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World Oceans Day: Healthy Oceans = Healthy Planet
June 8 marks World Oceans Day, but what if we celebrated oceans every day? Covering more than 70 percent of Earth's surface, oceans, more than anything, define our small blue planet. We should celebrate their complex and vibrant ecosystems, life-sustaining services, calming effects and unimaginable diversity, much of which we have not yet even discovered.
Summer is an especially rich time for ocean life. As days grow longer here in the northern hemisphere, abundance builds from the microscopic level as photosynthesis triggers phytoplankton to bloom, providing food for zooplankton such as krill. Krill then feed small fish like herring and sand lance, which in turn feed larger fish, dolphins and whales. This marine food web relies on a scale of unfathomable interconnectedness—yet it's easily disrupted.
Climate change, overfishing, pollution, industrial activity, shipping and events like El Niño are putting oceans under stress like never before. Sea levels are rising, fish migrating, oceans acidifying, coral reefs bleaching and phytoplankton disappearing and populations of iconic marine mammals like killer whales are plummeting.
The news for oceans hasn't been good lately and that worries Canadians. It's not just coastal communities that are defined and affected by oceans. Canada has the longest coastline in the world and people throughout Canada want the seas and all the marine life they support, to be healthy.
Fortunately, solutions to many ocean woes are within our grasp, although governments have been frustratingly slow to act over the past decade. Canada could protect marine areas, restore protective laws, conserve wild salmon and control open net-pen fish farms.
Our country's commitment to protect 10 percent of its marine environment by 2020 is a good start, but if we followed countries like Australia and the U.S, we'd aim higher. Canada could act to transform its reputation from laggard to leader on marine protection, plan for ocean management with an understanding of how ecosystems work and incorporate traditional Indigenous knowledge to give wildlife a chance to thrive.
Pacific salmon, crucial to West Coast ecosystems, are especially in need of protection, but their numbers continue to decline. Few natural events are as dramatic and moving as millions of salmon returning from the oceans to spawn in streams, rivers and lakes. Driven by the imperative to reach spawning beds before their genetically programmed deaths, salmon fight past predators, hooks, nets and pollution, retaining the power to leap river barriers shortly before their lives end. Bears, eagles and other wildlife feed on the salmon, leaving their nitrogen-rich wastes to fertilize the magnificent coastal rainforests.
For almost 40 years, Canadian laws protected fish such as salmon and the water bodies where they live and spawn. The Fisheries Act was one legal tool to protect lakes and rivers, which offer benefits such as clean drinking water to nearby communities. But the federal government removed habitat protections from the act in 2012. Fish that aren't part of a defined, often commercial, fishery will remain vulnerable until protection is reinstated.
We still have much to learn about wild salmon, but we can take some practical steps to support them. A lot of time and money, about $37 million, was spent on one of the most comprehensive reviews of Pacific salmon management ever undertaken. It's been four years since BC Supreme Court Justice Bruce Cohen completed his Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River, yet few of his recommendations have been implemented. Fish biologists say that Canada's Wild Salmon Policy, adopted in 2005, also offers good management measures, but it isn't being followed either.
Salmon face other threats. Concerns over disease spread from salmon farms to wild salmon were heightened recently with the discovery of a new pathogen in farmed salmon. The virus connected to this disease plagues Norway's farmed salmon and is now common in penned Atlantic salmon and wild fish near BC fish farms.
Salmon are often indicators of the overall health of the ecosystems in which they live. When marine ecosystems are healthy, they provide food, jobs, recreation and culture. They are foundational life forces for whales, bears, eagles, forests and humans. We should celebrate their life-giving capacity by treating them with respect—not just on World Oceans Day, but every day!
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This is a victory more than a decade in the making. PETA and our international affiliates have crashed Prada's catwalks with anti-fur signs, held eye-catching demonstrations all around the world, and sent the company loads of information about the fur industry. In 2018, actor and animal rights advocate Pamela Anderson sent a letter on PETA's behalf urging Miuccia Prada to commit to leaving fur out of all future collections, and the iconic designer has finally listened.
If people in three European countries want to fight the climate crisis, they need to chill out more.
"The rapid pace of labour-saving technology brings into focus the possibility of a shorter working week for all, if deployed properly," Autonomy Director Will Stronge said, The Guardian reported. "However, while automation shows that less work is technically possible, the urgent pressures on the environment and on our available carbon budget show that reducing the working week is in fact necessary."
The report found that if the economies of Germany, Sweden and the UK maintain their current levels of carbon intensity and productivity, they would need to switch to a six, 12 and nine hour work week respectively if they wanted keep the rise in global temperatures to the below two degrees Celsius promised by the Paris agreement, The Independent reported.
The study based its conclusions on data from the UN and the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) on greenhouse gas emissions per industry in all three countries.
The report comes as the group Momentum called on the UK's Labour Party to endorse a four-day work week.
"We welcome this attempt by Autonomy to grapple with the very real changes society will need to make in order to live within the limits of the planet," Emma Williams of the Four Day Week campaign said in a statement reported by The Independent. "In addition to improved well-being, enhanced gender equality and increased productivity, addressing climate change is another compelling reason we should all be working less."
Supporters of the idea linked it to calls in the U.S. and Europe for a Green New Deal that would decarbonize the economy while promoting equality and well-being.
"This new paper from Autonomy is a thought experiment that should give policymakers, activists and campaigners more ballast to make the case that a Green New Deal is absolutely necessary," Common Wealth think tank Director Mat Lawrence told The Independent. "The link between working time and GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions has been proved by a number of studies. Using OECD data and relating it to our carbon budget, Autonomy have taken the step to show what that link means in terms of our working weeks."
Stronge also linked his report to calls for a Green New Deal.
"Becoming a green, sustainable society will require a number of strategies – a shorter working week being just one of them," he said, according to The Guardian. "This paper and the other nascent research in the field should give us plenty of food for thought when we consider how urgent a Green New Deal is and what it should look like."
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- Needed: A shorter work week – People's World ›