2015 28 x 45” 71 x 115 cm Acrylic on Canvas
Oceans cover 70 percent of the surface of our planet. Tiny algae and phytoplankton are abundant throughout the ocean, a drifting nearly invisible forest. Through photosynthesis these tiny plants use the energy of the sun to grow, and produce oxygen which is released into the atmosphere. The ocean, and these tiny plants are the lungs of the planet, producing well over half of the oxygen that you inhale with every breath you take. It is common sense that we must take care of our precious oceans.
The health of the oceans and the food chains in them are under stress after a couple of centuries of abuse beginning with the industrial revolution in the late 1700s. Since then human activity has released between 1.5 and 2 trillion tons of carbon dioxide, (C02), into the atmosphere. About a quarter of that, or 550 Billion Tons of C02 have been absorbed into the oceans. For almost 2 centuries the oceans absorbed, and to some extent was able to mitigate this influx of Carbon dioxide. However in recent decades the CO2 being released into the atmosphere has skyrocketed, and the ocean is reaching its saturation point. In 2008 the Earth’s Oceans reached a level of Acidity, not seen in the last 35 million years, and it has become more acidic every year since then.
This acidification is already causing problems. Around 2005 the shellfish farming industry began experiencing areas of die offs along the Pacific Coast in Canada and the United States. At the same time the hatcheries had no oyster seeds, (hatchlings) to send out to restock the oyster farms, because all the hatchlings were dying, and natural seeding from wild oysters had virtually ceased. After a few bad years and some research it was discovered that the very young oysters simply could not survive in the elevated levels of acidity now occurring in pockets of the Pacific North West. The hatcheries could no longer take untreated water from the ocean into its tanks to grow oyster hatchlings, they had to treat the water first, after that the young oysters thrived and once they had passed the vulnerable young stage, they could survive in the more acidified coastal waters. If the Ocean continues to become more acidic however this may only be a short term fix. Oysters, mussels, clams, and of course the coral reefs themselves which form much of the tropical fish habitat, undergo a condition much like osteoporosis in humans as the acid level in the ocean becomes elevated. They have difficulty forming their shells and exoskeletons, and even when they do survive they are in a stressed more vulnerable condition.
As the caretakers of this planet we have allowed our oceans to cross over a threshold and they are in the early stages of Ocean Acidification. We have altered the PH balance of the entire ocean with a 30 % increase in acidity since the beginning of the industrial revolution, and if C02 emissions continue unchecked we could face a 100 % increase in acidity by the end of this century. There are growing dead zones in the ocean, areas where pollution, acidification and ocean warming have killed the fish, the shell fish, the coral reefs, the seaweed, the only thing that thrives in these ‘dead zones’ is jellyfish. We are putting at risk a global fishing industry worth over 100 billion dollars annually, an industry that is a significant employer worldwide, and threatening the security of the world’s food supply. This does not even touch upon the tourism or moral implications. “Hey Billy, let’s go snorkeling with the jellyfish!” We must begin taking care for our planet and our oceans, if we don’t take care of them, they can’t take care of us.