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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sam Waterston: “Oceans hold the solution to Earth's woes”

Sam Waterston (Law & Order), who is a board member of Oceana, recently wrote an article for the Miami Herald about the importance of our oceans. He writes about how we need to learn to read the warnings that our oceans are giving and react accordingly. Here is an excerpt:

And still the oceans serve us. In fact, they're performing double service. First, they are giving us early warning, telling us in plain language, the certain consequences of continuing to consume as we are. Second, they're offering us a solution to the problem that has brought us to this dangerous moment, namely humanity's vast appetite for energy. So what happens to the carbon dioxide absorbed by the seas? It combines with seawater to create carbonic acid, changing the acidity of that vast solution and reducing the amount of available carbonate. And that is serious mischief for all kinds of sea life, from corals and pteropods, continuing on through shellfish, clams, oysters, lobsters, mussels and so on, that need carbonate to make the structures that support them.

A chain reaction begins. Even those creatures whose own structural parts might better survive a decrease in available carbonate in sea water depend to one degree or another on critters with higher sensitivity. Whales and salmon eat pteropods for dinner. The very tasty and much-prized Alaskan pink salmon makes pteropods 45 percent of its diet. Many kinds of fish need corals for habitat. And corals aren't just tropical -- the colder the water they live in, the more vulnerable they are to changes in the availability of carbonate.

The current acidification level hasn't been seen for 800,000 years, and acidification is coming on at least one hundred times faster than ever before. The levels are alarming; the rate of change makes them even scarier because it so restricts the ability of sea creatures to adapt.

In contrast to the debate that continues about the causal relationship between this or that weather event and human activity -- there is no debate about ocean acidification. The rise in carbon-dioxide content is a man-made event, plain and simple, and the consequences of it continuing uncontrolled will belong squarely to us.

The full article, ”Oceans hold the solution to Earth’s woes” can be found on the Miami Herald web site (link here.)

Since I live only about 4 miles from Lake Erie – not an ocean I know – I understand all too well the importance of the earth's water and how we need to take very good care of it. (The Great Lakes are all fresh water and the ecosystem is closed, so any problems there are even more magnified than in the ocean.) We must take care of all our water resources; our life depends on it.

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