A year ago today we were horrified to hear of the massive oil spill in The Gulf of Mexico which we now know was caused by incompetence and greed by British Petroleum in their quest for more and more profits. It was also caused by our massive insatiable addiction to oil. BP knows that no matter how much it charges or what damage it does the junkies must have their fossil fuel oil fix.
I know there was panic on this site a year ago when the news was first released. There was speculation that the Gulf of Mexico would be a dead zone and that complete species of water life would disappear. Well that panic has subsided though we still hear the news of dead dolphins and turtles appearing regularly..
But, as bad as the BP OIl Spill was there is something that is affecting the Oceans that is even more serious and affects the future of life on Earth as we know it and that is Ocean Acidification.
Ocean Acidification is like Global Warming for the Oceans. Here is Mark Bittman of The New York Times talking with Carl Safina of The Blue Ocean Institute and Ted Danson of Oceana about the immense danger of Ocean Acidification:
“Many people believe the whole catastrophe is the oil we spill, but that gets diluted and eventually disarmed over time. In fact, the oil we don’t spill, the oil we collect, refine and use, produces CO2 and other gases that don’t get diluted.”
That CO2, of course, leads to global warming and climate change, as well as what’s called ocean acidification, which might be thought of as oceanic global warming and is a greater catastrophe than any spill to date. The oceans absorb about 30 percent of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, creating carbonic acid. Since the start of the industrial revolution we’ve added about 500 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide to the oceans, which are 30 percent more acidic than they were a couple of hundred years ago.
This acidification makes it difficult for calcifying organisms — coral, snails and oysters and other mollusks, and more — to build shells and skeletons sturdy enough for them to survive. Many of these are on the bottom of the food chain and, as they begin to die off (we’ve already seen massive oyster declines on the Pacific coast), the effects trickle up. Acidification has already wreaked havoc on coral reefs, on which about 25 percent of all marine life depends. By the end of this century, Safina says, the ocean will begin dissolving coral reefs — unless we make a big change in our fossil-fuel use. “If you’re overfishing at the top of the food chain, and acidifying the ocean at the bottom, you’re creating a squeeze that could conceivably collapse the whole system.”
Oceans acidifying at the highest rate since the last great mass extinction 65 million years ago, threaten marine life, coral reefs and nutrition for over a billion people according to a report (PDF) just released by the UN. Fossil fuel burning, cement production, deforestation and land use changes have increased atmospheric CO2 from 280 to 390 PPMs. Increasing atmospheric CO2 has dissolved in the oceans, increasing the acidity (decreasing the pH) by 30%. Increasing acidity is destabilizing shells and corals, threatening the web of life in the ocean.
For Ocean Acidification and Oil Spills there is only one solution and that is to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. We seem to be able to talk the talk but can we walk the walk and actually reduce fossil fuel use in our own lives as that is the key to influencing the market. If we continue to Wait for Godot so that somehow this crisis will be solved without our having to participate or make changes in our lives I fear the generations after us will look at our time as the beginning of the ending of theirs.
The most effective and fastest way to reduce the use of fossil fuels in our own lives is to reduce the consumption of meat and meat products.. Does that seem too steep a price to pay for preserving life as we know it on our planet?