“No water, no life. No blue, no green.” – Sylvia Earle
Imagine a cube measuring one mile to each of its sides. Now imagine 321.003.271 cubic miles – that’s the volume of water in our oceans. It’s evident that something this big must have an enormously important role in our planet and, naturally, in our lives. Although we don’t think much about it on a regular basis, the oceans are actually one of the most crucial things that keep us alive. If they disappeared today, you wouldn’t be reading this article.
For Every 10 Breaths You Take, 7 Come From the Ocean
Most of us learned in school that trees provide us with oxygen through photosynthesis. Thus, it is important to plant as many trees as we can. That is definitely true, but in fact, trees contribute to around 30% of oxygen, while the oceans are responsible for about 70% of the whole oxygen on Earth. There are no trees underwater, but there are other tiny marine plants called phytoplankton. They use sunlight and carbon dioxide to produce their food and, as a by-product, they produce oxygen. Just like land plants and trees.
If phytoplankton disappeared from the ocean, most of us would immediately start to hyperventilate in the attempt to get more oxygen into our lungs. Eventually, that would cause dizziness and fainting, which then would cause pulmonary edema and brain injuries.
The Ocean Works Like a Thermostat
It controls the temperature and weather of our planet. The ocean does this by absorbing over half the heat that reaches the Earth from the sun, to be then transported by ocean currents, carrying warm water from the equator to poles and cold water from the poles to the tropics. This is an extremely important role that distributes the heat around the globe.
If the ocean stopped absorbing heat, the Earth would then become warmer to a point where droughts and heat waves would intensify. Soils would dry due to lack of rain and wildfires would be even more regular. This would consequently impact agriculture and the economy. Needless to say that rising temperatures overall would make the sea level rise and make whole nations fight for their survival.
The Ocean Delays Climate Change
Not only do they absorb most of the heat from the sun, but they also absorb vast quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2), one of the greenhouse gases that is mostly produced by human activities (through industry and fossil fuel burning). By doing this, the oceans work as a gigantic storage of CO2. Without this storage, CO2 would be traveling freely through our atmosphere and consequently trapping even more heat coming from the sun. Greenhouse gases such as CO2 are acting basically like a large blanket, covering our planet and making it extremely hot, leading it to global warming and right next to climate change.
Scientists in the past years have told us about all threats from the consequences of climate change. Today, climate change is considered the biggest problem we have to solve if world population wants to thrive. It’s now well known that we won’t survive in the near future if our actions don’t change. When the oceans stop having the capacity to store any more CO2, we are all in big trouble.
Raindrops Come Mostly From the Ocean
Holding around 97% of the whole water on Earth, the ocean is the most powerful source of rain. From the ocean surface, enormous quantities of water evaporate with the action of the sun and travel to our atmosphere as vapor.
As vapor meets colder air, clouds form until it reaches the point when it rains. This event is defined as the water cycle and without it, the constant source of freshwater in the planet would be scarce. Whole ecosystems, crops, and human existence are in serious danger without rain. Our world would be transformed into a big and rounded desert.
The Ocean Serves Your Lunch and Dinner
The most vital source of protein for more than 3.5 billion people comes from the sea. They rely on fish, seafood, algae, and sea plants to obtain the nutrients they need on a regular basis.
In a world where the global population grows by 1.5 million people weekly, having the ocean filled with healthy marine life, available to feed us and other creatures, is as important as having fresh water to drink. The lack of this source of food may force us to start a war for hunger.
Money Flows From the Ocean
Because money talks and most of us only pay attention to certain things when they’re related to money, realize that about half of our population lives within the coastal areas. Naturally, the ocean represents a significant slice of the economic pie. From mineral resources to fisheries, coastal and maritime tourism, the ocean contributes to the global economy with more than $500 billion.
Overall, something as the ocean that occupies about three-quarters of our planet; something that originated billions of years ago and way before any trace of our human species; something this omnipresent has incredible importance in our lives. All of us rely on it, no matter where we are. As we depend on it, we also depend on its welfare, so that we can benefit from the same welfare to ourselves in return.
To let the ocean take care of our survival, we must stop:
- Oil spills from industry and discharges from agriculture chemicals;
- Overfishing and depleting several species that are important in the trophic web;
- Leading corals to their extinction;
- Making the ocean our backyard turned into a plastic soup.
We must save it.
You may realize now that something as big as the ocean will thrive – once humankind becomes extinct. If all of us receive so many good things from this massive blue, our job is to take care of it, to make it healthy again, to protect and restore it.
To let it live.