Nature tends to boomerang on its abusers and the oceans are no exception to this historic principle. For decades humans have been pouring their wastes into coastal waters directly and through run-offs. And recently, the ozone depletion trend due to CFCs and other gases in the stratosphere is making usually calm scientists alarmed over the destructive effect ultraviolet light has on the tiny organisms in the ocean that are the basic food for all fisheries.
As long as it was the ocean way out there, governments and people felt little impetus to address the problem. Then the ocean mess started washing ashore, soiling beaches on both the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific coasts. Beaches have been closed due to sewage backups.
Actor Ted Danson founded the American Oceans Campaign last week with the words: “From Los Angeles where children can’t swim at local beaches to New Jersey where thousands of dead fish have regularly washed up on shores, to sensitive marine environments where administration plans would allow offshore oil fields, the plight of our oceans demand a coordinated national rescue effort.” Danson added that “‘a toxic cocktail’ of sewage, toxic and industrial wastes, contaminated storm drain run-offs and oil leaks and spills have ruined many shorelines and threaten to destroy many more.”
More than pollution is involved. Waters are over-running thousands of acres of Louisiana wetlands and scientists are not sure why. Beaches are crumbling along the Atlantic coast.
Danson has enlisted the support of Senators Bob Graham (D-Florida), Alan Cranston (D-California) and John Melcher (D-Montana) along with several key representatives to work for adequate legislation.
There are other groups whose environmental missions include the protection of the oceans. And the Cousteau Society has been showing both the spectacular beauty and importance of oceans along with the degradating assaults on this delicate but crucial biosphere.
But, as in any movement that stretches over years with ups and downs, the save-the-oceans drive needs new energy and new pressures. The connection between the work of the oceans and the life on the land is not well known to many people. In a phrase, if we lose the oceans, there won’t be much left of life on the earth for many ecological reasons. Truly, the world’s environment is a seamless web of interdependent life forms.
Immediate economics–fisheries and tourism and recreation– are at stake in the 100,000 miles of ocean, bays, harbors and estuaries that border the continental states, Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico and the territories. Shell fish beds are often placed off limits because of bacteria and viruses. What is eaten is increasingly coming under suspicion of contamination. Nearly 1000 New Yorkers became ill recently after eating raw clams–just one sign of trouble ahead.
Now comes more news from scientists about the warming of the Earth with the consequent risk of the polar ice cap melting and
the elevation of ocean waters along the coasts.
Last year the UN World Commission on Environment and. Development declared: “In the Earth’s wheel of life, the oceans provide the balance. Covering over 70 percent of the planet’s surface, they play a critical role in maintaining life-support systems, in moderating its climate, and in sustaining animals and plants, including minute, oxygen-producing phytoplankton. Today, the living resources of the sea are under threat from over-exploitation, pollution and land-based development.”
If you wish to obtain more information from the American Oceans Campaign, write to 1427 Seventh Street, Santa Monica, California, 90401. They need your participation.