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Killing our oceans

Millions of Americans scoff at the idea that overpopulation causes any detrimental effects to our land, water and air. If they knew more, they might speak out and lead the "Charge of Enlightenment." They would push for change based on knowledge instead of emotions or past models. They might thrust aside anachronistic paradigms that no longer work in the 21st century-and apply new concepts for present conditions.

Instead, they squeal derogatory names at those who speak up. "Quit being a chicken little," one reader wrote. Or, many who understand our 'human dilemma' bury their heads in denial.

Meanwhile, the August 1991 issue of Life Magazine, titled, "Shark Alert!" reported, "The age-old struggle between man and shark has become a killing frenzy. We slaughter 100 million sharks every year, driving them to extinction."

Sharks prowled the seas for the last 400 million years. But now, the predator has become the prey. Humans kill sharks at such an alarming rate that many varieties face extinction. Shark fins are bought by the Agger Trading Company in New York where they are dried and resold. Hong Kong alone buys over seven million pounds each year for shark-fin soup.

Fast forward to the March 2006 issue of Mother Jones News, titled, "Last Days of the Ocean." Researcher Julia Whitty wrote, "One of the biggest culprits is long-lining, in which a single boat sets plastic line across 60 miles of ocean, each bearing gangion lines that dangle at different depths, baited with 10,000 hooks designed to catch a variety of species. Each year, two billion long-line hooks are set worldwide primarily for tuna and swordfish-though long-liners inadvertently kill far more other species that take the bait, including 40,000 sea turtles, 300,000 sea birds and 100,000,000 sharks."

Not only that, fishing trawler captains cut loose thousands of miles of drift nets that get snagged on reefs. Those nets continue killing uncounted numbers of marine life by the millions for however long the plastic monofilament lasts: in a word-almost forever. Experts say that drift nets represent 'clear cutting' under water where everything is destroyed. It's been called "raping the oceans with no moral or ethical responsibility."

Whitty continues, "Fishing fleets in the Gulf of Mexico have dropped the white tip shark population 99 percent since the 1950s, driving that species into virtual extinction. These sharks are thrown dead or dying back into the ocean; these unwanted species make up at least 25 percent of the global catch, as much as 88 billion pounds of life eliminated, for no reason, annually."

If you consider the figure of 100 million slaughtered sharks in 1991, annually, up to 2006, that's 14 years to slaughter 1.4 billion sharks for their fins for human soup. If you add in 300,000 seabirds annually, that's 4.2 million seabirds killed in those 14 years. That's over a half million sea turtles killed for nothing.

Whatever life remains in the Gulf of Mexico suffers from what is called a "dead zone" which is an area of ocean filled with human chemicals so toxic that few fish species can withstand it or reproduce. A deadly conveyor belt known as the Mississippi River delivers nitrogen-laced, chemically active fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides by the millions of gallons hourly, twenty four hours a day. Latest research shows a 3,000 square mile dead zone beginning at the mouth of Old Man River.

"Close to 50 hypoxic dead zones fester on the coasts of the continental United States," Whitty reported. "The situation is far worse in Europe, with 14 persistent dead zones that never go away, and almost 40 others occurring annually, the biggest and worst being the 27,000 square mile dead zone in the Baltic Sea, which equals the landmass of North Carolina."

The most horrible news stems from human chemicals poisoning coral reefs. Because of global warming and chemicals injected into our oceans, the exhaustive study in 2004, "Status of Coral Reefs of the World" showed 20 percent of the world's reefs so badly damaged they are unlikely to recover and another 50 percent teeter on the edge of extinction...15 percent of the world's sea grass beds have disappeared in the past 10 years, depriving marine species of critical habitat."

"Likewise, kelp beds are dying at alarming rates; 75 percent are gone from Southern California alone-victims of the demise of sea otters that regulate populations of kelp-eating sea urchins."

Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated that oceans absorbed 118 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide since the onset of the Industrial Revolution. Today we add 25 tons daily. This exhaust stems from 84 million barrels of oil burned worldwide each day. That doesn't take include gas, wood and coal burned all over the planet.

"This mitigation of carbon dioxide changes oceanic PH levels," Whitty said. "Coral reefs plagued by so many stressors will almost certainly vanish."

A quick trip west of San Francisco during our nuclear expansion in 1945 shows the U.S. government dumped 400 barrels of radio-active waste 20 miles off shore. A recent PBS report showed all 400 barrels ruptured with their contents dissolved into the Pacific Ocean. Can you imagine what other nuclear countries have done with their radio-active waste? Is it any wonder tuna, salmon and other marine life test chemically positive and our children should not eat fish because their small bodies can't tolerate the doses inside marine tissue?

In Alaska, polar bears struggle and drown with vanishing ice pack because they must swim too far to gain the ice. Worse, toxic chemicals plague the ice bears. Researcher Marla Cone wrote, "Polar bear cubs already harbor more pollutants in their bodies than most other creatures on the planet. Mother polar bears store a lifetime of chemicals in their fat and bequeath them, via their milk, to their young. Several hundred of the industrialized world's most toxic chemicals like PCBs and organochlorine pesticides such as DDT have transformed the Arctic into a chemical repository. The chemicals magnify in animals each step up the food chain leaving polar bears, killer whales and other predators highly contaminated."

Today, in the Gulf of Mexico, leatherback turtles have declined 97 percent in the past two decades. They feed on jellyfish, but today, shrimpers can't draw their nets into the boats because millions of 25 pound jellyfish make it impossible to retrieve nets.

On top of this 'tip of the iceberg' report, you may appreciate that global warming causes horrendous storm activity in our warming oceans, so much so, hurricane scientists call for a new category greater than Katrina's category 5. They expect category 6!

More tidbits to consider:

--Cruise ships produce 30,000 gallons of sewage and 19 tons of garbage daily which is dumped into the oceans in defiance of international laws.
-- former U.S. Congressman Richard Pombo (R-CA) accepted over $23,000.00 in foreign junkets to help him weaken federal laws protecting fisheries and marine life.
--Gorton's Seafood's has killed 2,700 whales against international laws in the guise of "scientific research."
--Toxic PCBs are regulated by the FDA, but the FDA allows such high levels of cancer-causing PCBs in farmed salmon that, if they were present in wild salmon, the EPA would restrict consumption to one meal per month.
--Chemically caused cancers kill millions worldwide annually.

When does avoiding a look at one's paradigm cause damage? Is there a time when one's entrenched paradigm needs digging out lest a person or company or society bequeaths on future generations a problem that is both irreversible and unsolvable? Is there a moral and/or ethical question as to this kind of killing spree by a cognitive species upon defenseless non-cognitive fellow creatures?

Am I a chicken little? I am a realist. I am a messenger. I've seen what's coming in my world travels from the Arctic to Antarctica.

What you must ask yourself is, "Do I want to leave this degraded world for my children, or do I want to change it for the better?"

Can Americans change course to a more viable and sustainable long term future? If we add another 100 million people to this country, the answers is: No! As I noted in the first column of this series, you can't see a tsunami until it hits. As you read part IV of this series, it dawns on you that you couldn't see any of what you've just read, but it's happening at an accelerating rate of speed--all caused by population overload.

How far can we afford to expand our human numbers? At what point do we crash head-on into the brick wall labeled "human fallout" with what we're doing to ourselves and all other living creatures on our planet home? It's a decision we better make fast. In light of reading this report, name one advantage of adding 100 million more Americans by 2040.

"Surviving like rats is not something we should bequeath to our children," Jacque Cousteau world renowned oceanographer
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Frosty Wooldridge Bio: Frosty Wooldridge possesses a unique view of the world, cultures and families in that he has bicycled around the globe 100,000 miles, on six continents and six times across the United States in the past 30 years. His books (more...)
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