The Meandering Social Worker

wandering : wondering : learning

Sea Sick

In her book ‘Seasick’ Alana Mitchel opens with a statement that if all life on land were to vanish oceanic life would continue, but if the oceans cannot sustain life then life on land will also end.  In a manner accessible to the layperson, Mitchel goes on to present some pretty compelling scientific evidence that our seas are pretty sick at present:

Since the end of world war two there have appeared ‘dead zones’ in our oceans, areas of water where there is no oxygen and, consequently, no fish.  The number of these zones have doubled every decade since 1960 and are currently running at over 400.

The alkaline levels of the sea have been reducing back towards neutral PH – the figures don’t sound huge but many creatures could not survive in neutral PH or acidic waters and no-one quite knows yet the point at which the sea will become uninhabitable.

Much of the carbon dioxide mankind has emitted into the air has been absorbed by marine life and is now trapped at the bottom of the oceans.  Unlike the ozone hole (now patched) this is a less visible effect of carbon emissions.  Scientists believe the seas cannot absorb much more carbon dioxide.

Many species of fish have been over fished for human consumption and are now nearing extinction.  Coral reefs, the lifeblood and nurseries of the oceans, are dying.

Changes are happening much more quickly than scientists previously believed.  Predictions are coming true sooner than expected.  The pace of change is speeding up.  Ocean scientists have a very real concern that there could be a ‘tipping point’.  A point at which, rather than seeing continued deterioration, change becomes abrupt, a point of no turning back, a point at which, to all intents and purposes, the seas cease to be able to support marine life.

Mitchel ends with a note of hope – if we can only listen to the evidence and take action.  Whether mankind can do that in time, only time will tell.

As I read this, the following comes to mind.

“Only after the last tree has been cut down, only after the last river has been poisoned, only after the last fish has been caught, only then will you find money cannot be eaten.” attributed Cree Indian prophecy.

Compare this to the development of Green Social Work (book review to follow).


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