Every decision we make has an environmental impact
This means everyone can do something (or more than one something) to make our planet a bluer, healthier place to call home.
Our Ocean plays a critical role in regulating the climate and absorbing carbon emissions – most notably, through blue carbon ecosystems. So, taking Ocean action is in the best interest of all life on Earth.
Ocean action is climate action.
We asked the team at Ocean Generation – from those in our science team; to our founder, Jo Ruxton MBE; to those who manage our youth engagement programmes – to share the ways they take Ocean and climate action each day.
10 daily actions our team of Ocean lovers takes to protect the Ocean:
1) Omit unnecessary car travel
2) Don’t pour cooking oil down the drain
3) The best way to take Ocean action? Educate your inner circle about how important our Ocean is.
Wondering where to start? Incredible Ocean facts for you:
9) Make these easy plastic swaps – and then swear off unnecessary plastic items forever.
At Ocean Generation, we promote an inclusive approach to sustainability. We recognise that zero-waste, plastic-free, vegan, and zero-carbon lifestyles don’t work for everyone – and that’s okay. The world needs all of us to do what we can, within our means.
But in saying that, it’s also important to recognise that too many of us still use single-use plastics too easily. When did you last purchase a plastic bottle, a take-out coffee mug or use a single-use plastic straw?
Most single-use plastic items are unnecessary. There are (excuse the pun) an Ocean of eco-alternatives available.
It’s time to break up with unnecessary plastic. Identify what unnecessary single-use plastic you use. ✅ Make the switch to eco-alternatives. ✅ Commit to never going back. ✅
10) Do your best to take environmental action daily, and accept that ‘your best‘ looks different for everyone.
15 Climate actions you can take to restore the Ocean’s health
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“What can I do about climate change?”
We’re regularly asked for practical climate actions. Thankfully, there’s a lot we can do to look after our blue planet.
Every decision we make – from what we eat to how we move to the clothes we wear – has an environmental impact. But when faced with fear-mongering headlines and science-backed alarm bells that we’re reaching a climate tipping point, individual actions don’t feel like enough.
Do individual climate actions actually make a difference?
Yes. Think about it: Swapping out your plastic straw for a metal one may not feel like much, but if everyone in Europe did the same, 701 tonnes of plastic could be prevented from entering the environment every year.
Collectively, individual actions are powerful propellers of positive change.
Why should the Ocean have a seat at climate conversations?
The Ocean is a powerful climate change mitigator.
Here’s 3 ways our Ocean mitigates the impacts of climate change:
The Ocean absorbs 90% of excess heat from our climate system, making it an impressive heat sink. In fact, the Ocean is the largest heat sink on Earth.
30% of human-made carbon emissions are absorbed by our Ocean.
The Ocean plays a major role in climate adaption. (Said differently: the Ocean supports our planet’s adjustment to the effects of climate change, for example, through blue carbon ecosystems).
Your carbon footprint is the measure of greenhouse gases produced by your daily activities.
This includes things like driving a car, using electricity, the emissions linked to what you wear, and even eating food.
When we understand our carbon footprint, we can shift our behaviours for the better. Here’s an online carbon footprint calculator (we can’t endorse any resource as ‘the most accurate measure of your CO2 footprint’ but this will give you a rough idea of your environmental impact).
It’s important to remember that carbon emission world averages distort the unequal emissions in developed and developing countries. So, it’s helpful to compare your carbon footprint to your national average to assess where you stand.
4) The food on your plate makes an environmental impact
One third of carbon emissions comes from food production.
General tips: Reduce your consumption of high-emission foods like meat and dairy in favour of seasonal fruits and vegetables and snacks that have negative emissions.
5) Put your money where your heart is: Divest from fossil fuels
Are your monetary investments benefiting the planet? Divesting from fossil fuels means taking your money out of the hands of the fossil fuel industry, which contributes significantly to carbon emissions and climate change.
You can start by checking your bank and investment accounts and moving your money to institutions that don’t invest in fossil fuels. Even small divestments make a difference.
6) Avoid products with microbeads
Microbeads are small plastic beads often found in beauty and personal care products. These tiny pieces of plastic easily slip down our drains, through water treatment plants and into the Ocean.
Most of us purchase products – facial scrubs, toothpaste, nail polish, and abrasive household cleaning products – without realising they contain microbeads.
Quick solution to the microbead problem: Check ingredient lists and front labels. Microbeads and polyethylene are often listed on packaging, making them easy to avoid.
7) Think before you toss your clothes into the laundry
Every time we do an average laundry load of 6kg, 700,000 fibres can be released into our waterways. Before you put something in the washing basket, consider if it can first be worn again.
Take this a step further by investing in a bag built to capture micro-fibres and choosing sustainable clothing materials when it’s time to purchasing something.
8) Conserve water
Only 0.5% of water on Earth is useable and available as freshwater. So, we’re not joking when we say water is liquid gold.
It’s a key prerequisite for human development and, already, a quarter of all cities are water stressed. Little actions add up: Cringe when you see a character in a movie running water for ages; make sure you turn your tap off while brushing your teeth; install a waster-wise shower-head; fix those leaks.
You may feel that your climate action a drop in the Ocean – but the Ocean would be less without that drop.
Every drop counts.
9) Understand the impact of fast fashion on the environment
Fast fashion is responsible for 8 – 10% of global carbon emissions (which is more than all international flights and maritime shipping – combined).
Outfit repeating, sustainable fabrics, shopping second-hand and only purchasing items you know you’ll re-wear over and over again are in fashion this season. Scroll: How to take the fast out of fast fashion.
10) What’s the impact of how you travel?
No one’s surprised to learn: Flying is one of the most carbon-intensive modes of transportation. But did you know that flying at night is actually worse for the planet than flying during the day? Now you do.
Walking and cycling are both climate-friendly and positively impact our health (who doesn’t love a hot girl walk?).
Suggestions when it comes to catching flights:
Where alternatives exist, don’t fly.
When you need to fly, choose direct flights to maximise fuel efficiency and minimise emissions associated with take-offs.
11) Plant a mangrove tree – with the click of a button – to take Ocean action
By planting a mangrove tree, you’re making a direct impact on the environment. Plant (follow).
12) Rethink your relationship with plastic
You knew it was coming. It wouldn’t be a climate change actions list without mention of plastic.
