|Voice of the Jaabc Editors|
Death of the Oceans: The Effects on Business and Society
Unlike various world legends about the origins of mankind, science has it that life had come from the sea and whenever we see it, there is a great yearning in us to return to our ancestral homeland. Like rivers and forests, oceans have been great sources of food and a conduit of scientific and imperialistic explorations. Without the oceans, the New World would not have been discovered by early expeditions such as of Magellan and Columbus.
Over the last three decades, surplus byproducts of human manufacturing activities have profoundly affected the marine life on the Earth's oceans. For one thing, ocean pollution (aka marine pollution) is spreading of harmful substances in the form of oil, plastic, industrial and agricultural waste and a myriad of chemical particles into the ocean. Recently, mining for materials such as copper and gold has become a source of contamination in the ocean.
Additionally, many ships lose thousands of crates and containers of perishable goods and durable merchandise each year due to storms, emergencies, and accidents. This causes also abnormal noise pollution which tends to interrupt the balance of life, often caused by modes of transportation, excessive algae, and untreated ballast water discharges. As a result, the life cycles of organisms are interrupted, causing a chaos to an already damaged habitat by the overflow of pollution.
As a consequence of the onslaught of pollutions emanating from sewage, toxic chemicals from industries, land runoff of man-made harmful contaminants such as fertilizers, petroleum, pesticides and other forms of soil contaminants, ocean mining, large scale oil spills, littering --our oceans are slowly dying. The loss will be irrevocable for both business and society.
To add to all these harmful effects, the temperature of the ocean is highly affected by carbon dioxide and climate changes, which adversely disturb ecosystems and fish communities that live in the ocean. Climate warming, climate change is slowly but surely becoming as an accepted true phenomenon, which not only will affect the oceans, but also the land surface of the Earth. Business and society are facing many challenges regarding the environmental conditions in which humans and animals live now.
The rising levels of Co2 is acidifying the ocean in the form of acid rain despite the fact that the ocean can absorb high levels of carbon dioxide that originates from the atmosphere. Year after year, the carbon dioxide levels are steadily increasing and the absorbing mechanisms of the ocean is no longer able to keep up with the rapid pace.
The effect of toxic wastes on marine animals is of great social and scientific concern since they cause cancer, failure in the reproductive system, behavioral changes, and even death. Disruption to the cycle of coral reefs, the rainforests of the oceans, depletion of oxygen content in water, failure in the reproductive system of sea animals, and the effect on the food chain is apocalyptic.
Toxic waste affects society directly and indirectly. As chemicals used in industries and agriculture get washed into the rivers and from there are carried into the oceans, they seldom get dissolved and sink at the bottom of the ocean. Small animals eat these chemicals and they are later are eaten by larger sea predators. In this way, the entire food chain is affected --and finally humans eat the big animals and get contaminated.
That we live in an increasingly throw-away society is a truism. Therefore, the environmental costs of our indulgence in packaged products have far-reaching negative results. Over 45 percent of the cost of selling a product goes to packaging. Since plastic production began in the 1950s, plastic debris has been filling in our marine environment. It has been estimated that in just one week, from bottled water alone, the United States produces enough discarded bottles to circle the planet five times! This is a staggering statistics since it represents the waste from just one product and from only one country constituting only five per cent of the world's population.
The demise of the denizens of the deep has grave implications for business and society. For example, the sea food industry and business, one of the largest industries in the United States, is to suffer from the dwindling supply of healthy food fished from the oceans. Furthermore, people will begin to refuse to eat contaminated seafood. As a result, many companies and jobs are impacted by the dying oceans.
Researchers are expressing growing concern about the threat of microplastics. From the exfoliation beads in our face scrubs to fibers from our laundry, very small plastic particles are now known to be ingested by animals throughout the marine food chain, carrying with them harmful pollutants. Over six hundred species are now known to be impacted. The Midday film by Chris Jordan has a sobering message. Thousands of miles away from human habitation, on a secluded island in the Pacific Ocean, thousands of albatross chicks are starving since their parents confuse floating plastic debris for being food for their chicks.
Many species of animals in the ocean are becoming extinct before we have the chance to study them. The toxic pollution is producing the Big Bang effect on the creatures of the sea. Small as well as big animals soon will become the dinosaurs of the oceans, leaving mankind with a loss of immeasurable food supply. According to a study by Callum Roberts, the amount of wildlife in our oceans has fallen by half in 45 years. Conger eels, for example, now generally found hiding around wrecks, were once a common catch. By closing areas to fishing and by keeping the waters clean, there is still time to reverse this decline in the population of the wildlife in the oceans.
A recent report issued by the World Wide Fund for Nature and the Zoological Society of London presented a comprehensive look at the state of life in the sea. Taking in more than 1,000 species worldwide and 5,000 populations of fish, turtles, marine mammals and many others, the two organizations draw a bleak conclusion that there is only half the amount of wildlife left in the ocean today as there were in 1970. The loss of marine life has already begun and the threat appears to be immediate and irreversible.
As for the effect of the dying oceans on society, it directly affects human health. Animals from impacted food chain are then eaten by humans which affect their health as toxins from these contaminated animals gets deposited in the tissues of people and can lead to serious illnesses such as cancer, birth defects and various long term health problems.
Oceans constitute the largest water bodies on the planet Earth. In addition to providing essential sustenance to humans, oceans serve the recreational needs of society. Swimming, surfing, beach combing, sport fishing to cite a few would no longer be done safely in a sick ocean presenting health hazard and even life threat to society.
The problem of the dying oceans is compounded by the fact that we do not see visually what impact the pollutants, such as plastic bags or a fishing nets, have on the animals deep in the waters of the oceans. Since the suffering animals are out of sight, we tend to neglect or relegate the problem as compared to problems occurring on land, which are visible to us. For example, if we were to see dolphins choking on plastic bags and whales caught in fishing nets, dragging themselves for months and even years before dying, our attitudes and behavior would be different. For instance, if we were to see our pet dogs and cats are chocking on plastics, we would immediately begin to use paper bags instead of plastic bags at the supermarket.
Since dying oceans is a universal problem, humans around the world need to get involved in saving our environment. Each and every one of us have to use a two-pronged approach to saving our oceans: Firstly, we should engage in political activism to reduce waste products and make sure they are properly recycled to avoid adverse effects on humans and animals alike --and secondly, to pitch in ourselves in choosing products without plastic packaging and by eliminating waste properly. In this way, we will be able to prevent debris ending up in our vulnerably fragile oceans.
We should all remember that oceans provide home to wide variety of marine animals and plants. Hence, keeping the ocean alive is the responsibility of every citizen to make sure that marine species can thrive for long period of time and not perish prematurely in toxic waters of the ocean. The oceans are too important to humans as well. If we fail to protect them, we would lose a vast life-giving and life-keeping habitat for animals and humans alike to utilize, explore, and enjoy for many years to come.
Dr. Turan Senguder, our Chief Executive Officer and Executive Chair, joins me in inviting our kind readers and contributors to research and write on the issues, challenges, and solutions to our dying oceans from the perspectives of business and society for publication in our refereed, multidisciplinary Journal of American Academy of Business, Cambridge. Thank you all!
Z. S. Demirdjian, Ph.D.
Senior Review Editor
California State University, Long Beach