Repositioning our economic and food systems is critical for the future. The third element requiring change, is the way we manage and treat the world’s oceans. The atmosphere’s increasing abundance of carbon dioxide is increasing the ocean waters acidity, and the net accumulation of heat energy is increasing water temperatures. With the physical and chemical properties changing the ocean’s acidity and temperature, humans are exasperating the problem by contaminating the oceans with billions of pounds of trash and other pollutants annually. Twenty-five years ago, we were investigating the possibility of expanding our world food supply by use of the ocean environments, and today we are experiencing shrinking marine populations due to our mis-use of our vast ocean environment. In 1994, I was asked to review a proposed project that would fertilize the waters off the coast of the Carolinas, in an attempt to increase fish production. I reported my concerns as to the adverse impacts which would result by adding artificial nutrients to the natural ocean environment, and questioned the difficulty in obtaining the required permits for such a project. Since, our ocean conditions have continued to experience unacceptable changes at an accelerated rate. Changes in ocean parameters; such as temperature, carbon-dioxide content, oxygen levels, nutrient-availability, currents, salinity, and sea-ice extent; have affected marine life and lead to large-scale shifts in the patterns of marine productivity, biodiversity, community composition, and ecosystem structure. Eighty percent of the chemical pollution and nutrients being released in to the world’s oceans are from chemicals and fertilizers applied to the land, where it runs off and into our ocean waters. We are still dumping the equivalent of one dump-truck full of waste into our oceans every minute, of which 75% are plastics. Scientists predict that if nothing is done, the rate of dumping will increase to three dump-trucks every minute by 2050. They also predict that, at the current rate of dumping, by 2050 the volume of waste will exceed the fish population.
The ocean temperatures are raising .6 degrees Celsius annually, resulting in sea-levels rising eight to nine inches since 1880. Warmer temperatures also cause increased frequency and intensity of ocean storms, and higher sea-levels allow the storms to penetrate further inland. Accidents, such as oil spills, seem to happen more frequently, and the spreading of millions of tons of chemical dispersants on the spills are adding tons of toxins to the ocean environments.
Changing the way, we treat our ocean environments is critical for our future, the good news is we know what must be done. The question is are we willing to accept the economic and social transitions required to resolve the problem?
The fourth and final element requires the world to think carefully about the best ways to resolve the climate change issue. The timber and agriculture industries are causing rapid deforestation, with devastating consequences for the stability of the Amazon rain-forests, the world’s climate, and many species. Attempts to combat global warming by large-scale planting of bio-energy crops and plantation reforestation, will greatly harm biodiversity and fragile ecosystems. Well-planned efforts, following “Nature’s Way”, can enhance biodiversity, improve soil productivity, and capture and store carbon dioxide.
Protecting the living world calls for systematic changes that go far beyond narrowly focused policies on biodiversity and climate. Fighting poverty and inequality are essential parts of the solution. Unfortunately, these transformative actions will occur only if we start treating the current situation as the crisis it truly is! The United States has formally withdrawn from the Worldwide Global Warming and Climate Change group organized by the United Nations and involving over 190 nations. This withdrawal was based on our refusal to accept scientific facts and actual recorded climate data that as been collected over the last 100 years. It is time to open our eyes and accept our responsibility to care for Earth. Change will occur based upon the insistence of the citizens! Let’s make 2020 a “Super Year” for International Environmental Policy!