Plastic is everywhere – from the clothing you’re wearing to the spot you’re sitting right now and even in the food we eat. There’s no getting rid of a material designed to last forever, but reducing our consumption of single-use plastics is essential for a healthy Ocean and planet.
Start by rethinking your relationship with plastic. Instead of leaning on recycling, start reusing, reducing, totally refusing plastic options where you can.
13) Start saying ‘Ocean’ not oceans
At school, we’re all taught about the Ocean having 5 regions, but our Ocean isn’t separated by borders. It’s one, connected system.
What happens in one part of the Ocean impacts Ocean health as a whole.
If we all understood this, we’d be more mindful of what we dump in the Ocean, what we take out of it, and how we use it daily. As you go about your life, start saying Ocean – big O, no s. Not only does it highlight the interconnectedness of the Ocean, but also how our daily actions impact it.
14) Be a voice for our Ocean
The Ocean is quite literally keeping us alive. It’s our planet’s life support system, but most people don’t realise that.
By keeping yourself informed about the importance of the Ocean, the human-made threats it faces, and the various actions we can take to protect it – and then sharing that Ocean intelligence, you can propel a wave of positive change for our planet.
Sign up to our newsletter for monthly Ocean education. Submit a Wavemaker Story to let your voice for the Ocean be amplified on our channels. Share educational posts you come across. Be an Ocean advocate – not just on World Ocean Day but every day.
15) Accept that you can’t do everything. Start where you are.
It’s important to acknowledge that no one can do it all when it comes to tackling climate change and restoring the Ocean’s health.
Striving to be a perfect environmentalist often leads to eco-anxiety and feelings of defeat about the amount of work to be done. The reality is: Imperfection is still helpful, and it’s a lot more inclusive than unrealistic demands for perfection.
Our blue planet doesn’t need a handful of perfect environmentalists. Earth needs millions of imperfect people doing what they can to make a difference, and always trying to do better.
Embrace imperfect environmentalism with us by starting where you are. Commit to one – or several – of these items right now. Collectively, we can make waves.
What we Eat: Is locally sourced food better for the planet?
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Over 10,000 years ago, we planted our first seeds and domesticated animals – marking a major milestone for homo sapiens (humans).
Fast forward to the present and it’s easy to see that we’ve come a long way from founding agricultural practices to the complex globalised food system we’ve built today.
Many of us are now able to purchase foods, in and out of season, throughout the year. Food systems tend to be high-yielding and complex: the low cost of the products could be argued to be offset by the hefty environmental cost.
Is eating locally sourced food better for the planet?
But first, we need to understand the components of the food system.
What’s the environmental cost of the food on my plate?
The food on our plates often makes its way to us through a complex food system.
What is a food system?
A food system refers to the entire process (aka lifecycle) of producing, processing, distributing and consuming food.
This system accounts for a third, or 18 GTCO2eq, of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions where:
– Agricultural production (farms and animal feed) is responsible for a whopping 39% of the emissions.
– Changes in land use (deforestation and fluctuations in carbon in soil) is responsible for 32% of the emissions and,
– Other supply chain activities (like processing, transport, retail, packaging, and consumption) are responsible for 29% of the emissions.
Aside from emissions, food systems are also accountable for high water usage and being the primary driver of biodiversity loss.
Evidently, the systems we’ve built need transformative changes that minimise this environmental toll. It also means addressing the undeniable role of the meat and dairy industry in the rise of emissions.
From a consumer perspective, many argue that buying local produce is the best way to minimise our emissions.
Although this is a popular policy recommendation, academia suggests a slightly different picture.
What does “locally sourced” food mean?
There is no widely accepted definition of ‘local’ food, but it broadly revolves around minimal distances between where the food is produced and where it is consumed.
– Within a community, city, village, or county, – Within a State (like in US, India), or, – Within a small country (like Jamaica, Estonia, Lebanon)
In the US, according to the 2008 Farm Act, to be classified as ‘local’, foods would have to come from 400 miles or less.
If we apply this to a person shopping in Slovenia, a small European country, they could, in theory, buy produce from all their neighbouring countries and consider that as ‘local’.
So, the different interpretations to ‘local’ food allows room for varying circumstances.
Does the type of transport used for foods matter?
Yes! It is worth noting the emission disparities between different modes of transport.
The most GHG-efficient option for transporting food is via cargo ships. This is followed by rail, cars, vans, and trucks.
Unintuitively, storing foods locally year-round tend to be more GHG intensive than having the same products shipped from another country.
In general, air freighted foods are the least GHG-efficient. As a consumer, it can be difficult to assess what is air-freighted and what is not.
A useful guide is to assess whether the product has a limited shelf life (for example, mangoes and berries) and if it is from a country quite far away.
Now, let’s dive into a common question encountered in the local vs non-local food debate.
Don’t non-locally sourced foods mean higher travel emissions?
Here are eight foods and their supply chain emissions visualised in two ways:
In figure 1, we are able to see the overall emissions of certain foods, noting that some foods have high emissions (like meat) while some have low or negative emissions (like nuts). Therefore, we can make the biggest impact by swapping out high-emission foods where possible.
Figure 2 allows for a deeper understanding of emissions from each step of the supply chain. Although there are exceptions, travel emissions for most foods are minimal compared to the emissions associated with land use, farming, and animal feed.
If you’d like to learn more about this in the context of other foods, click here to use the graphing tool.
What are the best practices to adopt when sourcing foods?
From an environmental perspective, making decisions on how to source foods can be unclear.
Some of the best practices guided by growing evidence suggests the following:
– In terms of emissions reduction, what you eat matters more than whether it is local or not.
– In general, buy locally grown seasonal foods like vegetables and fruits.
– Buy local especially if you know where you’re buying from, who you’re buying from and how they grow the food. The transparency of supply chains will enable you to consider wider environmental, economic, and social impacts to make well-informed decisions.
Mangroves are the only forests situated at the confluence of land and sea in the world’s subtropics and tropics. They have been variously described as “coastal woodland”, “mangal”, “tidal forest” and “mangrove forest.”
There are roughly 70 species of mangrove trees occupying a total estimated area of 147,000 km2 worldwide. This is equivalent to the size of Bangladesh! Roughly 43% of the world’s mangrove forests are situated in just four countries: Indonesia, Australia, Brazil, and Nigeria.
