While having dinner with my family recently, a discussion regarding the “to eat or not to eat” debate came up and left me sad and gravely concerned. The conversation, that started out light-hearted, gradually developed into a serious and heart-breaking discussion about the choice between eating or avoiding meat and meat products. Although I believed that I was relatively aware of the impact humans have on the environment, I soon realized that relatives and friends did not necessarily share my sentiment. More shocking was the discovery of the lack of awareness displayed by several people near to me.
What is Awareness and how aware are you?
Have we lost our ability to be aware because of the instant gratification, distraction of technology, and unimportant social media feeds? To be aware means that you have the ability to experience empathy and sympathy for what is happening around you. Have we lost all of that?
“Awareness is the state of being conscious of something. More specifically, it is the ability to direct by know and perceive, to feel, or to be cognizant of events. Another definition describes it as a state wherein a subject is aware of some information when that information is directly available to bring to bear the direction of a wide range of behavioural actions. The concept is often synonymous to consciousness and is also understood as being consciousness itself”. (Wikipedia 2021)
A state of being…
Meaning that if you are not “aware” you are not doing what you are supposed to do as a human, you are not “being” human…
The root of my concern?
After watching a documentary, “Seaspiracy”, I was reminded of what was really happening in the world at large. We were given the instruction and honour to take care of this planet, but it appears as if we are failing dismally.
Did you know?
The ocean produces over half of the world’s oxygen and absorbs 50 times more carbon dioxide than our atmosphere. In terms of climate regulation, covering 70% of the earth’s surface, the ocean transports heat from the equator to the poles, regulating climate and weather patterns.
Therefore, the ocean can be accurately described as the heart of the planet. Water covers more than two-thirds of the earth’s surface. Sea plants, like Posidonia, produce 70% of the oxygen we breath. Our rainwater, drinking water, weather, climate, coastlines, much of our food and as I mentioned our oxygen, are all ultimately provided and regulated by the sea. But for the oceans to function properly and to provide the earth with all these vital functions, it needs ALL the created animals present and healthy.
Until recently I was foolishly under the impression that plastic pollution was the biggest threat to the oceans - I was sorely mistaken. Greed, the human need for food and the lack of conserving our valuable resources, are indeed the biggest threats to the ocean, the entire planet and ultimately our survival.
Environmentalist and scientists have discovered, amongst thousands of other discoveries, that marine animals, such as whales and seals, create a “biological pump” in the ocean that helps counteract some of the damaging effects of global warming.
The problem however lies in that people are not aware of the “works behind the works” when it comes to fishing and potentially eradicating marine life. There are countries that not only fish to put food on the table, but also destroying and wiping out most of the fish for something more than food, such as cultural and monetary beliefs that cannot be substantiated. One such example is that of shark fin soup. Shark fin soup is a symbol of status in the Chinese culture and as a result fishermen have a large incentive to gather and sell shark fins. Fishermen will catch the sharks in nets, cut off the fins and throw the remainder of the animals back into the ocean. This practice is known as “shark finning”.
Increasing the lack of awareness is the media’s one-sided focus on plastic pollution as the main culprit in destroying our oceans, as well as failing to mention the devastating effects of uncontrolled fishing. Scientists believe that 90% of large predators had vanished from the ocean due to uncontrolled fishing practices. This has a direct impact on the phytoplankton, small algae that are the basis of the ocean food web, which needs the large predators for survival. Human impact is degrading coral reefs and increasing the risk of marine populations going extinct.
Statistics indicate that although 100 000 mammals die every year because of plastic pollution, the oceans are rapidly becoming unrecognizable due to the impact from human activity, which other than plastic pollution, strip it (Oceans) of marine life. The fish needs the ocean and the ocean needs the fish. It is however critically important to remain aware of the devastating effect of the plastic pollution, for not many people are familiar with the term “ghost gear”, referring to the abandoned fishing nets lingering in our oceans. An estimated 640 000 tons of ghost gear are being left the oceans annually, the equivalent (mass) of more than fifty-thousand double-decker buses.
There are far more acts and omissions behind the fishing issue. Human trafficking forms a substantial part of illegal or uncontrolled fishing activities. Although 57 million people globally generate and earns an income out of this industry, one needs to question how much of the income is derived from forced labour. Numerous recent reports indicated that forced labour and human trafficking in the fisheries sector are serious obstacles. Reports suggested that fishers, many of them migrant workers, are vulnerable to severe forms of human rights abuse onboard fishing vessels. Some eyewitness accounts and interviews with victims highlighted excessive working hours, unsafe working conditions, and the inadequate supply of food and water. The nature of offshore fishing, particularly for distant water fleets, can make escape from such situations impossible for months or years at end.
What can we do?
We need clean and healthy oceans to support our own health and survival, even when living far from a coastline. Every one of us can make a difference and it is time to act.
A few things to keep in mind:
Campaign to prevent the pollution and over-fishing of a local coastal environment or reduce use of plastic to reduce the quantity that ends up in our oceans.
Help protect an ecosystem or species by campaigning to have it protected by your Government’s legislation or international policies. (Choose to support the right NGO).
Take part in beach clean-ups, and involve others, including the youth.
Stop eating fish without careful consideration!
Five reasons why you should make informed decisions when choosing fish as a food source:
1) High risk of poisoning or parasites because the poor state the oceans and marine life is in at present. This unhealthy state is because of the imbalance it suffers. If you do not know where the fish comes from, and under what conditions it has been caught, you should refrain from consuming such.
2) Fish are being wiped out because of human greed for consumption. The global appetite for seafood is greatly outpacing the ability to reproduce. Be cautious to eat “green” fish according to the SASSI list (http://wwfsassi.co.za/sassi-list/).
3) The seafood industry kills animals that people do not eat – enforce the practice of only catching what would be consumed.
4) Our waters are not properly protected. Organizations that can protect such, often do not speak up for the oceans. The lack of regulation is leading to abuse of marine resources.
5) The oceans need us, the people at home, to protect it before it is too late.
In conclusion: Why do we need the ocean?
• The ocean produces more oxygen than the rainforests. (70% of earth’s oxygen)
• The ocean regulates the earth’s climate. (80% of the planet’s biodiversity)
• It is an important food source.
• Many creatures depend on and live in the ocean.
• The best holidays are close to the water. (Influences our physical and mental health and well-being)
• Many employment opportunities are directly derived from marine activities. (57 million jobs)
• The ocean has therapeutic properties. (Marine invertebrates produce antibiotics, cancer-fighting and anti-inflammatory substances).
“the sea, the great unifier, is man’s only hope. Now, as never before, the old phrase has literal meaning:
we are all the same boat.”
Jacques Yves Cousteau
Karlien - 15:32:57 | Add a comment
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