A few weeks ago, the Lemonsea team was introducing you to the problem of ocean acidification. All of our hopes don’t rest solely between the hands of politicians to fight this phenomenon. Even if you live far from the sea, each one of your actions is connected to the oceans. Through simple and daily gestures, it is possible to decrease one’s carbon footprint, and thus help slow down the impacts of acidification.
1 – Reduce CO2 emissions
(editor’s note: this article was originally published in a French newspaper; consequently many of the statistics and research presented in this section apply specifically to France.)
In 2012, carbon emissions were around 10.1 tons CO2 per person on average, according to the organization Carbone 4. The vast majority of carbon dioxide emissions generated by private individuals in France come from transportation and heating (or cooling) of homes. According to the Ministère de l’Ecologie, du Développement Durable et de l’Energie, the transportation sector is in France the first sector responsible for greenhouse gases emissions, accounting for 28% of national emissions, followed by the residential and tertiary sector with 23.5% of emissions.
Consequently, it is recommended to start choosing more sustainable solutions, such as carpooling, using hybrid or electric cars, or biking or walking to work. The Agence de l’Environnement et de la Maitrise de l’Energie also recommends to decrease the energy consumption in private homes. The website EcoCitoyen [FR] presents multiple tips to save energy in your house. If they are available to you, choose renewable energies, like solar, wind or hydropower energy.
2 – Use ecological products in your backyard
Runoffs coming from agricultural farms or your own backyard have elevated levels of carbon and nitrogen that contribute to ocean acidification (Mathis et al. 2011), particularly if you live near the sea.
These excess nutrients change the chemical composition of our oceans, and create dead zones (hypoxic zones where no organism can survive), and also contribute to the weakening of corals and marine animals living near the coasts. Moreover, a research team from NOAA showed in 2012 that ocean acidification is happening quicker in zones with higher levels of nutrients (Sunda et Cai 2012).
The United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) advises to use pesticides and fertilizers only if absolutely necessary, to grow indigenous plants that can adapt and grow more easily, and to use water and energy in a sustainable way. Reducing our use of pesticides and fertilizers could offer a short-term solution to slow down ocean acidification.
3 – Eat less meat
A 2006 report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) already showed that animal farming worldwide were emitting more greenhouse gases than all forms of transportation combined. In 2015, animal farming was responsible for 21% of greenhouse gases emissions. Furthermore, the production of grains to feed the animals requires huge quantities of fertilizers, fuel, pesticides and antibiotics, and most of these excess will inevitably end in the oceans.
No worries for those of you who love meat; we are not asking you to become vegetarian overnight. According to the research team of the movie Racing Extinction and their “Start with 1 thing” campaign, simply cutting down on meat one day a week will save over 7,000 L of water, and will avoid emissions equal to a car ride of over 500kms. It is also advised to support local farmers, as well as those using sustainable methods. The farther your meat comes from, the more energy will be required to bring it to your plate.
4 – Support sustainable fisheries
Healthy and resilient marine ecosystems will be able to combat ocean acidification more efficiently. In order to do that, it is necessary to maintain abundant fish stocks with a great genetic diversity that will also adapt faster to the world’s evolution.
Multiple sustainable seafood guides are available online or on your cellphone. The best one for US fisheries is the Seafood Guide from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and it also available as an app. This guide sorts seafood in three categories: best choices (buy first, they’re well managed and caught or farmed in ways that cause little harm to habitats or other wildlife), good alternatives, and to avoid.
5 – Spread the word!
One of the most important thing you can do to fight ocean acidification is to spread the word, and talk about it with your family and friends. Since it is a fairly recent issue, very few people actually know about it. Educating your friends and work colleagues, using social media, and writing to the local newspapers or your political representatives in your region to express your concerns can really make a difference.
This is what 14-year-old Isabella O’Brien, finalist of the 2015 Google Science Fair is doing. As she explains in an interview with Lemonsea, Isabella discovered the problem of ocean acidification during a trip to Mexico. After a few scientific experiments, she argued that it could be possible to slow down acidification by using the calcium carbonate from leftover oyster and mussel shells coming from restaurants. Even though she did not win the Google contest, Isabella continues to use social media to educate her generation on the many problems our oceans face nowadays.
This article was originally published in French in the newspaper Le Monde: 5 gestes simples pour combattre l’acidification des océans.