Life is good. Food on the table, every kind we can think of. Clothes on our back, friends by our side, sun in the sky, water on tap. We’ve heard rumblings of failing economies. There’s a debt crisis somewhere. We hear “Green Economy”, roll our eyes and move on. Global warming? It’s chilly today! Overpopulation? Reproduction is a genetic imperative! Why change?
The United Nations Environment Programme’s World Environment Day is asking one unforgiving question: Does the Green Economy include you?
Humans are excellent plunderers. We’ve destroyed more species than we know. Governments fund development of technologies that will execute this plunder more effectively: hydraulic fracking and ocean trawling come to mind. We’re waging war against the planet and we’re winning.
As the documentary The End of the Line explained, sea life used to be abundant. Had we respected it, we could’ve used it to solve world hunger.
But the ocean is out of fish. This is not speculation. In 2008, 85% of all fish stocks were fully exploited, overexploited, depleted or recovering. (This makes me laugh – oceans are not being given the opportunity to recover.)
Only 1.2% of the world’s ocean area is protected, while 17% of land is under protection. Consider that our planet is 70% ocean, and the ratio makes no sense.
And yet, here we are.
We’re wasteful and inconsiderate. Look at a pavement – what do you see? Litter, unless it’s been swept up during the night. Ah, but our landfills are full. So now, oceans are landfills, except this time there are no midnight cleanups.
Ocean pollution is a disaster. The 5 Gyres Institute’s website states: “44% of seabird species, 22% of Cetaceans, all sea turtle species, and a growing list of fish have been documented with plastic in or around their bodies. This lead[s] to internal blockages, dehydration, starvation and death.”
Have you heard of bycatch? According to this article, “The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations estimates that 27-million tonnes of non-target species are captured every year. Bycatch is thrown overboard.”
Another horror-movie moment, courtesy of ocean acidification: “Because of the increasing quantities of carbon dioxide being pushed into the atmosphere, oceans are becoming more acidic. This [is] the evil twin of global warming and the most important scientific crisis we face today.”
As long as big business calls the shots, the world will be at the mercy of rampant consumerism.
Sometimes, change finds you.
I started working with the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town, South Africa in April 2010. I was a sushi fiend – only the good stuff please, tuna and salmon. I had swordfish on more than one occasion and I loved it.
But things have changed. While the Two Oceans Aquarium is a for-profit organisation, their work in ocean conservation is all-important. Shoreline Café is the first African restaurant to obtain chain-of-custody certification from the Marine Stewardship Council. The aquarium has implemented renewable energy projects, and is leading the sustainable tourism cause in Cape Town.
One night, I found myself losing sleep over an innocuous can of tuna. I watched the End of the Line again and wept. I was inspired by Mike Markovina’s Moving Sushi; frightened by Jeremy Jackson’s TED talk, “How We Wrecked the Ocean”. I judged people for eating fish. I said goodbye to seafood.
If I don’t change, the world won’t.
Boycott unsustainable seafood. Share posts like these and do your own reading; watch the documentaries; find out about marine conservation; talk to friends, to grocers and government.
And please, put down that tuna sandwich.