how they ‘treat’ waste water before dumping it into the ocean.  It’s still waste.  It’s still harmful.  It still contaminates the ocean.  I’m sure if they have to dump it into their bathtub and then bathe in it, like marine wildlife are forced to do, perhaps they’d think differently about their high-and-mighty (and so-called) environmental conscientiousness.  No matter how they dress it up in pleasant wording, they are still engaged in a massive pollution campaign that dumps hundreds of thousands of gallons of toxic sludge into the ocean every year.

In the past sixteen years, contracts for seabed mining operations have laid claim to 460,000 square miles of ocean floor.  Sixteen years ago they had contracts for ZERO square miles of ocean floor.

The United States, all by itself, produces 32 millions tons of plastic waste each year, with only NINE PERCENT being recycled and a large percentage of the rest of it ending up, eventually, in the world’s oceans – where it is significantly contributing to the extinction or future extinction of hundreds of marine species.  In fact, there is an estimated 270,000 MILLION tons of plastic floating around at sea right now.  That’s 270,000,000,000 tons of plastic for those who are where-do-the-zeroes-go-in-a-million challenged.

The poetic justice about the entire situation is that we are now discovering that a lot of what we’re dumping in the ocean is ending up in the foods we eat that are harvested from the ocean, so our own “me-me generation” hubris is killing us.  A big ol’ belly laugh is appropriate here.

That plastic bottle or cell phone battery or Styrofoam cup you threw out on the side of the road five years ago is going to kill your grand-kids one day.

Just in the past 40 years, we have eliminated more than half of the planet’s wildlife.  Not just in the oceans, but on the entire planet.  More than half.  In just forty years.

We are wiping out between 100 and 1,000 species per million every single year.  The number is hard to pin down because some species live and die without us ever knowing they existed, while others whose numbers have become so human-depleted retreat to hard-to-reach habitats where we can’t continue killing them off (or finding them to know they still exist).

By comparison, before we evolved from hunter-and-gatherer grunting idiots (thousands of years ago), less than ONE species per million was eliminated annually, and usually not due to human intervention.

In a few more decades, we will have to create vertical forests and vegetable farms (like they are doing in China right now) just to have oxygen to breathe and organic foods to eat, because we are too consumed with consumerism right now to remember a simple little fact from middle school science class – trees and plants, among other things, create oxygen.  What do you think we are going to breathe when we’ve clear-cut all the forests on the planet just so we can have new houses and new parking lots and new shopping centers?

Going back to our headlong rush to poison our oceans – here’s a fun fact for you.  Phytoplankton, delicate and small marine creatures, create half of the world’s oxygen.  Some scientists believe they actually contribute up to 85% of the world’s oxygen.  So let’s keep dumping waste into the oceans while we enjoy that Princess or Carnival cruise, conducting underwater drilling and marine habitat destruction, and tossing out truckloads of non-biodegradable waste that ends up in the ocean because we are too lazy to find a trash can or recycling bin.

Why do these numbers and statistics not bother you?  You should be horrified at what you, personally, are doing to the planet and the plants and animals that are struggling to survive the reckless stupidity of humankind’s complete and total arrogance.

The bottom line is that, no, the oceans do not belong to us – and who the hell are we to think so?

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