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Oceans: Are They Untouchable Or Vulnerable?

1160 words - 5 pages

Almost every great civilization in history lived off the waters around them. The Greeks and Romans, the Egyptians, the Japanese, the Mesoamericans, the Polynesians. Though some are more famous than others, and may have been more grandiose or “complex”, all of the peoples above sustained themselves one way or the next by fishing and trading with other maritime powers. Eventually, agriculture and livestock would be employed to provide a diversified diet, but the sea and its bounty was constant. Unlike the nations today, however, those civilizations were of small population and sufficient sense to not turn a crucial source of food into an industry. The world’s oceans are a finite and vulnerable habitat, and cannot take the things we do to them much longer.
Up until the 1900’s, people were unsure of the ocean’s volume and extent. It was widely unknown if there was a bottom, or if the land just sloped down, down and down to oblivion. At first glance, the seas do look endless and all-absorbing: even the horizon vanishes into its depths. Consequently, the sea has been a dumping ground for millennia. But only in the wake of the Industrial Revolution have there been damaging effects due to the sheer quantity and toxicity of the pollutants. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, pollution of the atmosphere alone has negatively affected the ocean’s ratio of carbon forms: mostly bicarbonate, some carbonate and an iota of CO2 before industrial levels. CO2 absorption by the oceans, a natural process, has been increasing since humans have been pumping CO2 into the atmosphere. The increased acidity of the water, thanks to the excess CO2, inhibits the ability of coral and other shelled creatures to produce sturdy, functioning shells. Other effects of a carbon-laden atmosphere include global warming.
Pollution of the ocean ranges from the deliberate dumping of toxins and plastics by factories, governments and the like, to runoff from over-fertilized plantations and the accidental oil disasters, such as the Exxon spill of ’89 or the more recent BP Gulf of Mexico spill in 2013. All forms are highly destructive to wildlife. The fertilizers do little to directly harm the oceans, but they catalyze and sustain algae blooms on the surface which wick the oxygen out of the water and create dead zones that cannot support life, according to the World Wildlife Federation. Large dead zones result in coastal areas that meet large rivers. A nearby one to Ohio is Lake Erie’s, which is extinguishing the fishing industry of the region. Marine dumping, the most controllable and preventable form of pollution, was largely unregulated until the 1970’s, when the first of legislation against such activities was introduced after flammable pollutants on various rivers caused massive fires which interrupted transport and damaged wildlife. A popular example of what dumping can do is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or the thing colloquially referred to as “the patch larger...

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