The Ocean crisis - "but what can i do about it?"
It can be hard to know where to start when it comes to being more environmentally conscious in our day to day lives. We also often question whether what we’re doing is actually making an impact. But we need to start thinking about the accumulation of everybody’s small actions. Even making conscious decisions such as turning off lights or disposing of rubbish correctly can make a difference. I’ve been doing some research myself which I thought I’d share, in case it’s useful to you. By working together we can truly create a difference, inspiring each other, companies and even governments.
Minimise your Carbon Footprint and Reduce Energy Consumption
In the past 50 years the ocean has absorbed 90% of the excess heat created by burning fossil fuels. Carbon dioxide makes our oceans more acidic. It is estimated that around one third of manmade CO2 makes its way into the ocean, which equates to about 22 million tons a day. This can cause acidification of the water, which affects the health of the marine life. This can cause disruption in where fish swim, bleach coral reefs, change how marine species reproduce, speed up sea-level rise, and alter weather events on land.
You can reduce your carbon footprint by adopting some of these simple measures:
• Ride a bike, walk or use public transportation rather than driving a car.
• Turn off the lights when you leave a room.
• Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs.
• Unplug electronics when you’re not using them
• Put on a sweater in the winter instead of turning up your thermostat.
Make Sustainable Seafood Choices
Overfishing is damaging our oceans. Global fish populations are rapidly decreasing due to high demand and unsustainable fishing practices. Choose sustainable seafood to help keep fisheries and fish stocks healthy. I go to Julie’s to buy my fish once a week.
Use Less Plastic
It is estimated that 8 million tons of plastics enter our ocean, this is on top of the estimated 150 million metric tons that currently circulate our marine environments. Plastics that end up in the ocean contribute to habitat destruction and entangle and kill tens of thousands of marine animals each year. One major issue is single use plastics, such as non-reusable water bottles, take-out packaging, plastic bags, and straws, as these contribute to a large proportion of plastic waste. Plastic can also be found in things that you don’t expect like liquids, and in clothes. In fact clothes contribute a lot of plastic to our oceans due to their fibres going into water while being washed.
Things you can do to limit your impact are:
• Carry reusable cups/bottles.
• Store food in non-disposable containers.
• Bring your own cloth tote or other reusable bag when shopping.
• Recycle whenever possible.
• Don’t give in to fast fashion, buy clothes that are long lasting or shop second hand.
• Buy clothes made of sustainable natural fibres.
• Check that the products you are using don’t contain microplastics.
Help Take Care of the Beach
Whilst Selsey seems better than most, rubbish on any beach can cause damage to local wildlife and also be washed out into the sea. It can also be picked up by the wind, get stuck around the necks of birds and other animals. Rubbish is left by people enjoying the beach, so make sure you take yours with you and if you see some that is left, pick it up. You could also participate in local beach clean ups. They happen periodically here and also in many other areas.
Avoid Products that Harm the Ocean
There are many products directly linked to harming endangered or threatened species, unsustainable fishing methods and pollution. Products that are made from ocean species can have a detrimental impact to the whole ecosystem. These are usually purchased while on holiday and brought home.
• Coral jewellery,
• Tortoiseshell hair accessories (made from hawksbill turtles)
• Products containing anything derived from sharks
• Souvenir shells of conchs, nautiluses and other animals
At home some products that should avoid being used are; pesticides, fertilisers, weed killers as these can be very harmful for our oceans. Pesticides and weed killers use dangerous chemicals that can easily get into our water systems. And if you live close enough to an ocean, they’ll likely end up there. The excess nutrients from fertilisers can be carried by rain and wind to various water systems. Once in rivers, lakes, streams, and oceans, it creates algae growth at an unnatural rate. The algae’s natural toxins can not only poison marine life and use up the oxygen in certain areas of water, making it impossible for anything else to survive.
6. Travel Responsibly
When booking your next holiday consider booking your trip through a responsible travel company that’s committed to protecting wildlife. At your destination make sure you don’t interfere or hurt any local marine life while on the beach or doing activities such as snorkelling. Also, if you feel uncomfortable about something, such as an experience with dolphins, then speak to your travel agency. Be vigilant when making purchases while away too. Make sure that products don’t contain any animal derived ingredients and materials that could harm wildlife such as coral, shells or shark-based products.
7. Educate Yourself
The ocean is a crucial part to the planets survival and we are all linked to it through the breaths that we take daily. Outside of sea-based communities such as Selsey, many people feel disconnected to the ocean and feel like it isn’t an important part of their everyday lives. Education is the key to empathy. The more people learn about the issues facing this vital system, the more they’ll want to help. This can be done through means such as; books, documentaries, websites, museums, art exhibits, and more. Also always check for updates in your local area to see if they need help with something such as an oil spill.
It is also important to know why you are making these changes and what impact they have. Learn how plastic bottles effect the ocean or how clothes can put plastic into the ecosystem. Or even how different colours or types of plastics make it more difficult to recycle them. All of this can now be found online if you do a simple search.
And don’t forget to share this knowledge. Whether you’re a school teacher or just somebody chatting to friends. It’s important to bring everybody into the conversation and let them know the importance of making these changes.
8. Start Something
Being an advocate for the ocean can be as simple as speaking out about the importance of helping it. If something is really bothering you or you feel like nothing is being done in your community, then you could even start your own initiative. I set up The Selsey Sea Bathing Society this summer to encourage people back into the water. At September’s gathering we had a wonderful talk from the Community Officer of Selsey’s RNLI, and in November we’re running a Marine Ecology Walk (anyone is welcome to join). It’s not only a hugely fun initiative, it also seeks to educate and inspire people about the ocean and local shorelines.
And remember not to feel like you aren’t doing enough. Just starting to make small changes can make an impact.