Become an Oceans Hero on World Oceans Day, June 8, 2018!
Today is June 8th, which means that one of the Gululu pets’ favorite events is upon us--World Oceans Day!
World Oceans Day is an annual celebration of oceans that takes place on June 8th of every year all across the globe, on all levels from community to state to international. Local celebrations often include beach cleanups and ocean-themed events, as well as global celebrations, which can consist of conferences and summits, such as the one in which Gululu was featured at the United Nations in 2017. We celebrate our oceans not only to appreciate the gifts that our oceans give us, but also to collaborate on ways to protect these gifts for future generations. Each year there is a different focus for the celebration, and this year it is to prevent plastic pollution and to encourage solutions for a healthy ocean.
Lets dive into those topics of “plastic pollution” and “healthy ocean” a little bit further to learn how you and your family can become Oceans Heroes.
Plastic Pollution – What Kids and Parents Need to Know
Our oceans are full of water, but they are increasingly full of plastic as well. We have all seen the tragic photos and videos of ocean wildlife getting caught in plastic netting or choking on plastic bags that look too much like tasty jellyfish. But it’s not just large pieces like netting and grocery bags that are causing problems, but also microscopically tiny pieces that once-upon-a-time used to be large. Over time, the large pieces break down into increasingly smaller ones that are so tiny that they cannot be seen by the naked eye. You may think, “Great! If I can’t see it, then there’s no problem, right?” Wrong! If you can’t see the pieces, ocean wildlife can't either, and they end up eating the plastic. Blech! Not only is it not tasty or nutritious, it can actually be dangerous to the animals as well as to the humans that eat the animals. Plastics are made of petroleum-based chemicals that often have even more toxic chemicals added to them. When they enter an animal’s body, these chemicals can be released and can slowly poison the animal, and humans are not exempt from this. Pollution has gotten so bad that in the Pacific Ocean garbage gyres, there is six times as much plastic as plankton. That’s like going in to Starbucks to order a sandwich and getting a six-pack of empty plastic water bottles that you have to eat along with it. Ew.
The Ocean Hero's Plastic Pollution Prevention Action List:
You wouldn’t leave home without your phone or snacks for the kids, so why would you leave without your water bottles? We love bottles with a shoulder strap so that your bottle is always within reach, allowing you to stay optimally hydrated as well as making you into an Oceans Hero who never needs a disposable bottle of water.
2. Just say NO to plastic straws
There are very few cases where one actually needs a straw, so opt for a much greener way to go—drink directly from the cup! It’s so easy even a toddler can do it. For those who do need a straw, there are some really cool reusable and portable ones on the market now. No plastic straws, no plastic excuses!
3. Refuse to Abuse Petroleum-Based Take-Out Containers and Utensils
Keep a stash of Tupperware and utensils in the car for that spontaneous trip to the taqueria, or at the very least ask vendors for paper, corn, or wood pulp-based biodegradable containers (the jury is still out on biodegradable plastics that require commercial facilities to biodegrade). Food tastes even better when it’s pollution-free!
4. You Can inVast in CanVas!
Maybe our spelling isn’t perfect, but you get the point. Canvas bags are the way to shop! Forget those plastic ones that they offer you “for free” at the stores--nothing comes for free, and our oceans have ended up paying the price our reliance on plastic over the past few decades. But now it’s 2018 and we know better, so it’s time for us to do better.Keep a stash in your vehicles and near your front door so that a canvas bag is always within reach when you might need one.
5. Spread the Word on Plastic Pollution—use the World Oceans Day Lesson Plan to learn how you can educate and inspire others to be Oceans Heroes!
Healthy Oceans – What Kids and Parents Need to Know
Our oceans are sick and suffering from man-made threats of all kinds, and with a little knowledge, we have the power to turn things around. Here are three of the main threats, along with a list of Ocean Hero Action Items that are fun and easy for families to implement.
