A planet of water. Life.
What is this element we call water?
Two molecules of hydrogen and one of oxygen. That is, the element at the root of all life. Long before we humans appeared, water was essential for the planet Earth. In fact, “Earth” is something of a misnomer, because about 73% of the planet’s crust is covered with water. Water is present in different forms all over the Earth, and whether we like it or not, water, just like the land, does not need us, but we do need it, to the point that our very life depends on it.
The Ocean is unique: there is only one, it is large, and it is united, as the largest body of water on Earth. It comprises the aggregate of all the surface waters far from the coasts, although rivers, lakes, wetlands and even underground waters are also connected to the Ocean directly, through evaporation or precipitation in the form of rain. In antiquity, we gave different names to the oceans owing to our ignorance of the planet’s geography, although these names are still used today for convenience and to refer to different areas of the Ocean.
Some 96% of all water is in the Ocean, and it captures a good deal of man-made carbon dioxide through photosynthesis of its extensive marine flora – the most well-known type being phytoplankton – thus releasing 80% of the oxygen needed for the survival of life on Earth. Land plants also release oxygen, as we all know, but much less, and mainly in their initial and middle phases of growth and development.
The Great Transporter Belt: Thermohaline Circulation of Water.
The Ocean also regulates land climate by means of its currents. Permanent and continuous, surface currents move a large mass of warm water, where they mix with deeper and colder currents in a global circuit, thus regulating and distributing the temperature of the delicate terrestrial system. These currents also transport the nutrients and oxygen needed by hundreds of marine species.
The currents also arise from a number of elements like wind, the rotation of the Earth, the configuration of coastal areas and the position of the continents.
Climate change caused by man in recent years has been changing trends in the main ocean currents, and this can cause major damage to nature: it can melt the sweet-water polar ice caps, thus changing the saline content of the Ocean, and so on, causing flooding in most coastal areas. If marine currents were to stop or change, ocean temperatures could drop by more than five degrees centigrade, which could cause most of North America and Europe to freeze over like they did in the Ice Age.
The Ocean is very important to humankind for all these reasons:
- It reduces global warming caused by humans.
- It feeds the entire planet.
- It provides hundreds of minerals and fossil fuels.
- It generates more than 80% of the oxygen we need.
- Most of our potable water comes from the Ocean.
The biggest problem for the Ocean and all its animal and plant species arises from man-made contamination. The first such contamination is the direct dumping of solid or liquid waste into the water by industries all over the world. Some companies even set up their factories in less developed countries where laws are more permissive in relation to the environment. The next most important source of contamination is the use of chemical agents at all levels of agriculture and livestock production, where water used in these processes is dumped or evaporates, and gathers in clouds that discharge elsewhere on the planet, contaminants included. Then there is tourism, which also contributes massively to ocean contamination through negligent use of fuel and paint for recreational vessels and the contamination of beaches with solid wastes. Aggressive fishing techniques or overfishing are also depleting marine life, having already caused the extinction of many species, as with the destruction of coral reefs, which are so important to the ecosystem because they serve as a refuge and sustenance for hundreds of animals
Another serious problem is plastic. We produce colossal amounts of plastic, only a part of which is recycled. The rest ends up in dumps and the ocean, killing hundreds of animals that accidentally consume or get caught in it. Plastic takes, on average, between 200 and 600 years to be broken down by the planet’s natural processes.
What can we do to protect the Ocean?
We play a critical role. As individuals, we can make a difference and teach others how to do the same. There are many ways to protect the Ocean, and we invite you to put them into practice:
- Inform yourself further about the Ocean and its marine life. There are 2.2 million different marine species and still others yet to be discovered. If we do nothing, it is estimated that nearly all of them could be gone by the year 2050.
- Join an environmental protection association, whether you are a diver or not. We recommend The Project Aware of Padi and the Mission Deep Blue of SSI.
- Teach others what you know to create awareness. Information is power.
- Do not buy things that come from the Ocean, like shells, necklaces, bracelets or other adornments. Do not take part in the irresponsible purchase of certain fish or in the widespread markets for shark soup. Scientific studies have shown that it has no nutritional or therapeutic value.
- Reduce energy use and pollute less. We have to become aware that the modern way of using resources is severely damaging the planet, and we have to use them more wisely.
- Use bags made of cloth, or buy non-plastic recipients. That would be a great step forward in helping the Ocean.
- Have a respectful attitude to beaches and waste. Do not leave trash in or near the water, and use designated trash bins. You can help organize group clean-ups through many existing organizations.
If you want to protect your planet, this is the first step you can take with us. It doesn’t matter if you’re a diver or not. What you do is what matters. Become aware.
Did you find this information useful or interesting?
Share it on social networks to help others!