The sad reality of the world today is that the oceans are in trouble. Unless we change our behavior the oceans will reach a point where they can’t be rescued. They will die and as a result, all life on Earth will die too. We need the oceans to survive. 100 million marine animals die every year from plastic waste. If this is not a clear alarm bell ringing to the entire population then there will likely never be one loud enough to be heard. The largest garbage site in the world isn’t actually on land, it is in the ocean. The great pacific garbage patch covers twice the surface area of Texas. Does this mean all hope is lost and the world is doomed?
There are two ways we can save our world and the honest answer is that we will need both to have a chance of turning the tide. The first thing we need to do is stop our plastic behavior. We use too much plastic every day and it has to stop. Consider in a typical day how much plastic you use. Whether it is fruit and veg bags at a grocery store (hopefully they have been replaced), meat plastic containers, or packaging. While plastic does play a useful role in many situations there are always alternatives available. The majority of manufacturers don’t use the alternatives because it will increase the cost of production and they believe hurt competition. If we as consumers start to purchase the goods that are packaged with some sense of responsibility this is the best signal to businesses that this is something they must address.
Of course, the conscious consumer is always a minority and if we need to change the world we can’t simply change the minority. To change the majority we require government intervention. While governments have done some positive steps around the world to stop the use of plastic they have not done enough. More must be done to introduce alternative packaging methods and if done correctly it could actually provide an economic opportunity, not a cost.
The second way we must solve the ocean’s issues is through innovation. We need to find new ways to solve the ocean’s problems. We have done so much damage already that simply changing our behavior likely won’t be enough. We need something that will reverse the damage that has been done already. Thankfully there are many innovations taking place and many leading scientists are introducing new ideas to solve the plight that is affecting the ocean.
One of my favorite solutions was only recently discovered from the mussel. A group of scientists were looking at mussel shells in the hopes of finding a material that could be used to defrost roads in winter. Instead, they found a calcium carbonate component that acts like a sponge. The material can absorb ten times its mass of liquid forms. The potential uses for this compound are extraordinary. If we allow our imagination to run a little, as we are still at an early stage, this compound could be used to help soak up oil spills or combat flooding if used on a large scale.
The real problem is that for too long we have spoken about what needs to be done and how “now is the time for change” yet people still don’t seem to have an appetite to change. While the minority is growing a little and the percentage of conscious consumers is increasing, it is not enough. We need public policy to step in where the mass population fails to see the big picture. This is one of those occasions and if we are not careful the opportunity will be gone soon.