photo: Louisian GOHSEP/Creative Commons
With all the recaps of what's happened (and not) one year on since the Gulf oil spill, Carl Safina is making the media rounds (via Mark Bittman in the New York Times, with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!) bringing up a critically important point. Even with all the ecological devastation that's taken place, and in many ways is still ongoing, in many ways the bigger ecological catastrophe isn't the oil that was spilled by BP-Transocean-Halliburton, but is the oil that isn't spilled and that we burn everyday.
Being someone who focuses on oceans Safina naturally emphasizes ocean acidification, a direct result of continued burning on fossil fuels, here summarized by Bittman:
That CO2, of course, leads to global warming and climate change, as well as what's called ocean acidification, which might be thought of as oceanic global warming and is a greater catastrophe than any spill to date. The oceans absorb about 30 percent of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, creating carbonic acid. Since the start of the industrial revolution we've added about 500 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide to the oceans, which are 30 percent more acidic than they were a couple of hundred years ago.
He goes on to link overfishing into ocean acidification as another factor destroying our oceans, pointing out that 70% of global fish stocks are overfished and 30% have collapsed entirely.
Safina's right in pulling back to the big picture here and saying that we absolutely need to use less fossil fuel, "by conservation or substitution or both", if we are going to preserve our oceans--and land masses as well--with anything even approaching the level of fecundity that they have had in our lifetimes, let alone thoughout recorded history when we know that there simply was more non-human animal life in them.
How Can We Pull Back From Collapse?
At some point in the future, some future historian writing in the vein of Jared Diamond will look back in wonderment, asking the entirely appropriate question we should ourselves consider today: With so much evidence at hand, with some much scientific documentation and data, with so much apparent intellectual ability as evidenced by ability to generate novel technologies, how could a society fail to stop the ecological destruction around it, which ultimately was its demise?