These forests are home to an abundance of life, protecting people from floods whilst storing carbon at an impressive capacity.
Biodiversity in mangrove forests
In the right conditions, mangroves form extensive and productive forests.
These forests support animal populations both within the forest and in offshore areas. Densities of crabs are especially likely to be highest on unvegetated mudbanks adjacent to mangroves, feeding on propagules (buds of plants).
Juvenile shrimps are important organisms near mangroves too, and a sought-after food for many communities. These shrimps obtain carbon (food) from plankton and algae living amongst the mangroves.
There are also a few endemic mammal species in mangroves. For example, crab-eating rats in Australia, the leaf monkey in Malaysia, and the proboscis monkey in Borneo.
Here is a diagram further highlighting the importance of mangroves to so many species for different reasons –
Figure 1 Conceptual diagram illustrating the critical habitat that mangroves provide for a variety of animals [Credit: Integration and Application Network, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science]
Why should we care about mangrove trees?
– Mangrove forests are widely recognised as providing a wide variety of goods and services to people, including protection from floods, provision of a variety of plant and animal products, sediment trapping, and nutrient uptake and transformation.
– Annually, mangroves are responsible for over $60 billion in avoided losses from coastal flooding, protecting more than 15 million people.
– An impressive diversity of plant products is harvested from mangrove trees, including tannins, honey, medicinal products, and thatch.
Mangroves are a blue carbon solution
– Mangroves have gained a lot of attention in recent years over their ability to sequester carbon, storing between 3-5 timesmore carbon per hectare than terrestrial forests.
– They have carbon-rich soil that’s been built-up for over hundreds or thousands of years.
– 87% of carbon stocks in mangroves are just within the top meter of soil. According to one report, if this were released into the atmosphere, it would be equal to 7.5 years of emissions from the EU or burning 51 billion barrels of oil.
What are the drivers of degradation and loss of mangroves?
Up to 60% of mangrove tree losses are due to direct or indirect human impacts. These drivers are –
– Logging (for timber, charcoal) – Agriculture (oil palm cultivation) – Aquaculture (ponds for shrimp and fish farming) – Pollution (from oil and gas extraction, and nutrient run-off) – Coastal infrastructure development – Climate change (sea level rise, hurricanes, drought)
Mangrove Restoration and Conservation Efforts
Our knowledge of mangrove area dynamics at local to global scales has increased significantly since 2000 due to advances in remote sensing and data access.
Around 42% of remaining mangroves are now located in protected areas. But protected areas may not always provide strong protection. Many mangroves fall prey to erosion and storms, naturally occurring phenomena, while some don’t stand the test of time due to ineffective management.
The front line of mangrove protection, management and sustainable use involves people—communities, indigenous groups, traditional users, and local governments.
The Global Mangrove Alliance, is an important and ambitious initiative, seeking to halt loss caused by direct human impact, restore at least half of recent mangrove losses, and increase protection from over 40% to 80% by 2030.
How coastal communities have helped mangrove forests thrive
Around the world, there are countless examples of collaborations that have helped coastal communities and mangroves to thrive together.
For example, in Pakistan, mangroves are concentrated mainly in the north along the Arabian Sea coastline where arid climate prevails. Under the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Project, 43.50 million plants will be planted in one of the world’s largest endeavours to restore mangroves.
This ambitious project will not only provide a natural barrier against erosion, climate disasters but will also restore breeding grounds for finfish and shrimps. It has the potential to improve the livelihoods of fishing and herding communities living in the many coastal villages dotting the country’s northern shores.
Mangrove planting has been increasingly considered a Nature-based Solution (NbS)
This enthusiasm, seen through national policy commitments and community-led initiatives, can now be assessed against a Global Standard for NbS, a criteria set by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to ensure that these projects are credible and well-designed to maximise their full potential.
Mangroves provide many benefits and their ability to store carbon cannot be ignored. It is a useful nature-based solution to help reduce our emissions but it’s not the only one!
What can I do to further mangrove conservation?
Show your support for mangroves in native areas – Find out if mangroves are native to your surroundings. If they are, vocalise your support for them and educate your community on the importance of mangroves.
If your local mangroves are subject to degradation, rally support for preservation and speak to your local authorities.You can also keep track of mangrove restoration through the Mangrove Restoration Tracker tool.
Be a considerate tourist – Mangrove tourism exists across 93 countries, with boating being the most popular activity. So next time you travel, appreciate mangroves and the diverse wildlife they host but don’t leave anything behind!
You can also participate in mangrove planting, for example, in the Philippines, through the Planeterra Project.
How can I tackle a problem as complex as climate change?
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The Ocean has never been this subjected to the level of intensity of climate change impacts caused by human activities. With every 0.1 degree C of warming, we make it more and more difficult for humans, flora, and fauna to adapt.
A warming Ocean means that marine ecosystems like coral reefs and salt marshes are less able to host marine biodiversity and sustain many benefits for humans. This also disrupts the Ocean’s ability to regulate the global climate system, water, and carbon cycle.
It goes without saying that the climate crisis is now a defining issue of our lifetimes, and we have a slim window of opportunity to reduce our collective impact.
Is there a way out of the climate crisis?
The Ocean stores 20-30% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from human activities but this is unsustainable, resulting in an acidic, slow circulating, less oxygenated Ocean.
To put it simply, we need to rapidly reduce our emissions to give young people and future generations a chance to secure a sustainable future.
According to the latest IPCC report, we need to cut global GHG emissions by nearly half by 2030. These emissions come from electricity production, food, agriculture, land use, industry, transportation etc. Cutting emissions requires global collaboration and cooperation – from governments to individuals.
The challenge is immense, but the solutions could not be clearer.
What do we need to do to limit global warming?
Some of these solutions have already been set in motion: Reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, increasing uptake of clean energies, restoring carbon sinks, and much more. The slow pace of adoption and funding associated with these solutions have been repeatedly questioned, given the world is currently at 1.1C.
The effects of climate change are already being felt in different corners of the world, albeit disproportionately.
In order for us to stay within any warming limit, we need to make the necessary changes needed to sustain humanity as a whole. And as individuals, each and every one of us have carbon footprints attached to our households and lifestyles.
We must address the fact that we do not emit emissions equally.
