We’ve seen the pictures, the statistics and the documentaries. The ocean is pretty fucked up - all thanks to industrial society. Let's fix it.
Things are dismally bad.
Sometimes things get so out of hand. Kind of like the inside of my car at the moment, where there are so many crumbs, toys, mittens, reusable shopping bags and did I mention crumbs, that cleaning it up feels impossible and also pointless.
When things get this bad, the damage can seem irreparable. So we have to believe that even if we don’t make things perfect again (which we won’t simply because we are human), we still have the power to make them better.
Once we trust that we can have an impact and we can change the current reality, we can collectively take massive action towards creating a better future.
So what can we envision as a better future for the ocean? How about one where we aren't filling it with harmful stuff?
Here are 3 things that you can help keep out of the ocean to help stop and mitigate the harm we are doing to aquatic life, our climate and ourselves.
Synthetic Fabric Micro Plastics
Like most people, it is easy for me to imagine and be horrified by the massive island of plastic floating around in the Pacific. What isn’t as easy to conceptualize the impact of, are the immeasurable amount of micro plastics floating around in the sea. While often invisible to the naked eye, these bits of plastic are slowly making their way up the food chain, onto our plates.
Growing up near the Puget Sound, I have a deep love for shellfish and quite the appetite for them as well. Although, I don’t know if I’ll ever quite look at a clam the same way since learning that the threads of synthetic fabrics are being found inside shellfish farmed in the ocean. It is estimated that a single wash of your favorite fleece releases thousands of these threads into the water. Current water treatment facilities are not capable of filtering them out so they end up in the ocean.
This is something to keep in mind when shopping for your next wardrobe piece. Some retailers even market these synthetic products as sustainable when the fabric is made from recycled plastics. While recycling is great, downsizing our plastics into zooplankton food is probably not what we all imagine when we think of those circling green arrows.
In general, go for natural fibers such as wool, linen and cotton.
You can also add a special filter to your washing machine that will help reduce the amount of fibers that end up in the water system.
When you spend the extra dollar at the grocery store for the organic option, you aren’t just keeping pesticides out of your salad, you’re also helping to keep them out of the ocean. A lot of the most dangerous pollutants in the ocean come from the run off of agricultural fields.
When pesticides, fertilizers and other harmful chemicals are sprayed on a crop, they affect more than just the immediate soil, plants and workers that come in contact with it (although that’s reason enough to go organic). These pollutants make their way into the ocean where they impact plant and animal species, including us.
You can do your part to keep these harmful chemicals out of our water supplies by going organic as well as by finding natural measures for pest control in your own home or garden. Sprays for ants and other bugs that you can pick up at the hardware store also make their way to the oceans, so use wisely and with caution.
When these chemicals make their way to the ocean they impact life all the way up the food chain. Fish die in large numbers, but even non aquatic life, like Bald Eagles suffer the consequences of pesticide use. With the plethora of organic options this one is a no brainer.
Climate Change is finally becoming accepted not just as true, but as the crisis that it is. The burning of fossil fuels is having a major impact on our atmosphere, causing changes to weather patterns and a rise in global temperatures. A lesser known evil paired along with it though, is the acidification of the ocean.
When carbon is released into the air, it eventually makes its way to the ocean via rainwater, where it gets trapped. While this is an upside for the atmosphere, it is a huge problem for all of the living things that have adapted to the ocean’s specific ph balance pre industrialization.
There are soooo many ways you can reduce your carbon footprint and help mitigate the many problems that come along with it. Green energy is a big one, so check with your power company to see what options are available where you live. You can also make small steps by simply adjusting your thermostat!
Transportation is another big area where you can cut carbon emissions, so carpool, ride your bike or go electric! Go for direct flights when you have to fly, as take off produces the most harmful gases and look for retailers who offset their shipping emissions.
It is a daunting task to help cleanup the ocean, but we all have the power of one, or in this case three, to do our part.