As I brush my feet through the bright red and orange leaves that have just fallen from the autumn trees above, I contemplate how beautiful it is to simply experience the vast, incredible land we inhabit. I contemplate how incredibly euphoric it is to experience a sunrise on the ocean, rising over the waves and illuminating the sky. I contemplate how astounding it is to stand atop a mountain, breathing in the crisp, cool air and basking in how tiny you are compared to this immense planet. I contemplate how humbling it is to lay still in a clear field, looking up at the dancing flames in the sky, knowing that you and the bright lights of the universe are somehow connected, knowing that you are millions and millions of miles away from the planets you will never experience. We will never know how the air of another planet tastes in our lungs, we may never know if there are vast oceans and millions of acres of rainforest just like ours on another planet. But, will future generations? Will they know what it feels like to venture into the ocean to see the gentle beasts that are great blue whales? Will they know what clean, winter air feels like as you fill your lungs with oxygen? Will they know what it feels like to let the cold saltwater hit your body as you frolic into the ocean waves?
Will future generations know what it feels like to walk through the serene forest, populated by other beings, alive and thriving? They may never be able to experience the breathtaking coral reefs, the vast and open land, the euphoria of being atop a mountain, looking down on the rivers, lakes, and forests. They may never be able to experience the security and privilege I am able to experience - the privilege of a safe environment in which to live, a secure home. Climate change, although a quiet issue in mainstream media, is one of great importance. One of the greatest issues of our time, climate change, prevails as the leading issue, surrounding and encompassing humanitarian, social, economic, and health issues within the realm of its expansive umbrella of ties between different areas of justice and growth in this world.
In the present, One of the most affected factors of climate change are our oceans. Oceans are an extraordinarily influential and important part of our planet’s well-being and biodiversity. As there is approximately 90% of the realm of the sea unexplored, and this beautifully diverse diverse habitat makes up 71% of earth’s surface, it is extremely influential to the health of every being living on this planet. Oceans are affected both indirectly and directly by climate change, and have a great deal to do with the effects of human activity on Earth. Some of the main threats on our oceans due to climate change are the unnatural migration of foreign species into different habitats, and the rise in temperature due to CO2 and methane emissions, as well as a whole realm of greenhouse gases.
As living in a rural New England area, I often find myself questioning the impacts of climate change. I, in a privileged position of safety and security, don’t see these everyday effects and issues. But, looking further into research, I can see that they’re very much there. Some of the greatest effects of climate change don’t necessarily appear of a greater annual temperature that affects wildlife, but rather more extreme spectrum of temperature. In the New England region of North America, studies done by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ( www.cpc.noaa.gov/charts.htm ), have shown a winter warming trend that effects the ocean temperatures as well. Water temperatures in coastal southern New England are very diverse, from a low temperature of −1°C in the winter to greater than 23°C in the summer, alluding to a daunting thermal pattern for many invertebrates. A relaxation of winter temperatures specifically, could bring about the institution of invaders from much warmer climates, leading to a threat to the biodiversity of our oceans and bodies of water. Plant life and animal life are both equally affected by the migration of exotic species into specific areas, as their relationships and lifestyle directly affect each other. Depending on what said animal and plant life prey on, this dramatically changes the biodiversity and competition in said areas. As these resources collapse, and oceans become less bio diverse, studies have shown that water quality has decreased exponentially as the biodiversity decreases. In New England, these changes may manifest themselves economically as well. As sea levels are predicted to rise, a change in the coastal land forms will result, especially in the Great Bay area. Coastal estuaries will be lessened, and infrastructure investments will need to be made to dredge channels and stem the tide.
Not only does it affect habitats and water quality, but it also affects the lifespan and adaptation of said species: The species that have been shifting are shown to have smaller body sizes, and shorter life spans than non-migrating species. Not only will this affect certain populations of fish and ocean life, but it will also have a great effect on commercial fisheries due to northern migration and adaptation of the fish. However, there is also a relationship that the fisheries have with the over-exploitation of ocean life as well. The sea life populations decreasing rapidly in diversity, and a lot of that has been paralleled with over fishing and the threat to migrating species through fisheries and catching hot-spots. For example, the Leatherback Sea Turtle are currently facing the threat of extinction due to their deadly interactions through fisheries and ocean traffic hot spots.
Coral reefs, although not a part of New England habitats, are an extremely important part of our oceans life force. The changing in ocean biodiversity everywhere has a large impact on coral reefs, and the life and diversity throughout. Predicted increase in carbon dioxide and temperature over the next 50 years both exceed the state in which coral reefs have thrived over the past half-million years. Reefs won’t disappear completely, but they will fade, lessen, and be able to support a lot less life than they do now. Some species have more tolerance and can withstand adaptation and coral bleaching, but many species cannot. Ocean acidification contributes to a lessening of carbonate accretion, which means coral is becoming more rare in reefs (a huge habitat and life mass change in oceans). Action is needed to be taken to help preserve and protect our coral reefs. This may come in the form of protection initiatives, lessening CO2 emissions, making strong policy decisions to lessen the effects of global warming as well as virtually trying to stop it, and in turn, protecting the reefs and wildlife.
The most important thing is to learn and to seek knowledge; learn what is going on, what may be causing these extreme changes in our diversity of flora and fauna alike, and what our community can do. Small changes in lifestyle can lessen the ecological footprint, greenhouse gas emissions, and help protect and preserve our oceans. Get in contact with local representatives and encourage them to support environmentally friendly bills, get in contact with local ocean preservation committees and research centers, and explain your concern as well as ask to volunteer or help out. Knowledge is power, especially in a situation such as this one. In my resources some links you can visit to learn more, check resources, and find out what may be contributing to the rise of climate change. Let’s change climate change together.