It’s World Oceans Day and time to think about what’s happening to those oceans. There are several things going on: (1) The oceans are getting warmer which is messing up the water currents that control planetary climate; (2) Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is getting absorbed by the oceans and making the water more acidic, which interferes with growing shells and exoskeletons, and (3) Plastic is everywhere, including micro-plastic debris that shuts down the metabolism of plankton and other tiny creatures.
What to do? Appeal to coastal cities to regulate plastic, and hold the companies that produce or use plastics accountable for cleaning them up. That’s a tough challenge, but dealing with carbon and other pollutants (like methane) is a far bigger challenge. The fate of our oceans depends on a rapid shift to renewable energy. The shift is happening, but not nearly fast enough to save coastal cities from rising sea waters.
This issue cannot be left to the experts; it is everybody’s business, because we all depend on the same planetary ecosystem. The ethics for oceans starts with acknowledging our moral responsibility to get involved.
Since the ocean’s problems lie outside of the oceans, in cynical energy and manufacturing policies and willful denial of the problem by political leaders, the battle for the oceans needs to go where those decisions are (or are not) taken.
To save the oceans, we need to be willing to jump out of the oceans, and into the sectors of energy and politics, the sources of the problem. This is the message of a paper I presented recently at The Hague Institute, Applying Ethics to the Challenges of Oceans Governance.