Preserving our lifestyle

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We are going to take a break from all the politics and craziness around to think beyond the pettiness because sometimes we need reminding that we live in a big world. This past week, the world, under the guidance of the United Nations (UN) celebrated, or rather, acknowledged, World Oceans Day.
Before you suck your teeth and roll your eyes while dismissing the topic without a thought or care, you should remember that those vast bodies of water around our bit of paradise play a big part in our economy and our way of life. Heck, our tourism slogan talks to sun, sea and sand. There is not much we can do about the sun, but we certainly can do our part regarding the sea and the sand. Plus, the sea and sand are interconnected so when we talk of oceans, we are talking about two out of the three things that we boast about to the world.  
The U.N. celebrates topics on certain days to bring awareness to the importance of those topics to our lives. When you consider that approximately 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, and that the oceans hold approximately 96.5 percent of all of the Earth’s water supplies, taking a moment or two to think about oceans, may not be a bad idea. And if you look beyond the hard statistics and start getting closer to our everyday lives, you will begin to see that dismissing the topic and taking oceans for granted are not in your best interest.
Beyond tourism, Antigua and Barbuda relies heavily on the water around us. Right now, the majority of our drinking water comes from desalination plants that produce fresh potable water from the sea. We have long outgrown our ability to rely on the water that drops from the heavens, so the sea has become, if we can borrow a phrase, “necessary for life.” We have not even begun to highlight the food that the oceans provide for us, or the pleasure that we derive from being able to swim and play in some of the most gorgeous waters in the world. The mere thought of the Caribbean for most people invokes daydreams of white sandy beaches and crystal clear turquoise waters. It is our life!
The problem is, many humans are not environmentally friendly,  prefering development over the environment, falsely believing that the environment cannot put food on our table. You hear it all the time … “I can’t eat mangroves.” It is a silly, myopic view of the environment that is dangerous and will ultimately be our undoing.
With all of that in mind, it is worth looking at some facts and statistics to understand the value of the oceans in our lives and the major role that they play. For example, did you know that half of the world’s oxygen is produced by phytoplankton in the ocean? Through a process called photosynthesis, these one-cell plants produce oxygen for our consumption and are the foundation of ocean life. Don’t worry. We are not taking you back to science class for a nap.
Healthy oceans lead to a healthy Earth and that extends to our bit of paradise on this big blue marble. It is incumbent on all of us to take positive action toward sustaining the health of our oceans. We must maintain the sustainability of the waters around us so that we can continue to enjoy the oceans’ bounty forever. Notice that we did not say “far into the future” or anything like that. Forever must be our focus.
One of the first steps toward maintaining healthy oceans is to stop polluting them. More than 80 percent of all pollution in the ocean comes from people on land. Every year, more than eight million tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans. This pollution has catastrophic effects on the wildlife, fisheries and tourism. Hmmm! There is that word again. It is estimated that plastic pollution alone costs the lives of one million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals per year. The U.N. puts the damage caused by plastic to our marine ecosystem at US$8 billion per year.
If you want to be amazed, just Google “plastic garbage patch” and you will see a sampling of the damage that we are doing to our oceans. Most recently, there was a new patch of plastic found floating in the South Pacific. Separate to the patch discovered in the North Pacific in 1997, this one is estimated to be upward of a million square miles in size. That is larger than Mexico! 
Like our littering and illegal dumping in Antigua and Barbuda, the vexing thing is this type of pollution is entirely in our control. Plastic pollution is entirely man-made, and, with the most minimal of effort, it can be largely controlled. As a first step, we need to change our habits and use less plastic. The less consumed is the less that is thrown away. Secondly, plastic recycling is no longer a luxury that we cannot afford. We must introduce recycling into our lifestyles so that we produce less and pollute less.
It is easy to get preachy about a topic like this, but that does not help. What we hope to do is raise awareness. As we have said before, we all make money off of tourism, either directly or indirectly, so we need to preserve the moneymaker if we are to survive. Do not leave it to someone else to safeguard your source of income. Take action today so that you can benefit tomorrow.
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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