World Oceans Day: Saving Our Seas Starts With You
The world's oceans are vast and boundless, and its spectacular and innumerable diversity of sea creatures and plants may seem immune from human harm. But as U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at the United Nations conference on oceans last year, our seas and its inhabitants are "now under threat as never before."
The human footprint has pushed marine species numbers to the "brink of collapse." The constant consumption of plastics has turned our oceans into a dumping ground. And the burning of fossil fuels has fueled ocean heating, leading to dire consequences such as declining oxygen levels in the oceans, coral bleaching and sea level rise.
Today, as we celebrate World Oceans Day, EcoWatch has launched a new vertical to highlight the critical role of our oceans, to feature heroes who work tirelessly to conserve our beautiful and precious marine environments, and to inspire readers to take action to protect our seas.
"Clean water and healthy beaches are vital for our communities, coastal economies, and way of life," Pete Stauffer, the environmental director for the Surfrider Foundation told EcoWatch. "But plastic pollution, offshore oil drilling, rollbacks to federal protections, development and rising tides increasingly threaten our ocean and coasts."
"We each have a stake in taking action to ensure the places where we surf, swim, play and live are protected for this and future generations," he added.
The ocean truly is Earth's most powerful resource. It not only feeds billions of people and contributes $1.5 trillion annually in value-added to the overall economy, it provides 70 percent of the oxygen in the atmosphere.
"Do you like to breathe? Well, then you should find the ocean important too!" Emy Kane, digital strategist at Lonely Whale, noted. "Our ocean is critical to all human life—to our water supply, oxygen levels, trade networks, food systems and general wellbeing. That's why it is of the utmost importance that we care for the ocean today to protect and preserve our future."
Protecting our oceans starts with you, because our lawmakers might not be as focused on this particular issue. A recent AidData survey of 3,500 leaders in developing countries revealed that of the United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development Goals, marine conservation ranked at the bottom of their priorities.
"The oceans are so important because of their tremendous potential—something that is unfortunately being overlooked by too many world leaders," Oceana CEO Andy Sharpless told us. "A healthy ocean, responsibly managed, could feed more than a billion people a day, and do so in a way that is truly sustainable. Wild fish can be a source of vital nutrition for the future inhabitants of our planet."
Sharpless continued, "the reason that I believe in this vision so passionately is that it's a win-win proposition. The same policies that help wild fish populations thrive—ending overfishing, protecting habitat, and stopping pollution—also protect the amazing biodiversity and stunning marine life that inspire us all."
To mark World Oceans Day, Oceana released a video titled 5 Surprising Benefits of Healthy Oceans.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to keep our oceans healthy. For instance, say no to plastic straws at restaurants and bars, or bring your own reusable bag to the supermarket.
"Eight million tons of plastic pollution enter our oceans every year, harming sea life and breaking apart over time into toxic microplastics," Emily DiFrisco, director of communications, Plastic Pollution Coalition, told us.
You can also volunteer at a beach cleanup, pressure your local lawmakers and government to take action, and spread the word to your friends and family.
DiFrisco added, "On World Oceans Day, we challenge everyone everywhere to speak up for the ocean and join the virtual March for the Ocean wherever you live and the physical march in Washington DC on June 9."
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By Ilana Cohen
Four years ago, Jacob Abel cast his first presidential vote for Donald Trump. As a young conservative from Concord, North Carolina, the choice felt natural.
But this November, he plans to cast a "protest vote" for a write-in candidate or abstain from casting a ballot for president. A determining factor in his 180-degree turn? Climate change.
Fractures Among Young Climate Conservatives<p>While young conservatives have united around the urgency of climate change, they remain divided over how to bring their concerns to the ballot box. Some embrace right-wing <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-attacks-republican-convention/2020/08/24/434e5b46-e66d-11ea-970a-64c73a1c2392_story.html" target="_blank">attacks</a> painting Biden as a "tool of the left" and find his climate agenda "radical." Others can't find a way to justify voting for Trump, even if it means breaking with their party.</p><p>Patrick Mann from Orange County, California, voted for Trump in 2016. But today, he's leading Aggies for Joe at Texas A&M University and is co-founder of Texas Students for Biden. </p><p>Mann grew up watching wildfires ravage his home state, nearly forcing his family to evacuate in 2017. The GOP is failing to "meet the moment" for climate action, Mann said. He's hoping Biden will deliver on a promise to "<a href="https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/caucus/2020/01/06/joe-biden-democrat-president-iowa-caucus-restore-soul-our-nation/2806422001/" target="_blank">restore the soul of our nation</a>." </p><p>Taylor Walker from Pensacola, Florida, is also determined to make her voice heard on climate, including by casting her first-ever vote for president—but not for Biden.</p>
A False Equivalency<p>Young climate conservatives may fear climate denial and delayed climate action, but more than that, they fear the growing political momentum around the Green New Deal, the massive spending it entails and <a href="https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/" target="_blank">Biden's citing of it</a> as a "crucial framing for meeting the climate challenges we face."</p><p>Many don't want to split with their party to support a Democrat whose <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/09/03/757220130/joe-biden-on-bipartisanship-gun-control-and-regrets-over-inaction-after-a-traged" target="_blank">allegedly bipartisan intentions</a> they doubt. If stymieing what they consider a radical green agenda means re-electing a climate change denying president, so be it. </p><p>"I'm scared of climate change, but I'm also scared of the Green New Deal and what it means for America," said Ben Mutolo, a republicEN spokesperson and junior at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. </p><p>Mutolo felt encouraged by former Ohio Governor John Kasich's <a href="https://www.rollcall.com/2020/08/17/kasich-speech-to-democratic-convention-follows-years-of-building-conservative-credentials/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">appearance</a> at the Democratic National Convention, but he still struggles to see himself voting for Biden. Though the candidate paints himself as a <a href="https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-08-12/harris-biden-different-generation-similar-political-instinct" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">centrist,</a> Mutolo believes he's "cozying up to the ultra-progressive left." </p><p>Mutolo, who wants to see market-based climate solutions like a carbon tax, feels torn between a candidate whose climate plan relies on taking an "<a href="https://joebiden.com/environmental-justice-plan/#" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">All-of-Government approach</a>," and one with no efforts to reign in global warming at all. <span></span></p><p>Leiserowitz said he appreciated how a conservative might feel Biden's climate plan "doesn't jive with their limited government, free-market approach."</p><p>But he sees a strong distinction between voting for a presidential candidate with a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/14/us/politics/biden-climate-plan.html" target="_blank">$2 trillion climate plan</a> that includes large renewable energy investments, which have <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/politics-global-warming-april-2020/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bipartisan support</a>, and a candidate trying "to take the country in the opposite direction, towards more fossil fuels."</p>
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In the face of dangerous heat waves this summer, Americans have taken shelter in air conditioned cooling centers. Normally, that would be a wise choice, but during a pandemic, indoor shelters present new risks. The same air conditioning systems that keep us cool recirculate air around us, potentially spreading the coronavirus.