Ocean Armageddon – what’s the worst that can happen?

Image result for empty ocean

While we talk about many topics on this blog, we have yet to address what happens in the worst case scenario. What happens if we continue to let the ocean die? What happens if we never take responsibility for the poisoning of our waters? As a species, we are very dependent on the ocean for protein, income and trading with more than 200 million people relying on fish for their livelihood.

Phytoplankton produce 50% of our oxygen and are put dangerously at risk by ocean acidification, with the general population of plankton diminishing by 40% since the 1950s. Without living phytoplankton, we would be left with an atmospheric composition of oxygen of only 10%. From what we know about oxygen deprivation in confined spaces, at this level humans would suffer from accelerated breathing, increased heart rate, poor muscular coordination, nausea, vomiting, poor judgment, blue lips and fatal unconsciousness after 8 minutes. Even assuming that we survive this steep decline in oxygen, our lives will be made very difficult. We will likely depend on oxygen tanks, assuming we’ll still be able to produce them.  Many people will likely have to go without.

Even finding a way to breathe in our now lethal air, we will have to deal with worldwide food shortages as more than 3.5 billion people depend on the ocean for their primary source of food. This disappearance of fish will most likely be caused by either overfishing (with an empty ocean looming as close as 2048) or the creation of a massive dead zone spreading across the sea (having more than 400 already in existence). While humans are fairly resilient as a species, the disappearance of the food supply for nearly half of our population doesn’t look good for our survival.

With the emphasis on raising sea levels as one of the main threats to our survival, we are looking less and less at the ocean as a victim of our actions and more as a predator. We imagine it creeping into our habitat, whilst simultaneously exploiting it for everything it has. We imagine an invasion, a drowning, while raking our greedy fingers through its sands and spitting our sewage over its wildlife. We need to start seeing ourselves less as the victims of our actions. We are the predators.

We need to grow up. We need to start taking responsibility for that.

(Figure 1: Image of Philippine Purse Seine Fishing Operation from http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/GP04BTO.jpg )

Sources:

Under The C. 2015. ‘What would happen if the ocean “died?”’. Available from: https://underthecblog.org/2015/02/19/what-would-happen-if-the-ocean-died/comment-page-1/ [10 February 2017]

Sea Shepard. 2015. ‘If the Ocean Dies, We All Die!’. Available from: http://www.seashepherd.org/news-and-commentary/commentary/if-the-ocean-dies-we-all-die.html  [10 February 2017]

Occupational Safety and Health Administration. ‘Confined Space Facts’. Available from: https://www.osha.gov/dte/grant_materials/fy10/sh-21000-10/Confined_Space_Facts.pdf  [21 February 2017]

Alexander Haro. 2014.’ The Oceans Could Be Dead by the Year 2048’. Available from: http://www.theinertia.com/environment/the-oceans-could-be-dead-by-the-year-2048/  [21 February 2017]

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