Globally, there are huge disparities between those who over-consume and those who consume less due to socioeconomic and geographic factors.
In fact, the top 10% of high-income households contribute 34–45% of consumption-based household GHG emissions and the bottom 50% contribute 13–15%.
These stark differences mean that individuals in the top 50% are the in the best position to reduce their emissions, giving the opportunity to raise living standards for those in the bottom 50%.
When considering our lifestyles, the conclusions are quite similar.
What impact do our lifestyle choices have on carbon emissions?
According to 2022 UNEP report, “the lifestyles of the wealthiest 10% of the world’s population (broadly speaking, most middleclass persons living in industrialised countries), are responsible for almost half of the global emissions, while the lifestyles of the wealthiest 1% are responsible for about twice as many GHG emissions as the poorest 50%”.
Lifestyles are not just about the things we consume, but also addresses the communities we live in, the values we foster and the choices we make.
Individuals that are socio-economically well-off are in an instrumental position for enabling change. One paper suggests that individuals in this category could reduce emissions as role models, citizens, organisational participants, investors, and consumers.
What can people to do to lower their carbon emissions?
There are four key areas where individuals can have the most impact: Food, transport, housing, and the things we buy (like appliances, clothes etc).
There is no denying that industry supply chains have a responsibility to reduce environmental impacts and provide sustainable choices. Small, and local businesses also tend to be more transparent, gaining consumer trust. Low-carbon alternatives exist in each of the aforementioned areas, and we can collectively vouch for further changes, whether that’s accessibility or affordability.
At Ocean Generation, we will be covering climate change solutions under each of the above areas through 2023. Namely:
– What we Eat food sources, diets, and food waste – How we Move modes of mobility – What we Purchase appliances, fashion – How we Live energy sources and energy-saving behaviours
Climate change solutions are Ocean solutions, and vice versa.
The finite resources on this planet need to be utilised efficiently and distributed equally while minimising our impact with each and every decision we make.
The future of the Ocean is very much in our own hands.
With every 0.1C degree warming avoided, biodiversity and humans are given another chance. Let’s make every choice count!
– coastal protection (acting as a buffer between the Ocean and land) – increased biodiversity – reducing Ocean acidification – soil stabilisation – improved water flow and water quality – storm and flooding surge prevention, and – increased resilience to cyclones
These ecosystems can be considered a nature-based solution in tackling the rise the carbon emissions.
But they are under threat. In fact, globally, between 20-50% of blue carbon ecosystems have already been converted or degraded.
The case for protection and restoration of blue carbon ecosystems
If degraded or lost, blue carbon ecosystems have the potential to release the carbon back into the atmosphere.
This is not the best scenario, given carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are already reaching levels not experienced in at least 2 million years (!).
Not only is protection and restoration good for the climate, but it also has the potential to create jobs and support economic growth.
Coastal ecosystems have the ability to mitigate around 0.5-2% of current global emissions. However, there is high uncertainty around its potential in the face of future climate scenarios, as well as loss of coastal land due to sea level rise.
Many restoration efforts have failed in the past, mainly due to not addressing the root causes of degradation.
It is now understood that successful restoration efforts require local communities’ involvement at every stage, economic incentives, and robust frameworks for implementing and assessing these ecosystems.
Most importantly, reducing human activities in these areas can aid the recovery of these precious ecosystems.
We need existing solutions to work together to reduce the adverse effects of the climate crisis.
We must protect what we have, restore what we have lost, and adapt to the circumstances we face.
Seagrasses are among the most widespread coastal ecosystems worldwide and range from the tropics to boreal margins of the Ocean.
They are flowering plants that live in shallow waters that can sometimes be seen from space.
The name seagrass stems from the many species with long and narrow leaves, which grow by rhizome extension and often spread across large “meadows” resembling grassland; many species superficially resemble terrestrial grasses.
These deep-rooted meadows cover over 300,000km2, roughly the size of Italy, spanning 159 countries and six continents. They do not exist in Antarctica.
Sometimes referred to as ‘lungs of the sea’, seagrasses play a multi-functional role to both human well-being and marine life, while being a globally significant carbon sink.
Seagrasses are a climate change solution
According to UNEP, despite occupying just 0.1% of the Ocean floor, seagrasses store up to 18% of the global Oceanic carbon, which is estimated to be 38,000 billion metric tons.
– They can store twice the amount of carbon per hectare when compared to terrestrial forests.
– The carbon is stored almost entirely in the soils, measuring up to four metres deep.
– They can act as a buffer for Ocean acidification, depending on environmental conditions, which benefits calcifying organisms like corals and shellfish.
But that’s not all!
How seagrasses support marine life
Seagrasses are biologically rich and diverse habitats where species come together for many reasons.
Some organisms – primarily large grazers like manatees, dugongs, green sea turtles and geese – eat the living leaves directly, and seagrass forms a major component of their diets.
For example, an adult dugong eats about 64 to 88 pounds (28 to 40 kg) of seagrass a day, while an adult green sea turtle can eat about 4.5 pounds (2 kg) per day.
Apart from being a food source, seagrass meadows provide protection for burrowing anemones, bivalve molluscs and burrowing urchins that lie buried in the sand beneath.
They also act as crucial nursery grounds for species like the European eel. It is estimated that 17 species of coral reef fish spend their entire juvenile life stage solely on seagrass flats.
Four ways seagrass meadows benefit humans
There are numerous ways in which seagrasses benefit us outside of their climate change mitigation potential. Benefits include:
– Food Security – They support global fisheries, acting as nursery habitats for commonly consumed species like crustaceans and molluscs.
– Coastal Protection – Seagrasses have an extensive root system that stabilises the sea bed, similar to terrestrial grasses preventing soil erosion. In this way, they protect coastlines from flooding and storm surges.
– Tourism – Whether its swimming with green turtles (Akumal, Mexico) or diving with dugongs (Marsa Alam, Egypt), seagrass meadows are a great place to positively interact with the diverse marine life it hosts.
They are also important for historical heritage, from shipwrecks to submerged ancient cities.
– Disease Control – Seagrasses can control diseases by reducing bacterial pathogens from harming humans, fish, and invertebrates.
Why are seagrasses threatened?
According to one report, since 1990, there is a 7% decline in seagrass cover area globally per year, which is equivalent to a football field of seagrass every 30 minutes.
