The Ocean Is Dying But You — Yes, You — Can Make A Change

The Ocean Is Dying But You — Yes, You — Can Make A Change

Stop saying "oh, that sucks" and start making a change, it's time to step up.

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There is an island in the Pacific. It has beautiful white sand beaches, its a sanctuary for marine life, and it is littered with the highest concentration of garbage anywhere on the planet. This is a direct result of mismanaged waste, and it is something that should concern you even from thousands of miles away. This isn't just an issue on Henderson Island, though. Rivers, lakes, and coastlines worldwide are covered in a layer of human pollution. I know what you're thinking; yes you probably are trying. Not using plastic straws and recycling your boxes really does make a difference.

But the bigger picture extends far beyond individual people and the efforts to be green we are all taking. Everyone has seen the devastating photos of oil spills and trash stuck in marine animals noses. Everyone has seen the "our planet is dying" tweets and scrolled past them. This Earth Day, let's do something good. Let's say "yes" to helping our planet. Let's be the advocates for change and protection of our oceans. Let's make a difference.

It's time to step up and make a change

Everyone loves the idea of heading down to nice sunny Florida and spending spring break soaking up the rays on the shore, but soon that won't be an option anymore. Those beautiful, pristine white beaches we all know and love are a luxury that is soon to be a mark of the past. But there is still hope. There are so many things we can all do every day that makes a difference in the long run. Organizations like Oceana, The Monterey Bay Aquarium, and The Ocean Conservancy are all dedicated to making a difference and protecting our oceans. But you can help from wherever you are in the world.

The little things matter, and each and every one of us can be better about loving this beautiful planet we live on... because after all, it is the only one we have. So here are a few things that you can do right now to make a difference for our future.

1. Recycle

Recycling plastics is a HUGE way you can contribute to the health of the planet. Encouraging others to put their water bottles in the blue bin and not the trash is something so doable and so significant. You can also participate in programs like Terracycle to recycle more than just what your city may accept. Turns out, 75% of all waste on earth is able to be recycled, but only 30% of it is. This is, no pun intended, GROSS.

2. Stop littering

I bet you had no idea that the most littered item on earth is cigarette butts. If you smoke, not only are you slowly killing yourself, you're slowly killing marine life too. Even things like that wrapper that flew out of your pocket are contributing to the mass of garbage in the oceans. Every little bit matters, every pebble makes a wave. Making sure our garbage ends up in the correct place is really important.

3. Use sustainable seafood

If you're going to eat fish, make sure you know where it is coming from. This handy guide from the Monterey Bay Aquarium will help you decide which fish to avoid and which are okay to eat. Overfishing is a huge problem right now, so doing your part to eat abundant fish and help steer away from species destruction is super important.

4. Reduce your carbon footprint

As cliche as it sounds, reducing the impact you have on the environment helps the oceans too. Taking shorter showers, riding your bike when it's nice outside, or even carpooling to work are all great and simple ways to reduce your carbon footprint. This website has some other helpful ways to incorporate environmental care into your daily life.

5. Be a responsible pet owner

You're probably thinking "what on earth does my dog have to do with the ocean?" Well, like I mentioned earlier, overfishing is a huge issue plaguing the oceans right now, and your dog's favorite pet foods may be contributing to the issue. Check the label for fish free foods! Also, never dump cat litter anywhere other than the trash, it can find it's ways to waterways and eventually the seas. If you're thinking of starting an awesome saltwater aquarium, make sure that the fish you are stocking are not wild caught and your corals are captive raised!

6. Educate yourself

Do your research and know the issues plaguing the environment right now today. Getting this far in this list is a great start, but try clicking some of the links and asking more questions, who knows, you may find yourself becoming an ocean advocate!

7. Educate others

Let your friends and family know about the way we are influencing our world and the issues that face the oceans. After all, it is our planet to inherit and we won't be able to do that if it isn't around to provide for us. Even just encouraging your friends to use less plastic is a huge job well done.

8. Enjoy responsibly 

The next time you find yourself out in the water enjoying all the planet has for us, make sure you leave it better than you found it. Don't throw things overboard, keep an eye out for the marine life around you, and grab that plastic bottle you see floating around. Everyone can say "yes" to doing simple little things that make a difference!

9. Support companies that support the planet

There are all kinds of companies nowadays that are dedicated to providing products that will clean the beaches or support marine conservation funds. Even Adidas has launched a new line of products that partner with Parley to bring you clothing that includes plastic found along beaches and shores. Companies like 4Ocean, Guy Harvey, and Freestyle All offer products that are snazzy and also benefit the ocean. Look good, feel good am I right?

