Take a breath. Now take another breath. Every second breath you take comes from the ocean.
Many people take a look at the ocean, and they see water. It’s not just water, it’s alive. The largest mountain ranges on the planet are beneath the sea, the deepest canyons are beneath the sea. The ocean gives us half the oxygen we breath, regulates the climate, gives all the seafood and many recreational opportunities. It’s our life support system. With every breath we take, every drop of water we drink, we are connected to nature, especially the ocean. 12% of the land is protected in national parks or reserves. In the ocean, less than 2% is protected. We are this little creature living on the back of this larger creature. We have now reached the point where we can actually do harm to our host. People do not realize that the earth is so vulnerable.
From afar the world is blue with an all-encompassing ocean, the source of all life. Without the ocean, the earth would be as bleak and barren as Mars or the Moon. With every drop of water we drink, every breath we take, we are connected to the sea, no matter where we live.
Covering 72% of the Earth and supplying half its oxygen, it absorbs half of the carbon dioxide. The ocean drives climate and weather, regulates temperature and shapes the chemistry. Water evaporates from the surface of the sea, forms clouds and returns as rain, sleet and snow.
It covers three-quarters of the surface and that is just the surface. Average depth is 4 kilometers, the maximum 11 kilometers, 7 miles down. 90% of the earth’s water is ocean. It should be no surprise that 97% of the earth’s living space is ocean space. The greatest diversity of life is in the ocean. With new technologies, submarines and satellites, we have discovered more about the ocean in the last half century than all preceding time. Yet 95% of the ocean is yet to be seen by human eyes, let alone explored.
Far into the 20th century, people thought the ocean was unlimited in its capacity to take whatever we wanted to take from it. Except whatever we disposed of there, over the years has stayed there. Hundreds of millions of tons of life have been extracted and hundred of millions of tons have been disposed of. Industrial fishing has depleted life almost to extinction. Many large species – the predators and even small ones – have declined by 90% in half a century. Trawlers have scraped the sea floor removing shrimp, fish, scallops and oysters.
Pollutants from industry and agriculture, waste and sewage have seeped into the ocean, accumulating in the marine organisms, even in the Arctic and Antarctic. More than 300 dead zones cover oceans worldwide. Plastic debris is dumped in such quantities that a huge floating mass of garbage twice the size of Texas has formed in the Pacific. Plastic has clogged the shores of even remote Pacific islands.
The construction of coastal cities has brought about the loss of coral reefs, mangrove forests and marine grasslands, birds and marine life. Changes in the ocean are impacting global warming. In turn, rising sea levels and acidification are affecting the impact of the ocean.
Now one of the greatest discoveries of our time is knowing what we can take out and what we can put in without dire consequences to the ocean’s health – underpinning what makes life possible for us. Now what we know makes it possible to reverse the trend because out lives depend on it. The ocean is our planet’s support system – and it’s in danger. People have the ability to make history, to make change. We need another revolution. We need a healthier planet.
“Ocean Now” is an initiative of National Geographic, NGOs, and governments. The goal: to restore the oceans to full productivity by promoting the creation of marine reserves and decreasing the human impact on our oceans. To learn more, go to www.oceans/nationalgeographic.com
My interest in oceans began when I started diving. I got my Padi Open Water in Utilla, the Bay Islands of Honduras and then dove infrequently until I obtained my Advanced in the Andaman Islands, India. My next significant diving experience was on a live-aboard in the Mergii Archapelago in southern Myanmar. With 16 dives over 5 days, my diving improved considerably, and I was hooked. However, there