The main threats to seagrasses are:
– Climate Change (for example, heat stress through increases in temperature) – Pollution (urban, industrial, and agricultural run-off) – Coastal Infrastructure Development (incl. dredging) – Overfishing (incl. bottom trawling), and – Boating Activities
…but all hope is not lost!
The role of policy is a crucial top-down approach to restore and protect seagrasses at a broader scale.
With the widely accepted Global Biodiversity Framework, 30% of coastal and marine ecosystems need to be protected, including blue carbon ecosystems like seagrasses. Although, at present, mangroves and coral reefs are better protected under MPA’s than seagrasses.
The variety of ecosystem services that seagrasses provide has resulted in increasing knowledge of their value in recent years. However, there are still large knowledge gaps among the general public.
The best way to protect seagrasses is to understand them within local environments and manage threats effectively.
Restoration Spotlight: Seagrasses in the Eastern Shore of Virginia
The Virginia Institute of Marine Science and The Nature Conservancy have been conducting an extensive seagrass meadow restoration for almost 20 years, creating 3,612 hectares of new seagrass beds.
To achieve that, the team of researchers and volunteers had to actively plant more than 70 million seeds of eelgrass on a 200-hectare plot just off the southern end of Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
Within 10 years, the seagrasses covered an area that would naturally take over 100 years to grow. The scientists also noted increased water quality, nitrogen storage and carbon sequestration.
This initiative offers a glimpse into the benefits of resilient seagrass meadows and its importance in addressing climate change.
“Seagrasses can help us solve our biggest environmental challenges.
They purify water, they protect us from storms, they provide food to hundreds of millions of people, they support rich biodiversity, and they efficiently store carbon.
In light of everything seagrasses do for people and nature, protecting and restoring them is vital.”
Ronald Jumeau Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Ambassador for Climate Change Republic of Seychelles
What can I do to help protect seagrasses?
Be a considerate tourist –
Exploring tourist-friendly seagrass meadows can be a great way to develop an appreciation for these wonderful plants and all that they hold. But please don’t pluck them or hurt any marine species when visiting.
Become a citizen scientist –
Furthering scientific knowledge is not a one-person effort and so, public participation in citizen science projects are a fantastic way to contribute.
The SeagrassSpotter project has been created by Project Seagrass in association with Cardiff University and Swansea University. Using SeagrassSpotter, you can help locate seagrasses which will be used by scientists for research including the prediction of locations for restoration.
At school, we may learn that the Ocean has five separate regions, namely, the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Artic and Southern Ocean.
But our Ocean is not separated by borders. It’s connected as one and it works as a whole to help make all life on Earth possible.
Connection with our Ocean
Talking about ‘Our Ocean’ as one Ocean reinforces the notion of its interconnectedness.
We must all understand that: What happens in one part of the Ocean will have an impact on another part.
When 29,000 rubber duckswere washed into the North Pacific Ocean, they began showing up thousands of miles away in Alaska, Washington 10 months later.
This was known as “the quack heard around the world” and proved that a rubber duck (or a plastic bottle or whatever else) if chucked into a river could move across the Ocean and end up on the other side of the world.
A similar story happened, when almost five million pieces of Lego escaped into the Ocean off the coast of Cornwall, spilled from a cargo ship. The tiny, plastic figurines are still being washed up on the beaches of Cornwall 25 years later.
We are all connected to the Ocean through weather, climate, and the very air we breathe. But everyone has their own unique experiences of the magic and beauty of the Ocean.
We swim, sail and bathe by the beach. We eat fish or seaweed in sushi. We use products that are imported from other parts of the world – by boat. We listen to Ocean sounds on Spotify to relax us.
Biologist Wallace J Nichols, the author of Blue Mind, says “We are beginning to learn that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water and that being near it can calm and connect us, increase innovation and insight, and even heal what’s broken.”
This is where we come in. Here at Ocean Generation, we want to rebuild this connection.
Every drop of water is connected.
We don’t usually think of the water that comes out of our taps as the same water in the Ocean. But to quote a little fish…
All drains lead back to the Ocean.
The water that we use every day and the waterbodies in our communities connect us to the Ocean. All water eventually flows out to the Ocean.
Our Ocean is weaved into every part of our daily lives – and our actions have extraordinary impacts on it.
Want to feel more connected to our blue planet?
Join the Ocean Generation
The Ocean Generation is coming together to restore a healthy relationship between humanity and the Ocean. As the first generation to understand ocean issues, we are also the last generation who can stop them.
The Ocean is a flourishing ecosystem that can maintain itself.
But our actions have been negatively impacting the Ocean for decades, at a rate our Ocean cannot keep up with.
There was a time when we thought the Ocean was endless. So, we treated it that way: Taking what we wanted, when we wanted, in whatever quantity we liked.
It took us far too long to realise the many ways we threaten our Ocean. But now we know better.
Our Ocean is one of our planet’s most valuable ecosystems.
The Ocean provides over 50% of the world’s oxygen, captures 30% of human-made carbon emissions, and mitigates the climate crisis. The bottom line: We need a healthy Ocean for a healthy planet.
How does human activity threaten the Ocean?
Our Impact work explores the 5 key ways human actions negatively impact the Ocean.
Many of the underlying actions causing these Ocean Threats have existed throughout the course of human history – but have become unsustainable more recently because of rapid population growth and the consequent scale of our impact on the marine environment.
What human activity impacts the Ocean the worst?
There are no known, credible, scientific classification of the severity of these Ocean threats. What does that mean – simply? We can’t tell you which of the five threaten the Ocean the worst.
But there’s no doubt that all of these Ocean threats are inter-related and can combine to have vast negative impacts on Ocean health, marine habitats and marine life which, in turn, pose serious threats to human health.
What are the 5 human-made Ocean threats?
1. Climate change: We can’t talk about climate change without the Ocean
It’s widely accepted that human actions are the primary drivers of climate change. The biggest culprit? Burning fossil fuels (for example, coal, oil and gas) to produce energy is the main cause of climate change.
Signs of climate change are all around us – and impossible to ignore. But too few of us understand the important role our Ocean plays in mitigating the climate crisis.
How does the Ocean mitigate climate change?
