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It’s Time to Think About the Oceans

I didn’t realize how connected I felt to the ocean until I went to college.

I’ve lived about fifteen minutes away from the Atlantic my entire life.

While I’ve never seen snow, I’ve seen the ocean more times than I could ever count, and I didn’t realize that wasn’t the case for other people. 

Still, even then, I recognized my connection to the ocean.

I’m not a particularly good swimmer, and I’m far too pale to spend long periods of time outside without turning into a lobster, but I still feel connected to it.

Some of my favorite memories include going to the beach on the Fourth of July and watching colors explode over the water or packing a picnic lunch and passing a day on the shore with my friends or family.

As a writer, seeing the ocean unlocks my imagination as I ask myself — what else is out there? How far out does the water extend? I get to tap into creative potential I didn’t even know existed. 

Upon arriving in Gainesville, I didn’t even think about the ocean’s absence until about halfway through my first semester, when I offhandedly suggested that my friends and I go to the beach because “it’s only fifteen minutes away.”

I was very wrong. I’d forgotten where I was. 

When I’m at school, I always miss the ocean, and I’ve realized that wherever I live after college, I want it to be on the coast. That being said, there are a lot of factors that might make a future on the shore more difficult. 

The threats

The climate crisis has not left our oceans unscathed.

Of course, rising global temperatures are leading to rising sea levels, which threaten coastal communities.

Furthermore, according to National Geographic, land-based activities cause a staggering 80 percent of marine pollution.

Two of the biggest offenders are overfishing and single-use plastic pollution.

Ninety percent of global plastic isn’t recycled, and much of that — food packaging, straws, coffee cups, and more — ends up in the oceans.

You can find similar figures in regards to unsustainable fishing: 90 percent of the world’s fisheries are already overfished and damaged.

Not only does this threaten certain species of fish, but it has also disrupted entire aquatic ecosystems. 

Other human activities that threaten the oceans include industries such as tourism, shipping, oil and gas, as well as general pollution.

Perhaps one of the largest is the lack of protection and proper management.

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), while the ocean comprises a large portion of the globe, only 3.4 percent of it has protected status in comparison to nearly 16 percent of land area.

This allows for unprotected areas to be exploited or damaged by even more human activity. 

The solutions

The problems with the oceans might feel too big to fight single-handedly, but like with most issues regarding climate change, they can be tackled if everyone does a little bit.

A good first step is eliminating single-use plastics in any capacity you’re able to.

Many cities are banning plastic straws, but out of the eight million tons of plastic that enter the ocean annually, straws only account for 0.025 percent of that number.

Eliminating items like plastic coffee cups, plastic product packaging, plastic grocery bags and single-use plastic food bags is a viable second step. 

You can also show support with your wallet.

To combat overfishing, opt for sustainably caught products if you eat seafood.

There are resources such as state-by-state guides on how to look for sustainable options.

You can also buy ocean-friendly products — whose production does not harm fragile ecosystems or further threaten endangered species. 

Lastly, there are more active ways to help the oceans.

With the upcoming elections in November, voting for candidates who support climate-friendly legislature is a way to ensure the ocean is protected.

You can also call your representatives with concerns. Another option includes participating in beach clean-ups, protests, and more. 

Even if it doesn't seem like your behavior is making a difference, in fighting climate change, small actions will add up to comprise big strides.

For me, I have a personal stake in preserving ocean health, but you don’t need one to recognize that the issue is important for we rely on the ocean, and in turn, the ocean relies on us.