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Most people rarely think about the world's oceans. We know they exist and many people dream of walking along the beaches and hearing the waves crashing against rocks, but do you realize just how important our oceans are to our very existence? Combined, the world's oceans cover a full 71 percent of the Earth's surface. Together, they contain 97 percent of all the water on this planet. There is not one living thing, that does not require some amount of water to exist. If it weren't for this planet's oceans, life would not exist. Let's take a look at some of the many reasons each and every one of us needs to be concerned about saving our planet's oceans.
Scientists are making strides every day toward finding ways to turn our ocean waters into energy that can power our daily needs. While there is talk of how harmful things like coal and oil are for the environment, there is just as much concern about how supplies of these things are dwindling. In the not too distant future, we won't have these to rely on. The oceans replenish themselves constantly, creating a never-ending supply of usable energy that only needs to be harnessed.
Help Us Breathe
Our oceans produce over fifty percent of the oxygen living things need in order to breathe. At the same time, they store the carbon dioxide that we breathe out. This is more than our atmosphere can handle. As the number of trees becomes lower, our air is becoming more saturated with carbon dioxide, making less room for the oxygen we need in order to live. If it weren't for the oceans. we would soon run out of one of the most important needs for life.
Control the Weather
As the Sun shines on the ocean surface, the water absorbs the rays and cools the hot rays, spreading them out so that no one area becomes too hot to support life. The water evaporates as it warms and the vapor rises to become clouds. Once there is enough of this vapor in the air, rain occurs. It is this rain that provides nourishment for the plants and wildlife that share our planet. It is also the water that we use for nourishment, bathing, cooking, and more. The rain that falls on the cactus in the desert comes from an ocean thousands of miles away. This is true of all the lakes, streams, and creeks we often get our everyday water needs from. Without the ability to absorb the Sun's rays, the oceans would become beds of salt and the freshwater supplies would quickly disappear.
A large variety of marine invertebrates have been discovered that produce antibiotics, anti-cancer elements, and anti-inflammatory agents. Many of the medications used to treat diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer's disease, arthritis, and heart disorders have found their beginnings in our oceans. Without their existence, our mortality rates would once again begin to climb considerably and medical progress would take a backward path.
Our oceans not only provide a source of income for fishermen. Between fisheries and aquaculture, 56 million jobs are created. Three million of these are in the United States alone. This doesn't take into account the number of people who have jobs in processing seafood after it is caught. Not only the sea animals, but many of the plants have also been found useful in various aspects of our everyday life. Where fishing alone is concerned, 660 to 880 million people earn their livelihood. This amounts to a full twelve percent of the world population that would go hungry and be unable to have homes if the oceans were not there to provide the necessary income.
Our oceans are the largest ecosystem on Earth. They contain eighty percent of the biodiversity currently known, and that doesn't include the many species that we know exist but have yet to discover because they live in the deepest, unexplored areas of the oceans. Twenty percent of the protein we ingest comes from the oceans. There is no other area of our Earth that can provide this large of a food source to the approximately three billion people that the ocean does.
Availability of Goods
Think about the things you use every day. Most of the time, you don't consider where they came from. Yet 76 percent of the goods used in the United States originated somewhere else in the world. That is 76 percent of the items we use and take for granted on a daily basis that got here, at least in part, by way of ocean travel. Many of these things would be too costly and too large to travel solely by air and it is impossible for them to travel solely by land.
Let's look back to what was said about the sound of the ocean waves. A large number of individuals will admit that the one place they feel most relaxed is near the ocean. The water has a calming effect that is so widely known that there is a portion of the retail industry that is made up of producing products that bring the sounds of the oceans anywhere in the world. There are relaxation tapes, meditation videos, and sleep machines that are all based on the sounds of the ocean. Whale songs have been used to produce a relaxed state. There are also the many leisure activities that are centered around the ocean. These include activities such as sailing, surfing, scuba diving, paddle boarding and just lying on a beach and soaking up the sun while relaxing to the sounds. The oceans provide us with an always-available place to relax and de-stress from the hectic world we currently live in.
The lack of thought we give to the importance of our planet's oceans has put them in danger. Pollution and other man-created issues have made it difficult for sea life to exist or for our oceans to do what is necessary to provide us with needed oxygen or store the excess carbon dioxide in the air. As we kill off the oceans, we are killing ourselves. It is time now to do what we can to save this important resource before it is too late. Maybe each individual can't do something major, but if each of us does what we can, those billions of little acts will add up to a lot. Let's start today.
Related: How to Protect the Beach
Megan Jones is the lead author of Seaside Planet. She is an avid surfer, scuba diver, and travel enthusiast who takes any opportunity she can to spend time in the ocean. You can learn more about Meg and the rest of the editorial team here.