Be a Friend to Water
Halting degradation will require global effort
Water is life. Without it, we would quickly perish. Given water resource’s critical importance to our well-being and that of the planet, you would expect mankind to take good care of it.
Instead, we have all seen the degradation of our rivers, lakes and oceans. The list of abuses against water is long and their impacts devastating. Plastic covers hundreds of square miles of ocean surface. Red tides kill sea life. Blue-green algae clogs waterways. Coral reefs suffer due to climate change. Fish populations are overharvested. Sharks die lingering deaths after being finned for soup. Industrial pollution compromises water quality.
It’s enough to make you freak out. Or is it?
In recent months, the documentary Seaspiracy has risen into the Top 10 on Netflix, and as depressing as that movie is, it barely dives below the surface in dealing with the environmental consequences of human activity. Scientists are now concerned with relatively new and insidious threats such as ocean acidification and stony coral tissue disease.
The oceans are literally becoming more acidic because they act like a massive sponge and absorb a third of the carbon dioxide that is pumped into the earth’s atmosphere. Combining salt water and carbon dioxide creates carbonic acid, which increases acidity and reduces the pH of seawater. A more acidic ocean inhibits the growth of calcium-based organisms like coral reefs and the shellfish we love to eat.
Stoney coral tissue disease is resulting in a massive dying off of reefs, and experts are uncertain how to stop its spread. As more reefs die and as the oceans become more acidic, they lose their effectiveness in absorbing carbon dioxide, kind of like that air filter in your HVAC system that you haven’t changed in three years.
Thankfully, a growing number of nonprofit organizations and environmental agencies are fighting every day to protect and preserve water. Literally hundreds of grassroots groups are advocating for local waterways and our planet. We can all be part of the solution by volunteering time or donating cash to their initiatives.
I have come to know well the work of the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation (GHOF), which was founded by conservationist, fisherman, artist and marine biologist, Dr. Guy Harvey.
During his more than 30-year career, Harvey has generated millions of dollars through his art and apparel sales. Instead of acquiring the shiniest yacht or most ostentatious mansion, Harvey has chosen to fund marine science research and conservation projects. He’s helped save sharks from being wiped out in the Bahamas. The GHOF has spearheaded multiple legislative bills to keep our fisheries sustainable and our waterways clean. Plus, the GHOF has funded dozens of scholarships for students pursuing careers in marine fields.
In the past two years, Harvey and the GHOF have added a new strategy to their marine conservation tackle box: education.
“Our goal is to inspire students to be leaders in conservation,” Harvey has said. “While my generation continues to fight to protect our oceans, we also want to give upcoming generations the tools they will need to develop new and innovative solutions.”
Through partnerships with Discovery Education, Ocean First Education, the Florida Virtual School and numerous other leading learning organizations, the GHOF has developed a marine science course, an environmental science course and K-12 curriculum about sharks — all available free to students in Florida and across the globe.
“The entire GHOF culture is dedicated to growing our educational offerings. We’re also teaming with other conservation organizations to get their message out as well,” Harvey said. “Just like conservation, education is a long-term process.”
Among many issues facing our planet, the need to conserve, protect and preserve water has risen to the top of a long list. Achieving a sustainable water planet will be a taxing battle, but our lives literally depend on it.
Fred Garth is the editor of Guy Harvey Magazine.