In his book Pale Blue Dot, legendary scientist Carl Sagan talked about humans' responsibility to "preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known." Sagan's description of Earth is nothing short of inspirational, but if scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are correct in their findings, the dot won't be pale blue much longer.
The researchers found that climate change is significantly impacting phytoplankton—microscopic algae at the bottom of the aquatic food chain. While water molecules in the ocean don't absorb the blue spectrum of sunlight—reflecting it back and creating the appearance of a blue ocean instead—phytoplankton reflect green light, endowing phytoplankton-heavy areas with greener hues than other regions.
Fish and other seafood species are associated with various regions or nations. Icelandic cod, Alaskan salmon, Louisiana crawfish, Nile tilapia, Auckland oysters—specific species have unique habitat requirements. Water quality, temperatures and conditions all affect the types of fish that can thrive in an area. However, all around the world, conditions are changing. As the world’s oceans warm, historic fisheries are relocating. Countries that counted on finding adequate stocks of a specific species in their patch of the ocean are suddenly finding their fisheries are collapsing. As fish populations relocate, fishing operations are following them—sometimes into territories controlled by other nations.
One example: Within the last 10 years, Atlantic mackerel, one of the UK’s chief exports, relocated to cooler waters near Iceland. The resulting unsustainable fishing, trade embargoes, and boat blockades created tensions between the previously friendly countries and helped lead Iceland to drop its bid to join the EU.
If you aren’t lucky enough to live near the ocean, a lake or a river, science suggests you should consider booking your next vacation next to some clear, blue body of water. Specific benefits from looking at the ocean—from breathing coastal air and even walking in the sand—could explain Hawaii’s rank as the happiest and healthiest state in America in Gallup’s latest Healthways Well-Being Index.
Health Benefits of Being in Proximity to Water
Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, a marine biologist, wrote the bestselling Blue Mind to explore the benefits of spending time near bodies of water. He told Second Nexus the research stems from all branches of the sciences. He also indicated there are studies about water’s positive effect on people with PTSD, high-level anxiety and addiction.
Scientists have acknowledged what parents of young children have known for decades: glitter is an environmental hazard.
If glitter seems to live on for years after a single ill-considered craft project, it’s not your imagination: Modern glitter made from foil and plastics not only sticks to everything due to static electricity, it does not disintegrate and eventually ends up in the world’s oceans.
The world’s oceans are vast, yet humans have disrupted nearly every form of life there — even the lowly oyster. Scientists in France have discovered that oysters respond to sound, and noisy human activity in the ocean is disrupting their natural behavior.
In a study of 32 oysters removed from the ocean environment, scientists were able to determine that oysters responded to sounds between 10 and 1,000 hertz. (The typical range of hearing for a human is between 10 and 20,000 hertz.) While oysters don’t hear as well as we do, they do react to sounds, and typically close their valves when they are stressed or threatened. Oysters don’t have “ears,” but they perceive sounds as vibrations, using an organ called the statocyst, which is present in some aquatic invertebrates.
A Norwegian billionaire who made his fortune in the oil and gas industry plans to dedicate his money to help clean up the massive amount of plastic that is polluting global waters. Kjell Inge Roekke owns controlling shares in the Norwegian offshore fishing, construction, and engineering company Aker ASA, as well as an oil business, and has vowed to give away much of his fortune. He plans to fund a research vessel that will study ocean pollution and clean it up. The ship, which will take three years to build, will include storage for 120 tons of waste, which is will periodically bring back to land for disposal, and an onboard incinerator that will destroy of up to five tons of plastic waste a day.
Researchers have recently discovered extreme amounts of pollution in the remote, extraordinarily deep Mariana Trench in the Western Pacific Ocean, which is approximately 11,000 meters deep. Though trenches have long been considered pristine due to their remote locations and topography, they also can act as sinks for contaminants that enter the marine environment, collecting pollutants, which have nowhere to go, and which infiltrate the marine creatures living there.