How is climate change affecting our oceans and how can we act?
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
In the Soapbox Project membership community, we had a speaker come chat with us from the Marine Conservation Institute. Russell, who joined us for a fireside chat, gave a mind-boggling presentation that reminded us how little we think about the ocean when we have climate change conversations. He said “it should really be called Planet Ocean, not Earth". One main issue on Planet Ocean is ocean acidification and it's important to learn what's going on under the sea.
Here’s what we’ll cover step-by-step:
We have to internalize that the ocean matters; we have to think about it when we talk about how our climate is changing. Let's dive deep into the trenches!
🎯 Action step 1 of 4: READ — Let's start by looking at a few articles together.
The bottom line—as climate change gets worse, so does ocean health. This is a massive problem, since most of our planet is… the ocean. Most of the information below is pulled from this NASA Kids article. We chose this because everything else was honestly too overwhelming. So, read the article and share it with your kids!
We can start discussing ocean acidification by answering four key questions.
1) What is ocean acidification?
Ocean acidification is a change in the properties of ocean water that can be harmful for plants and animals. Scientists have observed that the ocean is becoming more acidic as its water absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
2) How exactly is the ocean’s acidity changing?
Think back to high school chemistry — we learned that water had a neutral pH of 7. Ocean water has a pH of 8, which means it’s slightly basic. However, over the past 100-200 years, it’s become 30% more acidic. Yeesh.
3) Why does this matter?
Lots of reasons, but here’s a sad one: some animals like oysters and clams are having a hard time makings/keeping their shells because their home is literally damaging!
4) What does climate change have to do with it?
First of all, ~25% of CO2 emissions are absorbed by the ocean. That’s a FOURTH of everything we emit! According to the NASA kids article, “Extra carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere is absorbed by the top layer of the ocean. When carbon dioxide absorbs into water, it makes the water more acidic.”
If climate change is worsening our planet, how does our human impact play a role?
🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 1 of 4: READ.
🎯 Action step 2 of 4: LISTEN — we'll watch a short video or listen to a podcast to further expand on our topic.
Dr. Katherine Hayhoe, a phenomenal climate communicator and author of the recent book Saving Us, breaks down what exactly we're doing to the ocean through our industrial, global warming-causing activities. The 8-minute video is worth the watch, and a few takeaways are summarized below.
Here's what you'll learn:
It's time we channel our anger/sadness/despair into action.
🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 2 of 4: LISTEN.
🎯 Action step 3 of 4: ACT — Now it's time to do something. Let's go!
Now that we learned about how climate change is destroying oceans and causing shellfish's shells to actually dissolve around them, it's time to use this sadness/anger and convert it into actions that bring us joy.
1. Go hang out with water!
If you do nothing else on this list, go to the ocean. Or the lake. Or watch the Nautilus livestream. Or pick one of many live cameras from this aquarium. The biggest thing that’s going to keep us in this fight for a better world is loving and appreciating where we live. So, take some time for yourself and the people you love, and hang out in a water-related place you love!
2. Donate to the Marine Conservation Institute.
The Marine Conservation Institute does some really excellent work on an international level. At Soapbox Project, we always suggest local action,but in this case, we need countries around the world making large-scale change to protect at least 30% of the ocean. Learn more about their goals and donate!
3. Volunteer with the Surfrider Foundation.
The Surfrider Foundation is a global nonprofit that looks for volunteers from all walks of life, so this is a great place to think about how you can offer your skills for a good cause. They focus on plastic reduction, ocean protection, beach access, coastal preservation, and clean water — plus they have a powerful activist network that you can join as a volunteer. You can find a local chapter here.
4. Take a free Trash Academy / La Academia de Basura course
This free course series from 5 Gyres has English and Spanish episodes on the plastic waste crisis, which is a major source of ocean pollution. Each episode is <10 minutes long. Sorry Duolingo, but you’re taking a backseat for a bit.
5. Eat only sustainably fished seafood.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch is an incredible resource to improve the seafood industry. Your choices have an impact on the health of the ocean, and Seafood Watch has tools for business, consumer guides, and a bunch of 💯 educational content.
These are a lot of actions, but remember that the most important thing is doing the thing that works best for you swimmingly!
🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 3 of 4: ACT.
Before we go any further, it's time for you to pledge your commitment. It takes less than 30 seconds to pledge and we can bother you about it in a friendly way, so we can hold each other accountable. Pledge here!
🎯 Action step 4 of 4: REFLECT — what can you commit to? What fresh perspectives can we look at?
Food is central to our lives and it impacts the livelihood of our oceans. Seafood Watch is basically a portal for all things sustainable seafood. It’s SO fascinating, even for us, a team of a non-meat/seafood eater. We've spent hours on it already.
Here are three key things we're learning that are relevant as we reflect on our ocean-related habits. One member, Jamie, asked if anything we’re doing is actually making a difference to something as vast as the ocean, and our my opinion, the push for sustainable seafood is one of the big things we CAN do as individuals.
1. Seafood is a BIG part of climate solutions.
”Solving” climate change isn’t as simple as everyone going vegan. Yes, I absolutely do think we should cut down our meat and dairy (specifically all things cow-related), but we have to remember that the harms done by meat are generally because of the factory farming system. Similarly, seafood comprises a big, complex system — according to the UN, seafood feeds 3 billion people and employs ~60 million!
2. A growing population poses big challenges.
You might know the human population is growing. We have to keep up. Unfortunately, wild fish populations are declining due to overfishing. So what do we do? Well, we can farm fish (aka aquaculture), and around half the seafood we eat is farmed, BUT… the seafood industry is a hot mess. There’s a lot of irresponsibility being passed around, with affects like worsening pollution, causing human rights abuses, and more.
3. Does sustainable seafood exist? It depends.
Sustainable solutions have to be examined holistically. Seafood Watch provides three pillars to sustainability: environmental protection, social responsibility, and economic viability. They’ve included more info on each, including some super helpful tips for consumers!
If you have an extra half hour this week and you’re a seafood eater (or your friends/family are), take some time to peruse Seafood Watch. I love how easily they’ve laid out all the info with facts, case studies, tips, and even ways businesses can get involved.
The ocean is what makes our planet thrive! We hope this helps you dive deeper into the trenches of this issue and learn how we can care about our blue planet together.
🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 4 of 4: REFLECT.
Check out our membership community for more resources like free weekly events with social justice experts, sustainable product discounts, pre-written email templates, a social impact job board, and in-person hangouts with new friends. Thanks for taking action with Soapbox Project!
Get our free bite-sized climate action plans before you go!