One of the main questions that this course discusses is do we have a sustainable relationship with nature? If we do not, can we? In this essay, I will be discussing and providing an answer to that question using information from the material assigned throughout the course and from reliable scholarly databases provided by the University. The topic I chose to research for the writing of my papers in this course was Ocean Acidification. I have selected 20 articles from scholarly databases to help me answer this question.
From the standpoint of my research on ocean acidification, we do not have a sustainable relationship with nature. Rising levels of Carbon dioxide (CO2), mainly from the use of fossil fuels, get absorbed by the ocean and changes the PH levels, which in turn causes a whole shift in seawater carbonate chemistry. This acidification process has been well documented in data from the field and will continue to rise during the century if nothing is done to drastically curb carbon emissions.
The alteration of seawater carbonate chemistry rases the depth at which calcium carbonate dissolves in the seawater, negatively impacting the many species of marine animals that need it to build their shells. Other impacts of acidification on marine life are not yet well known and are subject to further scientific investigation.
The acidification of the oceans also may have a significant socioeconomic impact on shellfish fisheries around the globe. Seafood is a critical dietary component for many people around the globe and a highly traded commodity. Therefore, changes in production could significantly impact many communities across the globe. Several studies are being conducted both on a national and international level on how ocean acidification will impact fisheries.
They have predicted that revenues will drop in areas where shellfish fisheries are more important than other fisheries. In Canada, provinces on the Atlantic coast rely heavily on employment from natural resources such as fisheries. There, shellfish make up an increasingly important component of fisheries. Ocean acidification driven changes in fisheries might affect the livelihood of those who live in these communities.
In the U.S., Dr. Brenda Ekwurzel brought her work on ocean acidification to the Maine Fisherman’s Forum. The forum is a three-day event for fishermen, academics, government agencies, and anyone else interested in Maine’s fishing industry. At the forum, she shares her research on how fossil fuel companies are contributing a significant amount to ocean acidification. The reasoning behind her research is that the companies that are most responsible for ocean acidification should be the ones responsible for paying for the costs of dealing with it.
It should not be the responsibility of the people and industries, in Maine and in other places around the world, who rely on a clean ocean for their livelihood, to pay the costs of dealing with the problem. Like in Canada, Ekwurzel and her team’s research includes some quantification of risk to lives and livelihoods in places that will be most affected by ocean acidification. This quantification includes how many jobs will be lost in these areas as well as the changes to the water PH.
The rise in ocean acidity may also lead to one of the ocean’s biggest food sources, marine zooplankton, having a more difficult time building shells. Zooplankton are microscopic, shelled organisms that make up a large portion of the diet of many larger marine animals. Researchers Andrew D. Moy and William R. Howard of the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems cooperative research center in Tasmania found that the shells of one type of plankton, foraminifera, were lighter than the shells of a sample of the same species in core samples taken from the ocean floor.
The core samples predated the industrial era, and it was found that the modern shells were significantly lighter than older shells of the same size. Another study of live plankton found that there was a high mortality rate for larvae in acidified waters. This study also found that the plankton in acidified waters had higher rates of shell malformation and slower growth, leading to more fragile shells. The loss of plankton species due to ocean acidification could have severely detrimental effects on the marine ecosystem since many animals depend on them as a source of food going all the way up the food chain to larger predatory animals.
Ocean acidification has a largely negative effect on shellfish and other invertebrate animals that build shells. One study showed that the increase in PH level in the water increased the mortality of both red and blue king crabs and decreased their rate of growth. Both species of crabs consumed more oxygen in waters with a higher PH level. In other species of crabs, increased acidification levels may impair the crab’s ability to handle and consume prey. Coral reefs as well suffer under the increased PH levels of the water. Coral reefs were one of the first organisms and ecosystems to be recognized as vulnerable to ocean acidification.
Most scientific studies that were done on corals so far, most have been focused on the corals’ unique ability to create large calcium carbonate skeletons, the foundation on which the reefs are built. The decreased rate of calcification will decrease their likelihood of being able to bounce back after large storms and protect coastlines by acting as a buffer from said storms. The decrease in calcification will also affect the building of reefs and the whole ecosystem that depends on the reefs for survival. On top of this, corals also face other threats from the rise in the temperature of the oceans as well as pollution.
Ocean acidification may also have an impact on other animals besides shellfish. Tropical reef biologist Philip Mundey reported at a symposium held Monterey CA that fish in higher CO2 levels exhibit impaired behaviors and take bigger risks, and in some cases, were attracted to predators. He hypothesized that the higher acidity of the water disrupted the function of neurotransmitters in the brain. His studies have identified this problem in two species of fish, but it is unknown if it affects other fish as well. Both of these are the topic of future study as scientists figure out how ocean acidification is affecting marine life.
