Through advocates like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration there is a plethora of lists reminding the world of how life revolves around, and is dependent upon, our oceans – from the critical provision of life-sustaining water and food sources, economic livelihood for an untold number of communities, to enriching lives with strolls on the beach, snorkeling adventures and wildlife exploration. Other resources generate awareness and offer steps everyone can take to help keep the oceans healthy and, as President Obama stated in his official declaration of National Oceans Month, “resilient.”
My own reading in preparation for World Oceans Month led me to the theme of this article: the ocean as the world’s water bottle! It is estimated that about 96.5% of the world’s water supply is ‘stored’ in the oceans and that the oceans provide approximately 90% of the evaporated water that enters into the water cycle… the source of the water we use every day and that fuels industries and communities. In other words, the oceans make up one giant water bottle from which the entire planet drinks.
This analogy points to all types of lessons on the importance of keeping our oceans free of pollutants. For instance, would you take even one sip of water from a glass that was contaminated with pesticides or industrial wastes? Of course not. So we must refrain from creating the same unhealthy environment within our oceans. Treatment and reuse of wastewater effluents before they reach the ocean can provide valuable needed water resources without the environmental pollution.
Also, consider the food we eat. No one would pick a lobster for dinner out of a tank riddled with waste and mucky water. The ramifications of food sources coming from a polluted ocean are much worse than spending a few hours in a dirty tank. From caviar to canned tuna, seafood sources “are what they swim in”… they start in the ocean and develop in the oceanic environment long before they reach the frying pan. Even worse is to think of the seafood that doesn’t make it to the table. Certain species can become drastically unavailable or disappear altogether due to polluted waters that can no longer sustain them and/or irresponsible over-fishing.
A final lesson comes from considering water renewal. The oceans are the source and sink of the global water cycle. Finding efficient and effective ways to desalinate ocean water will be the ultimate solution to global water shortages. Mother Nature does this by evaporation and transportation through clouds and rain. Breakthroughs in nanotechnology, just now on the horizon, could provide solutions that could provide abundant water to thirsty populations. Biomimicry is the process of creating technologies that duplicate what Mother Nature already does with ease.
June is not just one month to honor the oceans, but instead serves as a motivational staring line for year-round efforts to better understand, respect and responsibly renew the world’s water bottle.