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Chasing Down The Muse: Ocean protection is a vital cause

January 27, 2011|By Catharine Cooper

"The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever."

—Jacques Cousteau

It all starts with the first touch of ocean water. Whether it's a child's foot, or an adult's caress on the surface with fingertips, the first experience with the sea is never forgotten.

I believe it starts a life-long love affair that lingers long after the first connection is made.

It doesn't matter which ocean or sea — what's magical is the fluidity, the connection and flow. The water in Laguna, in many ways, is the same as that in the Arctic Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico. Winds move the upper 70 feet in patterns that angle off from the prevailing winds that circumnavigate the globe in a similar fashion to air currents. Deep below the surface, sinking and upwelling drive circulation in a ribbon-like pattern throughout and around the bases of the continents.

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What brings me to write about the sea is not its staggering beauty, which even to the uninitiated is indisputable. No, it's my fears for the sea that bring me to beg for her protection.

The ocean is in trouble, and no amount of political rhetoric will change foundational science.

What is peculiar is how little we respect the ocean as our source of life. The seas provide what no other planet yet discovered in the solar system contains: unfrozen water. Salty as it may be, the seas cool our atmosphere and expire droplets to the heavens that return as rain. She inhales and absorbs carbon dioxide, which maintains oxygen ratios and modulates weather.

Imagine a world without the oceans — scorched desert landscapes fill the mind.

We are the biggest threat to our seas. Whether it is our ignorance, our blatant disregard for her health, a collective blindness toward the effects of our actions, or our inability to craft apolitical solutions, we seem set on a nearly irreversible course.

The list of threats has been simplified for public consumption: pollution/contamination, climate change, overfishing and habitat destruction.

The Gulf oil spill last year provided an overwhelming sense of how our lifestyle choices are involved in ocean health. Oil consumption drives production, and we move into deeper waters to satisfy our thirst for dark crude. The spill killed thousands of birds, untold numbers of fish and marine mammals and irreparable damage to the seabed.

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