As it is now clear, ocean acidification is harming and will continue to harm many important marine animals and ecosystems. The health of the ocean is also important to the shoreline communities all over the world who depend on the ocean as a source of jobs and income. It was mentioned above that corporations and industries play a large role in creating the pollution that results in ocean acidification. I have selected articles from class to show how people have polluted the environment through industrialization and the unsustainable management of resources.
During the Second World War in the 1930s and the Cold War era, the Soviet Union rapidly industrialized Siberia. poorly equipped workers built a large number of industrial cities to make use of the region’s vast amount of natural resources and ores. These cities dumped pollutants into the air, water, and land from the practically unregulated industry. Of all of the industrialized regions of the country, the Urals mountain area was the most polluted.
There was so much pollution in the region, that the effects negatively affected the inhabitants to a great extent. The life expectancy of adults plummeted, infant mortality skyrocketed, and raspatory and cardiac diseases were widespread. Dangerous levels of toxic metals and other chemicals build up in buildings and people’s homes. The pollution killed off large amounts of native plants and animals in the area and leeched into the rivers where people downstream would fish.
It was only in the 1980s scientists began to address the issue. By then, irreversible damage was already done. vast amounts of land had been turned into “industrial deserts”, meaning that the area was so polluted all of the natural wildlife had been wiped out. This is what happens when the industry goes unregulated, and historical analysts are still trying to figure out how and what promoted this level of ecological destruction and disregard for the health of the human populations.
Now for something a bit different. When people have good intentions and do everything they think is correct, just for it to go and do irreversible amounts of damage anyway. This is what happened with the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state. The reservation produced plutonium for atomic weaponry during the second world war and continued until 1954. The cite managers at the very beginning of the project had waste management practices that focused on the safety of the workers and the preservation of commercially viable animals.
To their credit, they thought they were doing the best they could to act in the interest of both the nuclear industry and also the local community. But ultimately they did not have all of the facts about the dangers of nuclear waste, and still made gave mistakes and errors in judgment that harmed the environment. the waste management process at Hanford followed a procedure similar to that of the chemical, food processing, and ammunition industries.
There were the only models they had to go off, as no one had ever done what they were doing before. As a result of this practice, they handled the waste like they knew what they were doing, but in actuality, the nuclear waste did much more damage to the environment than they thought it would. During the years that it was operational more than 100 billion gallons of wastewater was disposed of, contamination the ground and the groundwater below into the Columbia River. the most hazardous wastes were buried underground in tanks, boxes, and barrels. In 1987 production at Hanford was shut down due to safety concerns, and in 1989 cleanup was arranged and continues to this day.
Continuing to the present, from the industrial era in the 1800s to the present is the era that has been called the Anthropocene. The Anthropocene is defined as being the period in history where the impact of human civilization begins to overwhelm the forces and natural processes of nature. This includes things like the industrial revolution and the pollution that it caused, the burning of fossil fuels, global warming, and ocean acidification. these things as well as a host of other, smaller more local environmental problems like building large dams, and the local extinction of species from an area. The level of atmospheric CO2 has been the factor by which the impact of the Anthropocene is measured. This number has been rising from the pre-industrial era, with about half of that occurring within the last 30 years. this number will continue to rise and has begun to reach a critical point, causing global warming, the acidification of the world’s oceans, and larger, more frequent and powerful storms across the globe.
The effects of the Anthropocene will, if they haven’t already, reach a tipping point for the world that the damage that humans have caused will be irreversible to come back from. The third stage of the Anthropocene, starting in 2015, is the beginning of the recognition that humanity as a whole is affecting the ability of the earth and its systems as a whole to function. This leads to three courses of action on how to carry on as a global society, making decisions that will affect the future of the planet and future generations of people. The first option is that things in society will continue on the current path that they are on, under the assumption that the global change will not be so severe as to disrupt the global economy or other major aspects of human society.
This on the surface may look like a good idea but entails large amounts of denial and risks. As the earth changes in response to human activity, (such as the rising of the seas, loss of important species of animals like insects and fish) there will already be a course set for decades and even centuries of environmental change before people begin to realize that this approach isn’t going to work. The next step logically would be the collapse of society as the onset of uncontrolled environmental change takes hold. But this is only one possible option.
An alternative option would be a future based on the recognition that the threat of global change is serious and must be dealt with before things get bad. This would be attempted by trying to decrease the human impact on the environment by vastly improving technology to use resources efficiently and wisely, and control of human and domestic animal populations. It would also include the overall careful use and restoration of the natural environment. the goal is to reduce the human modification on the environment to avoid dangerous and/or difficult to control levels of environmental change.
