You know about the tropical rainforests, but our oceans are actually the forgotten lungs of the Earth. Here are five simple ways to make a big difference to our blue planet
What springs to mind when you hear the words Blue Planet? Chances are you’ll think of coral reef formations, colour-changing walruses, and shoals of sardines making their way through miles of shimmering water in Sir David Attenborough’s groundbreaking wildlife documentaries exploring the world’s oceans.
If you watched the final episode of Blue Planet II two years ago, however, you might recall something other than a celebration of the awe-inspiring marvels of our underwater world. You will have watched albatross feed their chicks scraps of plastic, dolphins exposing their newborn calves to polluted milk, and a baby sperm whale with a plastic bucket lodged in its mouth.
The final episode of the series was a sobering warning from the nation’s favourite naturalist to wake up to the reality of plastic pollution, and it’s devastating effect on our natural world. “Since its invention some hundred years ago,” narrates Sir David, “plastic has become an integral part of our daily lives. But every year, some eight million tonnes of it ends up in the ocean. And there, it can be lethal.”
Despite concerns that the series would alienate audiences, Blue Planet marked a turning point in public attitudes towards conservation issues. In 2018, the Great British Beach Clean reported double the number of volunteers than the year before, with an average 16% decrease in the number of items collected per 100 metres of shoreline, while the UK Plastics Pact have set a target to make 100% of plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.
But with the levels of plastic ocean pollution set to triple by 2025, and the reality of microplastic contamination posing a risk to human health, there is still much more work to be done if we’re to protect the precious biodiversity in our seas, as well as the waters that feed and medicate us, regulate our climate, clean the water we drink, and provide most of the oxygen we breathe. Did you know, for instance, that our oceans produce between 50-85% of the oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere?
Today on World Oceans Day, we have the perfect opportunity to show our love for our seas, raise awareness of the challenges facing our marine life, and pledge to develop ways to ensure the survival of our blue planet. From cutting down your plastic footprint to joining a beach clean along the coast, here are five simple ways to make a difference to our natural world.
1. Reduce your plastic consumption
With a colossal 8 million metric tons of plastic entering the world’s oceans every year, plastic pollution is posing a grave environmental crisis for the natural world. So, while you’re cutting back on single-use plastic straws and cutlery, swapping your disposable coffee cups for a thermos, and buying loose fruit and veg on your weekly shop, it’s time to start to using all those Bags for Life you’ve collected under the sink.
2. Make sustainable seafood choices
Global fish populations are rapidly depleting due to demand, loss of habitat, and unsustainable fishing practices. And that has a knock-on effect on countries that rely on the fishing industry to feed their communities and earn a living, too. With that in mind, familiarise yourself with Greenpeace’s list of endangered fish, and avoid ordering Atlantic cod, tuna, plaice, sole and tropical prawns when you’re out for dinner.
3. Take care of the beach
There’s more to being a responsible visitor to the beach than simply picking up your rubbish (or anybody else’s, for that matter) after you’ve spent the day on the sand dunes. Take care to not disturb natural wildlife when you’re exploring the coast, and while you might be tempted to take pebbles, rocks or coral as a memento for your living room, resist the temptation - the preservation of our marine life depends on it. You can also find a list of World Oceans Day beach cleans here if you’ve a couple of hours spare on your Sunday afternoon.
4. Support organisations working to protect the oceans
Consider lending your support to an organisation dedicated to protecting the oceans, or even volunteering for hands-on work or advocacy. You can also help to influence change in your own community by researching the ocean policies of public officials before you vote, or contacting your local MP to let them know you support ocean conservation. If you’re London-based, join Greenpeace’s ’human wave’ from Westminster Bridge to the Foreign Office, or join Ocean Talks on 12th June at the Royal Geographical Society to hear some of the world’s leading environmental activists and marine experts to discuss the problems facing the world’s oceans.
5. Embrace a greener future
Earlier in March, a groundbreaking study from the University of Rutgers showed that rising ocean temperatures are significantly shrinking fish populations. And even though our blue planet does a miraculous job of storing 93% of the world’s carbon dioxide in algae, vegetation, and coral under the sea, it’s struggling to cope with rising levels of CO2. That means that making a conscious effort to reduce your carbon footprint is more vital than ever. If we all made an effort to use public transport, cut back on our meat intake, recycle carefully and invest in energy efficient household devices, we could make a huge difference to maintaining the ocean’s delicate ecosystem.