The proportion of the world’s oceans defined as “dead” – containing such low levels of oxygen that very little marine life can survive – has increased alarmingly in the past 70 years, scientists have warned. The researchers, from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Centre, among other institutions, studied dead zones both in open waters and around coasts, and found that the former have quadrupled in size since 1950, expanding by an area roughly the size of the European Union. Meanwhile, coastal dead zones have grown tenfold, from fewer than 50 to more than 500 today. The deoxygenation of open waters has been linked to global warming: water holds less oxygen the warmer it gets. In coastal areas, dead zones are more likely to be caused by sewage and fertiliser run-off giving rise to algal blooms, which, as they decompose, suck the oxygen from the water. Writing in the journal Science, the researchers warn that if the problem isn’t addressed, it could lead to the “major extinction” of sea life.
Deeply frustrating, isn’t it? I wish one could actually do something about it, but it is a matter for governments, and there isn’t the will among many nations to take action. One can point to some man-made causes: crass ignorance about global climate change, over-population that ends up helping foul the seas; and over-fishing everywhere. It all seems overwhelming, especially since there is a sinister increase in the number of extremist, dictatorial governments who don‘t care. As individuals we can only do what we can do.
Epicurus, shocked, would ask, “The human race has done ….what?!”