The last possible route for humanity to take is that the severity of global change and climate systems may force societies to have to make more drastic changes. This would be a situation where people could argue for geo-engineering. It is the purposeful alteration of the global earth system to reverse the effects of things like global warming. This is a highly controversial subject that would mean injection into the atmosphere great amounts of sulfate particles to reflect the sunlight and reduce the warming of the planet. For this to have any effect it would have to go on for about as long as we have been releasing CO2. This may cause a whole host of other associated problems, as well as not solve our current ones.
As it is now evident, our current relationship is not a sustainable one. However, it is possible to put practices in place that will enable us to have a more sustainable relationship with nature. Washington state, for example, is taking measures to slow the effects of ocean acidification on its coastline. The state has an economically important aquaculture industry that focuses on cultivating shellfish, especially oysters. This important industry would be greatly impacted by ocean acidification as it would not be as able to successfully raise large quantities of shellfish.
The plan for the state, an offshoot of the program created by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, would be to monitor the ocean acidity on a greater scale and with more accuracy. Then they would create an acidity budget to see how much acidity is being created by who. Then the next step would be to reduce the carbon pollution from land-based sources like agricultural and urban runoff. They would also plant seagrasses in shellfish hatcheries and create a campaign to educate the public.
Another thing that is being done to help preserve the environment is having good environmental governance policies. Having good environmental policies means providing trustworthy information about stocks, flows, and processes within the resource system is governed. This information must be aligned with the environmental events and decisions that are made.
It must also be aligned with the needs of the people making the decisions in terms of time sensitivity, and presentation. Systems that characterize environmental conditions adequately or human activity with summaries of things like prices for product production or emissions permits, or certification of good environmental performance can provide important signals as long as they pay attention to local as well as arrogate conditions.
Another important thing for adaptive environmental governance is having open communications. Well structured dialogue between scientists, people who use the resources being discussed, interested public parties, and informed analysts of key information about environmental and human/environmental systems is crucial. Such communication provides improved information and trust between involved parties builds social capital and can allow for change and deal with inevitable conflicts well enough to produce agreement on government rules.
Nesting institutions is also important, as the federal government must be willing and able to work with state and provincial governments and yet smaller organizations and town governments that have access to the resources needed. There needs to be mutual understanding across all parties involved for communications and negotiations on resources to go efficiently and effectively.
The Dutch have made an example of themselves in terms of water, and subsequently, environmental management. Throughout the long history of the Netherlands, there has been a practice of creating and maintaining a complicated system of waterworks that keep the ocean and lakes under control, as most of the country is below sea level. For a large part of the country’s history, water was perceived as an antagonist that did whatever it wanted and took lives and land whenever and wherever it wanted to. The traditional Dutch hydraulics aimed to get rid of this enemy and control it with the use of hydraulics.
With the rise of environmentalism in the 1970s, it became evident that nature was valuable and that it played an important role in supporting civilization. Ultimately this meant that the Dutch had to rethink their system of hydraulics to be more environmentally accommodating. It was in this way that ecologists and hydraulic engineers would need to work together to create a system of hydraulics that worked for both parties.
The environmentalist movement in the 1970s targeted two projects in specific in the Netherlands. The first was the reclamation of the Markerwaard, and the second was a proposed dam in the mouth of the Oostershelde. The dam would be a deep, elongated maritime intrusion in what had formerly been the mouth of the Scheldt river. This would sever the bay from the ocean, disrupting and ultimately ruining the estuarine habitat. It would also kill off a thriving shellfish industry. In this event, the innovative design of a semipermeable dam saved the day.
In normal conditions, it would let enough seawater through to preserve the ecology of the estuary. During storm surges, the dam could be closed to protect the coastline. This solution preserved the ecology of the estuary and the shellfish industry, while simultaneously protecting the coastline from flooding at abnormally high sea levels. It was a brilliant collaboration between ecologists and hydraulic engineers.
In conclusion, we do not have a sustainable relationship with nature, for numerous reasons. ocean acidification is the main topic of discussion in this paper. Ocean acidification harms animals that are important to sustaining the ecosystem like plankton, and corals and also commercially important species like crabs and oysters.
The acidification of the oceans hurts the economies of those places that depend on the ocean for jobs as a source of income. Other reasons include industrialization, poor management of nuclear wastes, the Anthropocene, and the consequences of using fossil fuels. But the good news is that multiple things are being done and that can be done to combat these problems, like keeping track of the acidification levels of the ocean and who is responsible.
Effective adaptive environmental management can help by creating communication through all tiers and aspects of a system. And ecologists and engineers coming together to build projects that are both environmentally friendly and serve their purpose effectively.