What happens when you have a world that promises technology will solve everything? What happens when we are led to believe that science has the answer to all of our problems? You need only look outside the window to find your answer.
We live in a time where seemingly nothing is impossible. We’ve conquered the earth, sea, sky, and even the rest of the solar system, and the possibilities may seem endless. We lay in our beds, and we think, surely if we can get someone to the moon we can save our planet. Surely, if there are people with the expertise to build machines capable of forming entirely new elements, there must be someone out there who can solve the problem of overfishing. Surely, there’s some sort of miracle chemical that can simply be dumped into the sea to neutralize ocean acidification. It’s only a matter of time before some crazy new bacteria is discovered that can eat our plastic pollution problem away, or at least that’s what we tell ourselves. Any day, we say, some brilliant scientist will find those perfect few words to convince politicians that something needs to change. And so we reassure our own consciences that it’s ok to do nothing. It’s ok to simply go on as if there is nothing we can do- because someone is already doing it for us. And besides, we say, there’s nothing I could do anyway. Because doing nothing, pretending that everything is under control, is easier than entertaining the thought that maybe, just maybe, there is something we can do.
It seems even those of us who’ve left our school days far behind us, cling on to our human flaw of procrastination. I’ll do it tomorrow, we say. I have plenty of time until the due date, we plead. I’ll start recycling next week. I’ll buy a bike next year. I’ll join the car-pooling mail list next semester. It doesn’t concern me, nothing will change in my life-time anyway. These are the lies that we tell ourselves. The new year’s resolutions that we promise to fulfill, while all along we know, we’ll cave and have a slice of chocolate cake at next week’s PA meeting. We assuage our guilt by promising to do better tomorrow, to try harder the next time. But unlike your diet, or your vow to read more books, the oceans don’t have that many tomorrows left.
That’s the thing about the ocean; most of us don’t pay it much attention. When we do, we ooh and aah in admiration, taking in its vastness and apparently pristine waves. We think to ourselves there is nothing that could possible change it. There’s no way our insignificant actions could even cause a blimp on its surface. We pretend that the articles swarming the news concerning collapsing fish stocks, and rising ocean acidification are the mere over-embellishments of eager scientists. Or even if we believe them, we think to ourselves, there couldn’t possibly be anything we could do to help. And so we all just sit back, and hope someone qualified might take the reins, might stop the inevitable collision so we can go on enjoying life the way it is. But I’m here to tell you, to implore you, not to be one of those people. Not to go through life idly thinking you are insignificant. Because you are not. You might only be one person, but every revolution started with the radical thoughts of a single mind. And why can’t that first domino be you? If you refuse to even acknowledge the fact that you are important, you don’t even allow yourself the chance to be that inciting incident. That first voice that grows from a whisper, into a chorus, and finally into a battle cry shouted from rooftops and through the halls of governments. Perhaps you could be the person that starts the ball rolling, starts the series of events that stops the defilement of our seas. But if you don’t, it’s not only the planet you will let down, it’s you. You will be telling yourself that you are not important enough to even try.
So next time you think there’s no point in turning down the tuna nigiri, think again. You might be the only one who does that day, but perhaps your partner will ask why you did it. Maybe they’ll think about turning it down the next day. And if enough people ask, if enough people tell others what they know, maybe a few months down the line the restaurant will consider removing it from the menu. If you bring along a reusable cup to your local café, maybe you’ll inspire someone else to do the same. Possibly one day someone might ask you why you choose to do so. Then you can tell them how much our brethren in the sea suffer, how many lose their lives to the careless decisions we make every day. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll tell their friend too.
A whisper might seem insignificant to you. You might think what’s the point if only one person hears me? But a whisper can be more powerful than any shout. Even if you change the opinion of only one other person, your efforts will have been worth it. Because now instead of one person making a difference, it’s two. And if that other person tells someone else, soon enough there’ll be three, and then six, and before you know it, people will be demanding change. If you want something to change, go out and do it. Don’t wait for someone else. It’s your voice the ocean is waiting to hear, don’t wait until it’s too late to hold that conversation.
Sophie is currently a student at the University of Edinburgh studying environmental chemistry. She plans to specialise in marine chemistry, with a tentative focus in how ocean acidification affects marine megafauna during her graduate work. Sophie has been supporting OceanCare for many years – thanks a lot!