On June 8, We Celebrate Our Oceans, Our Future
By Sarah Chasis
June 8 is World Oceans Day, dedicated to celebrating our beautiful, mysterious, and life-giving oceans.
As our oceans make up more than 70 percent of the earth's surface, their health drives the future of our planet. Oceans give us every other breath we take, provide a critical source of protein and a way of life for billions of people, contribute trillions of dollars to the world economy, and are home to 50 percent to 80 percent of this planet's life.
They are also time-honored places to escape the stresses of everyday life. To play with our families under the warm sun, beside the crashing waves. To wonder at the horizon and imagine the varied sea creatures swimming deep below the waves. Our oceans are cause for celebration, even when it may be difficult to celebrate.
This year has been one of bombshell environmental reports. Decades of gloomy climate change predictions couldn't prepare us for the latest IPCC report's screeching siren. We've disrupted the planet's climate through our fossil fuel addiction and only by slashing carbon emissions immediately do we have a shot of avoiding catastrophic effects — more superstorms, more drought, more extinction, more lives lost.
Last month's U.N. biodiversity report didn't offer up any silver linings, with the news that up to a million species are at risk of extinction, many within decades, because of human activity. Climate change wasn't even a leading cause of extinctions — habitat loss and overfishing edge out climate impacts … for now.
It's a harsh message — decades of chronic overfishing, pollution and habitat destruction have stripped our seas of much of their diversity and abundance. Industrial and military ocean noise is on the rise, upsetting the ocean's delicate acoustic habitat and challenging the ability of marine wildlife to mate, find food, migrate, and, ultimately, survive. Carbon dioxide emissions have made oceans more acidic, which makes it harder for shell-building organisms like oysters and scallops to grow their protective coverings and survive, and climate change's warmer waters bring coral bleaching, mass marine wildlife migrations, an increase in dead zones and deoxygenation as we suffocate marine life. Unless we act, ocean ecosystems will continue to deteriorate or, in some cases, collapse entirely, and the consequences will reverberate through human society.
It's more than a bit scary and uncomfortable to think about.
But we can imagine another, better future where we protect nature — and, in turn, nature protects us. If we act now we can slow, stop, and reverse biodiversity loss. And healthy oceans will help buffer against climate change. There are solutions — they're tried and true. We must cut carbon emissions, protect significant areas of land and ocean and eliminate unsustainable fishing practices.
We know change is possible because we are making it happen. NRDC is securing protections for our oceans and the life it supports. Day after day, we'll keep fighting to protect whales, sharks and other endangered sea life, to secure our ocean sanctuaries, to fight harmful offshore drilling and stop overfishing.
Watch this short film of just some of this year's victories:
Just like our amazing blue world, these achievements are worth celebrating.
And help us fight for our oceans' health. We can do this, together.
What if We Treated Our Oceans as if They Matter? https://t.co/5QV5EPP5Vt— The YEARS Project (@YEARSofLIVING) April 14, 2019
Sarah Chasis is senior director of the Oceans Division, Nature Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
Green groups applauded Sen. Jeff Merkley on Wednesday for introducing a pioneering pair of bills that aim to "protect the long-term health and well-being of the American people and their economy from the catastrophic effects of climate chaos" by preventing banks and international financial institutions from financing fossil fuels.