Nature is calming. There’s something therapeutic about looking at the wonderful creation around us. It makes you feel grateful. Taking a moment to appreciate something like a mountain, a forest, or the ocean, can make you feel like a tiny part of a massive universe. That sensation of being a small speck might make you a kinder, more generous person. That’s the mental aspect of it, which is why we must do everything in our power to protect the environment.
Take the ocean for example. It’s so beautiful that you almost don’t want to focus on anything else when you get the chance to be near one. You want to just sit and concentrate on the beautiful blue shade. Personally, I can do this for hours. But aside from the aesthetic aspect of the ocean, it is a vital part of the environment and the ecosystem. The ocean is the largest ecosystem on earth. It is the planet’s life support system. To survive and prosper, we need healthy oceans.
It is therefore sad to note that there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic waste estimated to be in our oceans. Unfortunately, 70% of our debris sinks into the ocean’s ecosystem, 15% floats, and 15% lands on our beaches. In terms of plastic, 8.3 million tonnes are discarded in the sea yearly.
Because of this, every year on the 8th of June, the world comes together to celebrate World Ocean’s Day. The theme of UN World Ocean’s Day 2020 is “Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean.” This calls for the introduction of new methods, ideas, or products to save our oceans from pollution and possible damage.
Here are five reasons why we need to protect our oceans.
- Oceans provide oxygen
We need oceans to survive, literally. Through Prochlorococcus and other ocean phytoplankton, the oceans are responsible for 70% of Earth’s oxygen production. These plants produce oxygen as a byproduct of photosynthesis, a process that converts carbon dioxide and sunlight into sugars the organism can use for energy. Phytoplankton live in large bodies of water and because they depend on photosynthesis which produces oxygen, they have to live near the ocean surface. In fact, one type of phytoplankton, Prochlorococcus, releases countless tons of oxygen into the atmosphere. It is so small that millions can fit in a drop of water. Prochlorococcus is one of the most abundant photosynthetic organism on the planet.
- Oceans help to regulate climate change
In our fight to deal with the issue of global warming, we need the oceans. Global warming occurs when carbon dioxide and other air pollutants and greenhouse gases collect in the atmosphere and absorb sunlight and solar radiation that have bounced off the earth’s surface. The good news is that oceans absorb carbon dioxide. This is done in two ways.
Firstly, through diffusion from the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide moves between the atmosphere and the ocean due to a difference between the pressure in the atmosphere and ocean. Carbon dioxide moves from the air to the water when the atmospheric pressure of Carbon dioxide is higher. Carbon dioxide is then dissolved in the ocean because it is soluble. Secondly, through photosynthesis in plankton and algae. Plants need carbon dioxide in the process of convert light energy into chemical energy that can later be released to fuel the organisms’ activities.
This means that if we conserve our oceans and protect them from damage, we will be able to deal with the negative impact of global warming, at least to a certain extent.
- Oceans are a primary source of food
The ocean is home to millions of species, some of which human beings consume. This means that by protecting the oceans, we are enabling food security for millions of people around the world. In fact, the Food and Agricultural Organization (F.A.O) estimates that about one billion people worldwide rely on fish as their primary source of animal protein. Aside from this, fish also has substantial social and economic importance.
- Source of new medicine to combat medicines
Medical researchers continue their efforts to improve human health, and some are now turning their attention to the ocean. According to Medical News Today, the first evidence of humans using medicines from the ocean comes from China in 2953 B.C.E. During the reign of the emperor Fu Hsi, there was a tax on the profits that came from fish-derived medicine. Over recent years, sourcing drugs from the ocean has experienced a resurgence of interest.
Just recently, a group of researchers investigated molecules that they had extracted from lampreys which is a jawless, parasitic fish. The hypothesis was on the impact of Variable Lymphocyte Receptors (VLRs) in treating certain conditions, including brain cancer and stroke, more effectively. Their preliminary work in a mouse model produced encouraging results.
Again, according to Ocean Exploration and Research, recently, systematic searches for new drugs have shown that marine invertebrates produce more antibiotic, anti-cancer, and anti-inflammatory substances than any group of terrestrial organisms. Particularly promising invertebrate groups include sponges, tunicates, ascidians, bryozoans, octocorals, and some molluscs, annelids, and echinoderms.
- Source of income for many
The ocean is an important source of livelihood for many. Through economic activities such as fishing, salt production, trade, and tourism, people can sustain themselves and their families. Take our country for example. It is estimated that Kenya earns around $2.5 billion per year from its ocean. The so-called “Blue Economy” is valued at six trillion dollars. Clearly, our ocean is an essential part of the economy and must be protected at all costs. The Blue Economy And Its Relevance To Kenyan Businesses