1. Eutrophication (yoo-troh-fi-cay-shun)
If the world is a kitchen…then the land is the countertop, the rivers and lakes are the sinks, and the oceans are the drains. All of the excess bits and pieces that end up on your kitchen countertops get pushed into the sink where they all eventually congregate in the drain, and…well…ew…it can turn into a science experiment pretty quickly. The same is true for our oceans--the excess waste we produce on land in the form of sewage, detergents, fertilizers, pesticides and even fallout from burning fossil fuels runs off into our streams and rivers and it is eventually carried to our ocean drains. These excess “nutrients” (largely nitrates and phosphates) cause certain plant life and algae to flourish, which all sounds great, until we realize that it is at the expense of marine creatures as well as some native plant species. The plants produce oxygen while they are alive (good!), but when they die, the bacterial degradation process consumes all of the available oxygen, which suffocates marine animals. It also produces a lot of carbon dioxide which lowers the pH of the water and in turn leads to coral reef bleaching as well as to global warming. Furthermore, some algae that grow in response to these excess nutrients produce toxic chemicals which can cause widespread illness and death of ocean and coastal species. This scenario of excess nutrients and plant growth is called eutrophication, and is having deleterious effects on a growing number of coasts and lakes. NOAA estimates that 65% of US estuaries and coastal water bodies are moderately to severely degraded by eutrophication. If you can’t remember how to pronounce or spell ‘eutrophication’, at the very least you should remember that it’s bad, very bad.
2. Global Warming
As you probably know, our world is warming to disastrously high temperatures due to our over-burning of fossil fuels. This process releases carbon dioxide into the air which traps heat and increases the global average temperature. Some of the carbon dioxide also dissolves into our oceans, where it lowers the pH of the water (ocean acidification) and disrupts the chemical balance of ecosystems so much that we are now witnessing widespread death of coral reefs and other fishing habitats that have sustained human life for centuries.
3. Irresponsible Fishing
Eutrophication and global warming are not the only things decreasing fish populations throughout the world, in fact, irresponsible fishing is another main culprit. The demand for seafood has increased so much that we have been removing fish from the ocean faster than they can replenish themselves. We are “overfishing” our oceans to the point where some fish industries have actually collapsed—orange roughy, Chilean sea bass, and Bluefin tuna, to name a few, and many more are on the verge. Because fish supplies are growing more scarce, commercial fishermen are “fishing down” to greater depths using more aggressive equipment that traps and kills not only the species they are seeking, but other “innocent bystander” species as well. It’s not a good time to be an ocean dweller right now.
Oceans Hero Healthy Oceans Action List:
1. Go Organic
Organic farming has been shown to cause just one-fifth the amount of nitrate runoff as conventional farming and can therefore help reduce eutrophication and global warming significantly.
2. Power Yourself with Plants
Eating a plant-based diet helps to prevent global warming by preserving forests (they reduce greenhouse gases), and decreasing the number of cows who are notorious for producing high amounts of greenhouse gases. In fact, going plant-powered is the most effective thing a person can do to prevent global warming, with giving up your car coming in a close second. Going plant-powered will also help fish populations to regenerate, thereby ensuring that the bounty of the oceans is available to generations of the future. If you must eat fish, then it’s best to consult www.fishwatch.gov to help you make more sustainable choices.
3. Kick the Fossil Fuel Addiction
Burning fossil fuels for energy and transportation produces a lot of ocean-acidifying carbon dioxide, so we all need to limit our use of them as much as possible. Instead of driving to the pharmacy, hop on your bikes. Instead of living in a big house far from work, how about living in a more modest on close enough to work to walk, bike or take public transportation. Instead of relying on your power company to supply electricity, how about installing solar panels on your roof. Instead of voting for candidates who support the fossil fuel industries, give your vote to someone committed to boosting the renewable clean energy industry.
The Gululu pets—Ninji, Sansa, Purpie & Donnie—all thank you for your efforts to become Oceans Heroes who will protect the oceans for all future generations. They invite you to send pictures of your ocean adventures, and hope you stay happy, healthy, and hydrated (#gululuoceanshero)!
The Gululu Family