Abstract: The oceans have always had a major impact on humans and our culture. From
ancient trading routes to seaside cities, we have always been dependent on the resources
it provides to us. Looking towards a future where the ocean continues to be a fundamental
part of our lives, we need to focus on educating the public and corporations on the current
state of the problem, finding an alternative that is better for our environment, and starting
the process of cleaning our planet up. Time is fading, species are going extinct, and the
ocean as we know it may have been lost forever.
Where Our Focus Should Be
“Over one million seabirds are killed by ocean pollution each year. [ ]One
hundred thousand sea mammals are killed in the ocean by pollution each year.
[Three hundred thousand dolphins and porpoises die each year as a result of
becoming entangled in discarded fishing nets, among other items]” (Rinkesh).
On one hand, you have those that have a deep appreciation for the ocean and the world around us. And on the other, you have those who don’t give a second thought to the piece of trash they dropped in the street or the pounds and pounds of trash they throw away each year. Most do not choose to be on the latter side, but are forced there by their uninformedness. They are not shown what the consequences of their actions are: As soon as it leaves their lives, it leaves their thoughts. They don’t think of the impact it has on the other species that call this planet their home. They don’t see the impact it has on the ecosystems that support these species. This is not everyone. Some people by chance or by action, have learned what has been happening for centuries. They know the deep-rooted effects of their actions and how they have held a pristine horizon hostage for decades, literally strangeling the life out of the ocean. And upon this knowledge, they have taken the time and thought to figure out a solution: One that will not only correct their mistakes, but also the mistakes of others.
Out of the two, I am part of the latter community. By chance, I was shown the effects we have had on the ocean and its organisms. I have, through the past few years, learned about the organisms that call the ocean its home, the many ecosystems that scatter the pelagic and benthic communities, the way the ocean has changed through time, and the many ways we have changed it ourselves.
I think, in terms of the discussion, is the audience. People can not make change, if they don’t know what to change, in and of itself. They need to learn what the problem is, and what solutions are needed to fix it. They need to know that there are consequences of their actions and that these consequences matter, for both our generation and the generations to come. Not just see it through pictures, but see it first hand. See what it has done to the pristine planet. The planet that, without us, would have remained largely unchanged for millenia. The planet that, within the past century, has seen more pollution and disruption than anyone can ever imagine. That is why, I think education, is what should be at the center of the discussion. Because if you show people a fire and give them a bucket of water, they will put it out. If you sit them down and show them what they are doing to our beautiful world and give them the tools to fix it, you will gain a voice: A voice that will help spread your word to others who sat in the dark for a time too long.
And this is what I argue, we need to go out and show people what is happening and offer ways they can help. Because, in a way, this is all we can do. We can’t force them to eat sustainably or buy reusable. But if we tell them they can do something as an individual person, we gain their voice, and their voice can be used to gain other people’s voices and so on. And once the people are informed they will ask, “Why do we not focus the root of the problem?”. And once we look at the big corporations using plastic in their products and everyone’s asking why, they will start to change.
Once companies are educated about the state of the problem, we can then, and only then, focus on stopping our dependency on plastic. We need to invent materials that are as cheap and as versatile as plastic. If we can not find a material to replace soon, companies are either going to have to settle for a less optimal material like paper or glass (Admin) or continue to produce what’s trashing our planet. If we do happen to find this material, companies can then start using it without the threat of losing money. This will stop the problem where it lies and then the only thing there is to worry about is getting the trash that’s already out there polluting the ecosystems. Once we stop the trashing problem, all we have to do is start the cleanup project. Go to every part of the world we can picking up after ourselves: making sure we leave as little a mark on the planet as physically possible.
Some evidence in support of this claim is the cases of Dell and Whole Foods. Dell teamed up with an ocean advocacy foundation, Lonely Whale, to recycle plastic waste that would have or had already ended up in the ocean and use it in the packaging for their computers (Anzilotti). While this doesn’t stop the problem, the plastic is still gonna end up as litter in a dump or elsewhere, it makes sure the problem doesn’t keep going at the rate it is now. Whole Foods took this a step further by totally stopping use of the biggest source of plastic pollution in their stores: the plastic bag (Bell). They were informed of the state of plastic in the environment and began an initiative. Starting with two stores in the Texas area, they banned plastic bags and opted for the much more sustainable paper bag (Bell). This initiative continued, and to this day, every Whole Foods in every corner of the world has followed suit and continues to help the environment everyday (Bell). Not only in preventing pollution, but by bringing the problem of pollution into the spotlight. To give the mic to every other corporation and waiting for their move. If we continue on this path looking forward, things will get better. If we try hard enough and convince enough people, eventually there will be a domino effect as more and more people see that earth-friendly has become the mainstream. That people would rather spend the few cents that needs to be spent to save a few lives. Because right now, if we do not cease what we are doing immediately, species are going to go extinct. If, by some miracle, we are able to reverse the effects we have had on our planet, we may be able to stay on and inhabit the ocean for centuries to come. If not, Stephen Hawking might be correct and we may have to disembark and find new worlds because this is only one of the major problems we are facing today (“Stephen Hawking”). The problems are becoming so ingrained in our culture that the majority of people don’t give them a thought in their daily lives. They don’t see the consequences of their daily actions. We need to stop now, because if we don’t: ecosystems are going to be destroyed, and the earth, as we know it, will cease to exist.