10. Do something

Every little thing makes a difference. It may seem trivial at times, but I pinky promise that if all 7 billion of us picked up just one piece of trash, it would be a huge huge impact. Don't get discouraged at the world and the length we have to go, get encouraged by the progress we have made and the amount we have learned. Most of all, this earth day and every day, take the initiative to step out of you comfort zone and say "yes" to making a small change for the better!

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Are Plastic Straws Really Killing Sea Turtles?

It's no secret that plastic isn't great for the environment, but how sensationalized is this topic actually becoming?

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When I first saw a video of a sea turtle getting a plastic drinking straw removed from its nostril, I was obviously upset like any other viewer would be. I care a lot about the environment and about animal life and it was upsetting to see that a product of human consumption and ignorant waste was destroying precious parts of our world. I wholeheartedly jumped on the bandwagon of "plastic straws kill sea turtles!!!" but only knew about the issue from this video and what I heard from people or saw on social media. The whole topic of plastic waste into the ocean remained in the back of my mind until the recent pledge of Starbucks to stop using plastic straws in stores by 2020 reminded me of the issue.

As the topic of plastics and their pollution of the environment (largely the oceans) has become so recently powerful I decided to do some research of my own. If I was going to tell people to stop using plastic straws because they were killing sea turtles, I wanted to be sure that I wasn't just repeating everything I heard from social media.

Turns out, plastic straws are hurting sea turtles and other marine life, but a lot of what I thought about plastic waste was exaggerated (at least from what I had heard from others). Sea birds are the most impacted creature by plastic straws, not sea turtles. About 1 million or more seabirds die every year from ingesting plastic straws and choking on them. In research from recent scientific studies, 80-90% of seabirds have some kind of plastic inside of their stomachs. Also, the ecological footprint that plastic straws alone leave on the planet is actually pretty small compared to food waste or fossil fuels.

However, all the buzz about sea turtles may come from the fact that globally 86% of sea turtle species are known to be affected by plastic debris. Overwhelming amounts of plastic garbage in the ocean have caused a steady decline of the leatherback sea turtle over the past several years, so much that they have been placed on the endangered species list. Plastics can hinder eating and consumption, breathing abilities, and even reproductive capabilities of all kinds of sea turtles.

So while plastic straws may not be killing sea turtles in hordes, they are killing sea birds, and plastic overall have caused huge and deadly effects to many sealife species. We have known that plastic is bad for the environment and the oceans for quite a while, given the fact that the Great Garbage Patch was discovered almost 20 years ago, so it's more than time to start caring about the problem. If we can eliminate single-use plastic straws that aren't biodegradable, we can stop using other single-use plastics and make a better effort to reduce our harmful impacts on the oceans. Individually, we can move towards small changes, which can move our society to a more sustainable and healthy place. If you are more interested in this topic, I would suggest reading about how you can make a change or looking at this article and checking out this scientific journal.

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Vinicius Amano

@viniciusamano

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The End Of The World As We Know It Might Be Closer Than We Think

Well, if we continue to put greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at our current rate, scientists predict we are currently on track to exceed 1.5C of warming between 2030 and 2052, and by 3C by the end of the century.

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Scientists in the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii have just made a very shocking discovery. It is an organization that is known for releasing daily CO2 rates in the atmosphere, made up of a group from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. On may 12th they tweeted out what the CO2 rates in the atmosphere are, and it shocked the environmental community. The .measure of CO2 in the atmosphere was found to currently be over 415 parts per million (ppm).

To put this into perspective, levels haven't been this high in the past 800,000 years... Why is this so startling? There is no end in sight.

The levels continue to rapidly rise as humans continue to advance and adapt. In March 1958 the same observatory in Hawaii recorded levels of 313ppm; a number significantly lower. Why is all of this so bad you may ask? An increase in greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere has a direct correlation with increased atmospheric temperatures. Our current CO2 levels are getting close to what they were during the mid-Pliocene epoch nearly two million years ago.

During this time the atmosphere was nearly 2-3 degrees Celsius hotter than normal, which had devastating effects on the planet. If our atmosphere were to even raise just 2 degrees Celcius life as we know it would change forever. The arctic will and its ice will melt causing devastating floods to thousands of cities, deadly heat waves and fires will become more frequent, and our livestock and animals would suffer a serious blow due to loss of land and resources. As you can see, just two degrees Celsius can cause a near doomsday-like scenario.

So... will it happen? Well, if we continue to put greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at our current rate, scientists predict we are currently on track to exceed 1.5C of warming between 2030 and 2052, and by 3C by the end of the century. This sounds terrifying, however, we as humans have the power to make a change. If the world powers join together and recognize this issue as a potentially catastrophic event, things will change. Not only that, everyone must do a better job of trying to reduce their daily CO2 emissions. It is important that we realize how serious of an issue this potentially is before we can do anything. Not just us here at Rutgers. But for us as a planet.

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