WHERE THERE’S A WILL, THERE’S A WAY
Since the (IPOS) International Programme on the State of the Ocean’s recent comprehensive report a number of world sustainability leaders have come forward to respond. Some, such as Mitali Kakar of Reef Watch Marine Conservation in India, urge a steady increase in awareness, education, and hope. “Creating awareness through education systems, (and) through community participation is important for the long-term realization of …a plan. If all stakeholders came together on one platform and discussed the issues and a way forward, we are definitely capable of protecting our rich ocean heritage. It is only through dialogue, discussion and action that we can bring about a change at grassroots level and policy level.”
On the other hand, the IPOS report does suggest that we are headed for the next mass extinction, stating the various stressors that are assaulting our oceans are “unprecedented in the Earth’s known history. We are entering an unknown territory of marine ecosystem change, and exposing organisms to intolerable evolutionary pressure. The next mass extinction may have already begun.”
The IPOS panel identified the following greatest causes for concern:
· De-oxygenation: predictions state that ocean oxygen content may decrease by as much as 7% by the year 2100, putting intolerable strain on living organisms.
· Acidification: Projected levels by 2030-2050 are predicted to reach 45-500 parts per million, which will result in the extinction of many coral reefs.
· Warming: By the summer of 2037, the report states that Arctic summer sea ice will disappear totally, dangerously altering those ecospheres.
· Overfishing: The fishing industry is still failing to halt the decline of key species and damage to ecosystems.
These are dire warnings, certainly. However, Dr. Peter Richardson of the Marine Conservation Society believes we are capable of saving our oceans. “I’m not so sure about a mass extinction,” he says. “Ecosystems adapt and change as they have over millennia.” He is backed in that position by Mikhail Flint, of the Institute of Oceanography in Russia, who points out that sometimes predictions are exaggerated in order to “squeeze money…out of the public and politicians.”
But if we do buy into the urgency of the situation, the steps that must be taken have been (sort of) laid out by a few optimistic sorts:
1. Limit temperature rise to less than 20C by reducing global CO2 emissions.
2. Ensure effective ecosystem management.
3. Build a realistic global infrastructure for high seas governance.
Trevor Manuel, co-chair of the Global Ocean Commission says the above steps could be implemented “instantaneously,” referring to the banning of destructive fishing practices and strengthening of pollution controls. Overhauling world ocean governance would not be so easy, he opines, nor would changing the course of acidification and climate change. So given the recent report, where do we stand? Are we any closer to agreement on solutions? Clearly, there is still a chasm between the believers and the naysayers. Tell me what you think.