Our Ocean plays a fundamental role in regulating global temperatures, storing massive amounts of carbon, and capturing heat from the atmosphere.
Although the Ocean drastically mitigates climate change, it’s also impacted by climate change. These changes (like increased Ocean heat), have negative consequences on Ocean health and thus, all of us.
2. Pollution: It’s not just plastic polluting our Ocean.
80% of plastic in our Ocean comes from the land and most of that is made up of single-use plastic items; products we use once, then throw away. And that’s the biggest problem with plastic: there is no “away.”
3. Coastal Infrastructure Development: Why do we need to protect our coastlines?
2.5 billion people live within 100km from our Ocean.
Coastal regions are densely populated areas with increasing rates of population growth (and who can blame them? Living near the Ocean has numerous benefits.)
With higher frequencies of natural weather events (like cyclones and hurricanes), erosion and land loss, and flooding, coastal regions have never been this vulnerable.
4. Resource Extraction: What resources do we extract from the Ocean?
Around 3 billion people rely on the Ocean for their primary source of protein: Seafood.
Seafood is the most notable thing we extract from the Ocean but it’s not the only thing. We also extract minerals, fossil fuels, and plants from the Ocean.
Our Ocean – as incredible as it is – is not limitless.
We must recognise the limits of Ocean resources and control the quantity and frequency at which we extract resources from the Ocean; allowing it time to replenish and regenerate. Otherwise, we will reach a point of no return.
5. Daily Ocean Use: What’s the impact of daily human actions on the Ocean?
Humans work hard and always have something on the go. The Ocean is no different.
All around the world, our Ocean is in use every day. From cargo shipping for trade, passenger traffic for travel to commercial fishing and research – the Ocean is used widely. How we make use of the Ocean is what’s important.
We need to turn to using the Ocean sustainably to protect the awe-inspiring ecosystem that supports all life on Earth.
What can I do to protect our blue planet?
Understanding the 5 main threats our Ocean faces is step one. Step two is doing something about them. Some of these Ocean Threats can feel overwhelming – but they don’t have to be.
Working together is humanity’s superpower. And it remains our best tool for solving the world’s biggest problems, and simultaneously, restoring our Ocean.
Three ways you can take environmental action – with a focus on the Ocean – right now:
Subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly impact in your inbox; explore our Science Hub; or visit our Instagram page for bite-size environmental education.
Recognise that you don’t have to be perfect.
Ask yourself: What can I do right now to decrease my carbon footprint? What can I do to be a voice for our Ocean and empower others to do the same?
This is part of our Four Pillars work that highlights the importance of the Ocean, the human-made threats it faces, and the solutions our Ocean provides.
What is the cost of our daily Ocean activities?
What’s there to love about the Ocean?
Many things come to mind: How vast it is, Ocean biodiversity, being able to swim, dive, snorkel, travel and so much more.
This large body of water helps us stay connected with each other through global trade and passenger routes.
The Ocean also helps us learn about, explore, and enjoy its many offerings through touristic and recreational activities. But these activities can also be harmful to the marine environment if we are not careful.
The impacts of tourism on our Ocean
The issue with “sun, sea, sand” tourism on Ocean biodiversity
Touristic Ocean activities are mainly experienced through cruising or coastal tourism.
Effective planning and management are crucial in minimising the impacts on biodiversity. If foregone, the effects are dire: a 15-year unplanned development period at Vlora Bay, Albania resulted in the disappearance of over 50% of seagrass meadows and a huge reduction in macroalgae.
Furthermore, studies continue to show that beaches with extensive tourism are less rich in nutrients and biodiversity, when compared to natural shorelines. This is often the case to appease tourists with what an “ideal” beach might look like.
Our love for water-based recreational activities impacts marine life
There is nothing quite like spending some time in the water, whether that may be a pool, a lagoon, a lake, or the mighty Ocean.
Scuba diving and snorkeling are highly popular activities, and the prime locations are areas with coral reefs.
Coral reefs attract large numbers of tourists each year.
In terms of visitor numbers, this equates to 70 million tourist trips that would not have happened without the presence of these magnificent reefs.
Studies have shown that diver interactions can be damaging to the reefs.
This mostly comes down to the risk of breaking or touching the fragile reefs. Better training for the divers and overall management techniques are needed to ensure coral reef tourism is sustainable.
Other activities that attract visitors include birdwatching, whale watching and recreational boating.
Whale watching is a significant tourist activity, generating about $2.1billion per annum, globally. Millions of people engage in this activity which may benefit conservation efforts through change in attitudes towards marine life and natural environments. Yet, uncontrolled whale watching efforts can disrupt their natural behaviours.
What are the effects of marine traffic on the Ocean?
Marine traffic mainly comprises of shipping cargoes and passenger movements. This traffic can impact the Ocean through various forms of pollution (air, water, noise, oil spills) as well as biodiversity losses.
Passenger traffic has seen an increased interest in cruises – the number of passengers has increased by about 5% per year, with major hotspots being the Caribbean and Mediterranean.
There is also an increased interest in Antarctic and Arctic tourism. With melting sea ice in the Arctic, new parts of the area open, which is likely to be subjected to more impacts.
New innovations in marine fuels and strict adherence to the codes provided by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) are necessary to limit the environmental impacts caused by marine traffic.
But what if we just limited the traffic?
Here is an insightful case study…
Research Spotlight: What happens when we curb marine traffic?
Chinese white dolphins are not limited to but can be found in the waters near Hong Kong.
Over the last 17 years, their population has decreased by 80% and one of the main culprits is marine traffic. A recent multi-year study found fascinating changes in behaviour of these mammals when left undisturbed.*
Due to COVID-19, cross border passenger ferries between Hong Kong, Macau and China ceased to operate in early 2020.
In the absence of the fast ferries, the dolphins began to actively use the fairways. Researchers at WWF Hong Kong found that dolphins occurred in larger groups and socialised much more.
WWF HK is now working with other stakeholders to maintain the area as a ferry-free zone. A survey was conducted to document public support for this initiative and the results show that rerouting ferries when the maritime border reopens is the preferred option, even though this means increased fares and longer travelling times.
We need to become responsible Ocean users
It is clear that we can travel and enjoy everything the Ocean has to offer, provided we understand and limit our impacts when indulging in these activities.
