How Has The Ocean Changed?
By Karah B.
Learning about the past is how we change the future. We often hear about how climate change is affecting the world. There always seems to be news about how our one world Ocean is heavily polluted and turtles are dying. And how the weather is changing all over the country and all over the world. Occurrences, such as these, beg the question, “How has the ocean changed?”
In the past century, things have changed a lot in our oceans. Since plastic became more popular in the 1960s, the damage to the oceans has been atrocious. Eliminating plastic straws, plastic bags, and reducing our carbon footprint are a few things we can control to help improve the situation.
To have a brighter, cleaner future, we need to make changes now – for our planet, and for future generations. Teaching our kids while they’re young to respect our planet and leading by example is key.
There is hope, but it’s going to take all of us working together to bring things back into balance. Changing habits, recycling, upcycling, and being a mindful consumer are ways to reduce plastic pollution in our one world Ocean. To fix the problem, we need better legislation and laws that protect aquatic ecosystems, but we also need to change ourselves.
Things Can Change For a Better Tomorrow
The silent generation, people born in 1945 and before, didn’t use plastics to the extent that younger generations have. Plastics have actually been around since the late 1800s. The rise of plastic use commercially began after WWII. But in the 1960s plastic became even more popular, ushering in the proliferation of single-use plastic bags and disposable straws.
Stores used to provide paper bags… Well, until realizing plastic is more cost-effective to make and more durable. Grocery stores made the paradigm shift from paper to plastic bags in 1982. Around the same time, the rise of the automotive industry made the fast-food industry rise as well. With that came the popularity of disposable plastics such as straws, forks, spoons, stirring sticks, etc.
Nowadays, plastic use continues to rise. According to the EPA, as of 2018, only 9% of plastic is recycled. Seventy-nine percent make it to landfills and eventually to our one world Ocean.
Now can you see why we need to ask, “How has our ocean has changed?”
Did you know it takes 400+ years for plastic to degrade? So, the plastic straw which we use in 2021 to consume one drink in less than an hour will still be decomposing in 2421. That’s a long time!
Remnants of plastic found on the seafloor date back to at least 1945, much of which come from clothing fibers. But plastic and fibers are not the only concern – toxic chemicals and human waste are also pumped into the oceans. Needless to say, we aren’t doing us or our one world Ocean any favors.
The generations after 1945 had a major impact on our one world Ocean as well:
Baby Boomers: 1946-1964
Gen X: 1965-1976
Gen Z: 1996-2015
Gen Xers and Millennials grew up during a time when it became easier for our parents to grab something quickly. We’re all so busy that there’s not enough time to cook anymore. In our gig economy, many adults have to supplement their income with side jobs. So, most people are too tired to whip something up when they get home.
Millennials are becoming mothers and fathers now too. Continuing the habits learned in childhood, frequenting fast food joints for convenience is the norm. Unfortunately, this is causing more plastic pollution. Planning meals helps. As does buying fresh products at local supermarkets and farmers markets. There are also convenient and relatively affordable options to order fresh produce online. We have to change our habits for the better.
What Will Happen In the Years To Come?
Turtles aren’t the only ones affected by pollution; all marine life is. Much of it is damage that we don’t have a clue about. It’s stuff marine life needs to keep our one world Ocean alive. Sources of food for a variety of marine life are dying out.
Along with the waste. pollutants, and more plastic production, air pollutants are increasing too. These cause our oceans to acidify. This is causing temperatures to rise. And it’s also reducing the oxygen available to marine life. Microplastics and related chemicals are making their way up the food chain into humans… Even into placentas.
In 1956, the Minamata disease was discovered in Japan, where many people died. Minamata is caused by the pumping of methylmercury into our waters – a practice which started in 1932 and continued till at least 1968. We don’t want to wait for another rise in human deaths to get our attention on toxic waste. I hate to think of what might result from Japan’s current dumping of radioactive wastewater from the Fukushima Nuclear Plant. It’s going straight into our one world Ocean.
What To Expect Between Now and 2050
Plastic production is growing every year and temperatures are going up. At the rate we are going, by the year 2024, temperatures are predicted to go up by 2.7℉ (1.5℃). This may not seem like a lot, but the temperature rising means harsher weather, stronger storms, and more flooding. You’ve probably already started noticing changes in your local weather. I know I have!
The sea level is going to rise enough to threaten coastal towns. The resulting migration will cause overcrowding inland. Saving for a beach house? You might want to rethink that one!
The ratio of microplastics to water is also increasing, which isn’t good for our global food supply. Roughly 12% of the world depends on fishing and aquaculture for their livelihoods. And over three billion people eat fish as their main source of animal protein.
How has the ocean changed? Just ask the people who depended on it to feed their families.
What We Can Do To Improve
Change starts at home and recycling is a good place to begin. Make sure you take advantage of local recycling programs while continuing to cut back on plastic usage. Swap your dish sponge, shampoo, etc. for ones with eco-friendly packaging.
If you enjoy eating out or on the go, avoid single-use plastic straws and cutlery. If a straw is important to you, treat yourself to a reusable straw. There are also some great packable cutlery kits that are environmentally friendly. Yes, these things are inconvenient to wash, but wouldn’t a world without fish be more inconvenient?
Using reusable bags for your groceries helps in the fight against plastic bag pollution. Some grocery stores will even reward you for using them, which can save you money in the long run as well.
Every day, while washing your dishes, hands, or brushing your teeth, make sure to turn the water off. Why? – Because saving water helps to reduce wastewater that’s flowing into our one world Ocean.
Small steps will make a big difference in the long run.
Another way you can help is by purchasing from the Ocean Blue Shop. Every $5 dollar you spend will enable Ocean Blue to remove five pounds of plastic from our one world Ocean.
Just start small today for a better future tomorrow.
Hopefully, one day when people ask “how has our ocean changed?” the answers will be all about how it has improved.
Author Bio: Karah B is a writer based in Las Vegas, NV. A single mother of 3, who enjoys traveling and making memories with her kids.