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O happy living things! no tongue
Their beauty might declare:
A spring of love gushed from my heart,
And I blessed them unaware:
– Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The key to addressing climate change – is to do nothing.
But to do nothing, we have to do something, and that is we have to make a serious decision to do nothing.
This means we need to stop the industrialized exploitation and pollution of all marine ecosystems.
We need to give the ocean the time and the opportunity to repair the excessive damage we have caused. We need to allow the restoration of phytoplankton populations and the recovery of coral reefs, marine mammals, seabirds, sea turtles, invertebrates and fish populations.
If left alone, nature heals itself.
For centuries, Polynesian cultures had a set of laws called “kapu” and specifically there were kapu laws with regard to fishing. Areas and certain times of the year were restricted and the penalty for the violation of kapu fishing laws was the death penalty. This may seem extreme, but the Polynesians knew that without the fish, they would not survive. It was a question of cultural and physical survival.
There are no kapu areas anywhere in the world today.
Yes, there are marine sanctuaries, but that is where the poachers go to find the ever-diminishing numbers of fish.
Raytheon manufactures a fish finder with the motto, “the fish can run but they can’t hide.”
And that is the problem.
Fish and plankton populations are not in decline because of seals, whales, dolphins or seabirds. All these species are scapegoats for a situation created 100% by the activities of humanity.
We need a new perspective, one where we do not view the Ocean primarily as a source for commercial profit but rather as an imperative necessity for the survival of all life on the planet.
On Spaceship Earth, the Ocean is the primary life support system. It provides food but more importantly it is the source of most of the planet’s oxygen production, primarily from phytoplankton. It is also the primary mechanism for the sequestering of carbon dioxide and the primary mechanism for regulating currents, weather and temperature.
The machinery of climate control and oxygen production is maintained by a living crew of millions of organisms ranging from viruses and microbes through phytoplankton, zooplankton, invertebrates, fishes and marine mammals, birds, reptiles and marine vegetation.
Humans are not crew members on Spaceship Earth. We are merely passengers, and more importantly, we are murderous passengers, intent upon the willful massacre and eradication of important crew members.
Since 1950 – the year I was born – the Ocean has lost 40 percent of phytoplankton populations (Source: Sceintific American).
In addition to producing oxygen, phytoplankton consumes and sequesters more carbon than all the trees and plants on land.
This decline has caused major disruptions in the maritime food chain. Phytoplankton productivity is the base of the worldwide food web. All life in the sea is dependent upon it. And all life in the sea and on land is dependent upon phytoplankton for oxygen and carbon sequestering.
When life in the sea is diminished, all life is diminished. If phytoplankton is removed, life everywhere cannot exist. In short, if the Ocean dies, humanity dies with it.
The reduction of whale and seabird populations over the last few centuries has been a cause for the reduction of nitrogen, iron and other nutrients needed by phytoplankton. Phytoplankton depends upon the nutrients in marine mammal feces making the whales and dolphins literally the farmers of the sea and when the farmers die, the crops wither.
Nature is regulated by three major laws of ecology:
1. The law of diversity, that the strength of an ecosystem is dependent upon the diversity within it.
2. The law of interdependence, that all species within an ecosystem are interdependent with each other.
3. The law of finite resources. That there is a limit to growth because there is a limit to carrying capacity and when humans steal carrying capacity from other species the result is a diminishment of both diversity and interdependence.
Quite simply, humanity is not the most important species on the planet. Humans contribute little ecological benefit but contribute hugely to ecological diminishment.
Today, industrialized fishing survives solely upon massive government subsidies. There is no such thing as a sustainable fishery. This global aquatic slaughterhouse destroys tens of millions of fish per minute and not just for direct human consumption. About six million tons of fish are rendered into fish-meal with about 56% going to feed farmed fish and the rest going to feed pigs, chickens, and animals on fur farms (Source: R. D. Miles and F. A. Chapman. FA122: The Benefits of Fish Meal in Aquaculture Diets Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 2005. Reviewed January 2015.)
Added to this carnage is plastic, chemical and biological waste pollution on top of rising oceanic temperatures. This does not bode well for the future.
Over the last five hundred years, species after species in the sea and on land have been driven to extinction and once gone – forgotten about, including the Great Auk, the North Atlantic Grey whale, the Sea Mink, the Steller Sea Cow, the Labrador Duck, Caribbean Monk Seal, and the New Zealand Grayling. And although we have been fighting to prevent the extinction of the endangered Vaquita porpoise, the outlook is quite grim.
There were once Walrus on the shores of Nova Scotia and Belugas in Long Island Sound, now long forgotten and by 2050 this list will expand as humanity continues to assault life on Earth in the era of the Anthropocene – the Sixth Major Extinction Event.
As passengers on Spaceship Earth, we need to stop killing the crew and we need to defend and protect all of these species that make it possible for humanity to exist. To do this we need to learn to live in harmony with all other species and to respect their right to life and their contributions to making the planet viable and livable.
Paul Franklin Watson is a Canadian-American conservation and environmental activist, who founded the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in 1977, an anti-poaching and direct action group focused on marine conservation activism.