As we seek solutions to aid sustainable reforms within shipping and cruise ships, learning and appreciating the Ocean and marine life is a great start to being more careful tourists, internationally or domestically.
We have one Ocean and we need to protect it every day.
*We would like to thank Dr Lindsay Porter, Senior Research Scientist at SEAMAR Hong Kong SAR for providing these invaluable insights.
To protect Earth’s most precious ecosystem – our Ocean – we must first understand its importance. Our Wavemaker Programme empowers young people between 16 – 25 to use their voice and talents to make a positive impact on our blue planet. This piece was written by one of our Wavemakers. Submit your own story.
The Ocean is the world’s most shared resource.
Social, economic and environmental sharing is caring
The Ocean is the world’s most shared resource. The vitality of the Ocean is necessary to support and sustain Earth and here’s why.
Covering over 70% of the planet, our Ocean takes responsibility for regulating our climate and weather from the poles to the equator.
As if her generosity wasn’t enough, the Ocean’s environmental benefits have continued to protect and conserve biodiversity and create global sources of natural carbon sinks. It does this by providing services to ecosystems, including coastal wetlands, mangroves and coral reefs.
Human health and Ocean health are connected
The health of our Ocean is intimately tied to our health. No, really…with every breath we take, with every drop we drink, we’re connected to her.
Not just physically, but emotionally. When we take a step back to enjoy the magnificent view of our Ocean (whilst adding her to our IG stories #SoGrateful), it welcomes a sense of calmness, for how life can be so gentle and beautiful.
But to take this mentality forward with how we care for her every day is the next essential step.
Well for one, the Ocean provides us with over 50% of the world’s oxygen.
No matter her physical forms, whether stormy and rough, warm and clear or frigid and cold, she, the Ocean, has always helped us breathe during our time on Earth and should never be gone unnoticed.
What resources does our Ocean provides us with?
The Ocean continues to provide a vast number of economic and social benefits, including: jobs, food, medicine, recreation and wonderment – to name a few.
Our Ocean boosts sustainable economic growth in some of the world’s poorest countries, which supports the well-being of coastal communities.
“[A healthy Ocean is] critical for combatting rural poverty, ensuring food security, improving nutrition and achieving zero hunger.”
Economically, about 38 million people rely on the fishing and fish-farming industry, 95% of whom live in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
The economic benefits the Ocean provides has sparked several positive domino effects for many communities, including: food security, job security, sustainable trade in Ocean -based goods and services, sustainable shipping, and an attraction to sustainable tourism.
In addition, OECD confirmed that over 90% of the world’s trade uses sea routes thereby making the Ocean a heavily reliant agent to access essential resources and necessities, including food, medical supplies and drugs, and fuel.
It is important that we not only take notice but also speak about how many communities around the world have learnt to grapple and adapt to the Ocean’s gifts – as opposed to altering the Ocean to fit their needs, they learnt to navigate their lifestyles with the Ocean.
The impact of our Ocean on communities:
Sri Lanka’s Ocean wealth
The island we know today as Sri Lanka has thrived on the Ocean’s economic resources as it has made remarkable contributions to the country’s economy.
Sri Lanka’s coastal zone hosts 1/3 of the country’s population, accommodates over 2/3 of all industrial facilities, and over 80% of tourism infrastructure.
As the Ocean provides social benefits for many communities, the wellbeing dependency on the Ocean is clear. These communities have been able to cultivate a sense of stability and economic growth, through fishing and aquatic agriculture. Moreover, the little island is well known for its touristic cities, from mountain tops to the clear, blue Ocean with its golden sand.
The tropical country’s sandy coast lines continue to attract many tourists to the Ocean, to soak in the sunsets and fresh air – reflecting again on the wonder and wellness the Ocean provides us.
Economic exploitation: The new high school bad boy
Unfortunately, utilising the Ocean‘s resources and services have come at a cost – exploitation and economic dominance.
The Blue Economy was a concept initiated with the goal of sustainably sourcing the Ocean’s resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and healthy ecosystems.
However, this goal became somewhat of a fever dream when humans started to deteriorate marine ecosystems, resulting in widespread biodiversity loss and habitat damage – sort of like when we were content with the High School Musical trilogy, but Disney thought we needed another version which ended up disappointing us…
Although the exploitation of marine resources was apparent in the 17th-19th century – where the Caribbean coral reefs, faced a massive loss of fish and sharks – the consequences are more distinct now.
How is our Ocean’s health today?
Today, overfishing, destructive fishing practices, and pollution are some of the major enemies facing the long-term nature of our Ocean. To add to the chaos, deep-sea mining is having a detrimental impact on her physical nature, and hindering on the Ocean’s health and societal benefits.
The power of our Ocean only continues to weaken as it loses its harness over the Earth’s environmental and climate systems due to climate change.
While these major shifts in Ocean health may appear to feel ‘far off’ and ‘manageable’, our reliability on the Ocean is having greater deep-rooted effects on different demographics and societies than we know.
With over 3 billion livelihoods depending on the Ocean for jobs, 680 million living in low-lying coastal zones, and food security at risk (noticeably after COVID-19 hit), we need to emphasise, now more than ever, that without our Ocean’s wellbeing looked after, our survival is at stake.
Our apology to her will not be enough this time. It is time we take accountability and action to restore our Ocean.
Zayna, from Sri Lanka, is a self-declared super smiler, Wavemaker and freelancer in the film and entertainment industry. She believes raising her voice on the topics she cares about is important because no one carries the same views and perspectives, which means we can inspire one another.
Zayna, from Sri Lanka, is a self-declared super smiler, Wavemaker and freelancer in the film and entertainment industry. She believes raising her voice on the topics she cares about is important because no one carries the same views and perspectives, which means we can inspire one another.
Offshore oil extraction has not been kind to marine life, with disruptions in the form of noise pollution, habitat destruction, and oil spills. And the Ocean is being glorified as a new frontier for mineral extraction from the seabed.
We’ve benefitted from a great deal of things we’ve extracted from the Ocean. But do we ever give back and allow the Ocean to replenish?
Do we assess the risks before we extract? Let’s take a closer look into some of the resources we want and how removing them impacts our Ocean.
How much do humans rely on the Ocean for food?
Animal protein from the Ocean provides around 17% of all animal protein consumed. The food we obtain from the Ocean and other water bodies are inextricably linked to many cultural identities.
