It seems like everything has its own day: Talk Like a Pirate Day, Pi Day (and Pie Day), Creative Ice Cream Flavors Day, Star Wars Day. We’re a culture addicted to Days, with a capital D. But one of the most deserving days is World Oceans Day, celebrated today, June 8th. Why shouldn’t about 70 percent of the Earth’s surface have its own day? Unlike Creative Ice Cream Flavors Day, World Oceans Day has official backing from the United Nations. In 2008 the United Nations General Assembly came up with World Oceans Day, and it’s been a yearly marker since 2009. In honor of World Oceans Day, let’s explore what makes our oceans so great, read some fun ocean facts and address issues/solutions surrounding one of the world’s largest suppliers of recreation, air, food and travel. Embrace your inner kid who wants to grow up to be a marine biologist.
Some fun facts about how cool the ocean isTo start off, here are some facts to remind us of why oceans are so neat, compiled by the MarineBio Conservation Society and NASA:
- Fifty to 80 percent of all life on Earth is in the oceans.
- Ninety-nine percent of living space on the planet is, again, in the oceans.
- Less than 10 percent of the ocean has been explored by humans, which makes our oceans as or more mysterious than the moon.
- An estimated 25 million marine species may exist – 226,408 have been classified as of September 2014.
- Ninety percent of volcanic activity happens in the oceans.
- The top 10 feet of the ocean holds as much heat as our whole atmosphere.
- The deepest part of the ocean (called Challenger Deep, which is in the Marianas Trench in the western part of the Pacific) could contain the whole height of Mt. Everest, with a little more than a mile to spare. There are even mountain ranges at the bottom of the ocean.
- The Great Barrier Reef (off the eastern coast of Australia) covers an area larger than Britain, and about one-quarter of all marine life lives there.
- One inch in depth of the world’s oceans has as much water as the world’s whole atmosphere.
- Manatees have actually been mistaken for mermaids by explorers. I guess months at sea will do that to a person.
- At the bottom of the Marianas Trench, pressure can be 1,000 times of that on the surface.
- A large Antarctic iceberg could supply Los Angeles with water for five years.
Now that you remember just how interesting the oceans can be, you may be wondering what they do for us.
The true impact of our oceansRather than just being a source of neat scientific facts, the world’s oceans also drive plenty of commerce, are a major food source and affect our lives in indirect ways we probably don’t think about on a daily basis. The Ocean Conservancy lists some of the surprising benefits of our oceans. It states that over 2.6 billion people rely on the ocean for their primary source of protein. NASA states that 14 percent of all protein consumed on our planet comes from fish. The Ocean Conservancy says the oceans provide half of the oxygen in the air we breathe. Or to put it as strikingly as they did: “Every second breath you take comes from the ocean.” Water also returns to the ocean for purification before eventually becoming water we drink or staying in the ocean to support life there. Or, as the Marine Conservation Institute puts it, ”Because the oceans are the largest ecosystems on Earth, they are the Earth’s largest life support systems. To survive and prosper, we all need healthy oceans. Oceans generate half of the oxygen people breathe. At any given moment, more than 97 percent of the world’s water resides in oceans… Living oceans absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and reduce the impact of climate change… They’re the most promising source of new medicines to combat cancer, pain and bacterial diseases.” The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lists some of the surprising natural remedies coming out of the oceans, including anti-inflammatory agents in wrinkle cream that are derived from coral, a Caribbean sponge that generates compounds used to fight the AIDS virus, a potential cancer drug from a tentacled ocean critter and a host of other healing miracles we wouldn’t have without our oceans. And that’s just what we know about. Remember, the percentage of oceans we’ve explored is in the single digits. Places like deep-sea hot vents and seabed sediments are incredibly hard to get to and have barely been looked at as a result. So you could say the oceans are kind of a big deal around here. Yet we continually endanger them.
Threats to the oceans and some solutionsYou may have heard that the oceans are in danger. For decades now. We have the fun little habit of polluting them with trash. Acidification is a nice word that keeps coming up; it means the oceans suck up our carbon emissions, which lowers the pH levels of the oceans, and those increased acid levels kill off shellfish. And, or course, overfishing in certain areas has threatened fish populations. Luckily, it’s not all doom and gloom. Groups like the Ocean Conservancy, MarineBio Conservation Society, Marine Conservation Institute and others are working to keep our oceans safe. You can always support groups like that, or there are a few tips to keep our oceans safe you can implement today. The Smithsonian offers some sound advice:
- Educate yourself on how the ocean functions and how your actions impact it.
- Keep an eye on how you use your water, which can eventually run off into the ocean, even if you live nowhere near it. Eventually water makes its way via the Mississippi and other large waterways. “Because of run-off from farms and fields, the Gulf now experiences large annual dead zones, or areas with so little oxygen that sea life cannot survive there,” the Smithsonian states.
- This all translates into keeping an eye on your pesticides, cleaning solutions and detergents. Keep it natural, non-toxic and low in phosphates.
- Pick up your trash and find ways to go low or no waste.
- Watch your carbon footprint in general. Remember, carbon is what leads to ocean acidification, so try to lean towards clean energies and use a bike once in a while.
- Look for seafood that has been fished sustainably. There are some guides here.
The good news is people are becoming more aware of the environment, and by association the oceans, through sustainable and green living movements. When it comes to the oceans, these movements are vital. We’re talking about a body of water that may cure cancer one day.