Why the Ocean?

"We need to respect the oceans and take care of them as if our lives depended on it. Because they do."

-Sylvia Earle 

A VITAL ROLE

In every dimension of human life, the ocean plays a vital role. To begin with, the ocean and its processes are solely responsible for making the Earth a habitable place for humanity. Covering almost three-quarters of the globe, the oceans and the life they support generate more than half of the world's oxygen supply and absorb almost 30 percent

of carbon dioxide emitted in the air. The oceans play a critical role in climate stability, nutrient cycling, food production and coastal protection. In short, life as we know it on planet Earth would not exist without healthy oceans.

 

OUR DEPENDENCE

As if this fundamental dependence was not enough, society and our global economies depend to a large extent on the ocean and its resources. The livelihoods of more than three billion people around the world are directly related to marine and coastal biodiversity. Almost half of the world population depends on the ocean as its main source of protein. It is estimated that it generates between three and six billion dollars in economic activity per year, the ocean moves more than 90 percent of world trade through shipping and boosts coastal tourism, one of the largest market segments of the global economy . The ocean is the source of several innovative discoveries in sectors such as pharmaceuticals and holds the key to solving many future challenges in agriculture and health. More than 40 percent of the world's population lives less than 100 kilometers from the coast, many in fast-growing coastal cities.

AN OCEAN IN TROUBLE

This human activity has placed a huge amount of stress on the ocean's environment, an amount that we can only begin to quantify. Due to overharvesting, more than 30 percent of the world's fish stocks are classified as overexploited and many more on the way to it. Marine pollution has reached unprecedented levels with an astonishing average of 13,000 pieces of plastic sand present in every square kilometer of ocean. Human activity has even altered the very chemistry of the ocean with the increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide by changing the pH, getting rid of the delicate balance and leading to the devastating phenomenon of ocean acidification. These problems and many more leave the ocean in a precarious position with devastating consequences that lie ahead.

 

CALL TO ACTION

With our growing dependence on the services provided by the ocean and its greater vulnerability, the way we respond to these challenges will finally dictate the future sustainability of our species. Addressing these oceanic problems is of utmost importance if we hope to protect our economies, our homes, our food sources, the respiratory system of our planet and the world's largest ecosystem.

STAY CURRENT

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Saltwater Classroom is an innovative approach to environmental education that harnesses the power of our technologically connected world to spur an ethic of global stewardship for the oceans in today's youth.

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