From national dishes (Example: Senegal (Ceebu jën)) to fishing traditions (Example:in Finland), many coastal communities around the world uphold seafood as a pillar of cultural identity, livelihoods, food security, tradition and connection to the Ocean.
Global seafood production is on the rise
With global production of seafood quadrupling over the last 50 years, it is no surprise that wild catching has become unsustainable and cannot keep up with global demand.
Enter, aquaculture: A process where seafood is farmed, by corporations and farmers alike. There are many variations of aquaculture, depending on the location and type of organism being cultivated.
Is aquaculture the sustainable solution we’ve been looking for?
This booming method overtook seafood production from conventional fisheries by 12.26 million tonnes in 2015. It is important to note that aquaculture includes aquatic plants like seaweed as well.
Aquaculture has been touted for its high yields and added nutritional value, but sustainable production requires:
– careful consideration of the surrounding environment, so as to not burden wild species and damage coastal blue carbon ecosystems,
– sustainable supply of aquafeed, i.e., food for the cultured organisms, and
– adequate disease control among the cultivated populations.
To ensure a stable income and a stable Ocean, there is a need for better guidelines for operational safety and management to ensure healthy fish stocks.
However, food from the Ocean isn’t the only thing we extract…
What resources do we extract from the Ocean?
Drill baby, drill
From the dawn of time, humans have sparked revolutionary leaps through different forms of energy. Although fire was a major leap in evolutionary standards, we exceeded our capabilities when we realised we could use ancient organic matter as fuel.
The oil and natural gas we extract powers our homes, our cars, manufactures plastic, and much more. Even their by-products are used, for example, tar to build roads.
But the relentless extraction of fossil fuels comes with a hefty price tag. It’s at the cost of our planet – including our Ocean.
How offshore oil and gas extraction effects the Ocean:
– Exploration: Exploring to identify location and size of reserves disrupts sound, harming marine life, small or big. However, nowadays, evolved techniques have drastically minimised their impact.
– Operational: Processes like drilling disrupt the Ocean floor, pollutes the environment (waste, noise) and also increases biodiversity loss.
– Large release of greenhouse gases, heavily contributing to climate change.
A common image that comes to mind when grasping pollution in this context is this: An animal drenched in oil.
Oil spills are a vicious consequence, not always caused by the process of extraction. In fact, the National Research Council estimates the origin as follows:
– 46% naturally seeping into the Ocean – 37% discharged from operational processes in sea, and land-based sources – 12% accidental spills from ships, and – 3% extraction processes
Although the single largest source of oil pollution is natural, ecosystems have adapted to these natural stresses.
However, that is not the case when we spill oil. To tackle human-induced oil spills, progress has been made to better monitor spills and identify affected areas.
Overall, the reduction in fossil fuel extraction and its use will be beneficial to all life on Earth.
The fossil fuel industry has also provided strong learnings for the budding marine renewables industry (MRE).
How the Ocean supports the medical industry:
Did you know that plants and animals from the Ocean have been used to develop medicines for humans?
The Ocean’s incredible biodiversity has become a new frontier for discovering drugs to alleviate many health conditions.
We take antibiotics for many types of bacterial infections, but in recent years, antibiotics have been overused to the point of ineffectiveness, i.e., it has stopped working when attempting to treat serious conditions.
This resistance has pushed scientists to seek out new solutions. Scientists at NOAA have isolated a chemical compound from microorganisms found on sponges and corals that can be used as a helper drug to make antibiotics effective again, under certain circumstances.
Not all innovations are for medicinal purposes. Food supplements like omega 3, macroalgae (like seaweed) for biofuels and beauty products are all examples of ways in which the Ocean provides for us.
Seafood, minerals and fossil fuels. Is this everything the Ocean has to offer? Not even close! We haven’t even touched on technology, or makeup.
Are we including the health of the Ocean in this conversation? Not nearly enough. Let’s take a final look into something new and potentially disastrous…
New “solution,” same ol’ motives
Innovative solutions can lead to incredible human advancements – but it shouldn’t be at the cost of stripping the Ocean seabed.
Our technological revolution has come with a hefty price tag. The price of:
– mineral mining (conflict minerals, slavery, and generally poor working conditions), – overconsumption (of electronics), and – huge swathes of electronic waste.
This has resulted in extractive industries looking for new areas to source minerals, specifically, the Ocean.
Where do most minerals we need reside in the Ocean?
The deep sea.
Deep-sea mining is the process of extracting mineral deposits from the seabed. The Ocean is rich in minerals not only required for electronics like the laptop or phone you are reading this blog on, but also for batteries and scaling low-carbon renewable technologies like wind turbines and solar panels.
However, there is growing concern on whether this is a good idea or if we can extract these minerals safely.
We know scarily little about the environmental consequences of stripping the Ocean seabed, but it is clear that this is likely to cause severe disruptions to marine life, deep-sea ecosystems, and global climate regulation.
This complication is further fuelled by questions on economic viability and social acceptance. Despite approval licenses for some exploratory projects, deep-sea mining must not be commercialised without sufficient understanding of the consequences mentioned above.
What can I do about resource extraction in the Ocean?
We rely on the Ocean for so much more than we’ll ever realise. From our breath to our food to our health, we need the Ocean to thrive and there are ways in which we can help restore it.
– On Seafood:
To combat overfishing, we must generally consume less seafood to sustain fish stocks healthily. It is also wise to use your national food directories to understand what types of creatures are endangered to best avoid eating so that we can reduce the pressure on those populations.
This in combination with the environmental impacts of specific species can be a useful way to mitigate individual impacts. Let’s not forget to support local fishing communities!
– On Minerals:
Planned obsolescence is a conscious strategy for companies to artificially limit the life of a product. There is no better example of observing this than electronics:
Some of us grew up in households with washing machines and blenders that are older than us, just because it still functions! But nowadays, smartphones are replaced every few years, with some behaviour associated with trendsetting, something that we see in fast fashion.
This, among so many other reasons, is why we produce roughly 50 million tonnes of electronic and electrical waste per year. Unfortunately, formal recycling of these products is limited to 20%.
For further understanding the concept of planned obsolescence, watch the below video. As a solution, we must vouch for the Right to Repair the products we buy, rather than rely on the promises of recycling.