I chose to intern at The Ocean Foundation because I knew so little about the ocean and its numerous benefits. While I was generally aware of the importance of the oceans in our ecosystem and global commerce, I knew very little specifically about how human activity is affecting the oceans. During my time at The Ocean Foundation, I learned about numerous issues involving the ocean and the different ways organizations are trying to help it. I learned about the dangers of Ocean Acidification, a problem that has grown rapidly since the industrial revolution.
Ocean acidification is caused by carbon dioxide molecules dissolving in the oceans, resulting in the formation of acid which is harmful to marine life. This phenomenon has caused major damage to marine food webs and protein supply. I had the opportunity to join a conference where Tom Udall, the senior senator from New Mexico, presented his Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act. This act would ban specific single-use plastic items that are not recyclable and make the producers of packaging containers design, manage, and finance waste and recycling programs.
What I enjoyed most about my experience was getting to know people who had dedicated their careers to working for a more sustainable future for the oceans. In addition to learning about their professional obligations and what their days in the office were like, I had the opportunity to learn about the paths that led them to careers in ocean conservation. The ocean faces multiple human-related threats, which will only become more severe in the face of population growth and industrial development. Some of these threats include ocean acidification, plastic pollution, or the loss of mangroves and sea grasses. However there is one issue at hand that doesn’t directly damage the ocean. The issue is the lack of awareness of what is going on with our oceans.
About ten percent of people depend on the ocean as a sustainable source of nourishment – that’s about 870 million people. Aside from that, we also depend on it for a variety of things such as medicine, climate regulation, and even recreation. However, not many people know this since they are not directly impacted by its numerous benefits. This ignorance, I believe, is as destructive to our oceans as any other problems such as ocean acidification or pollution. Without the awareness of the benefits of our oceans we won’t be able to change any of the issues our oceans are facing. Living in DC, we don’t fully appreciate the benefits the ocean provides us. We, some more than others, are dependent on the ocean. But unfortunately, since the ocean is not in our backyard, we forget about its well-being. Since we don’t see the ocean in our everyday lives, we don’t think it plays an active role in it, so we forget to take action. We forget to think before we pick up a disposable utensil at our favorite restaurant or forget to reuse or recycle our plastic containers and end up unwittingly damaging the ocean with our ignorance.