Turning the Tide- page 2 | EcoCenter | Smithsonian
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(Eric Jaffe)

Turning the Tide

Our oceans are in trouble, says Nancy Knowlton. But it's not too late to do something about it

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(Continued from page 1)

How will these changes affect the planet?

The oceans provide a lot of important things to people. In many places, seafood is the most important high-quality protein. A lot of countries, the United States included, depend on coastal activities for tourism. A big chunk of the world's population—somewhere close to 50 percent—lives close to the oceans. So when the oceans don't work the way they should, there are all sorts of impacts economically and also aesthetically. When beaches are closed due to toxic blooms, it has an economic impact, and it diminishes people's quality of life.

And the idea that people could have such a devastating impact that they rival the effects of an asteroid hitting the planet, in terms of extinction and ecosystem collapse, is upsetting, even apart from the strictly dollars and cents issue.

What can people do to save the ocean?

You can reduce your ecological footprint. If everyone individually were to really take serious steps in terms of energy conservation, we wouldn't solve the CO2 problem, but we'd make an important contribution.

It's not just what we can do ourselves. If the United States takes CO2 seriously, we'll pave the way for other countries to do it.

You can also support industries that are environmentally progressive.

What will happen if changes aren't made?

A lot of the damage has already been done. Every year in the Gulf of Mexico, there's a giant dead zone that forms. The North Atlantic cod collapse cost a fortune in lost jobs in northern New England and Canada, and it's never really recovered. Without action, it's all going to keep getting worse. More fisheries are going to collapse. The beaches will be unusable. It's pretty bad. We have to do something.

What species are in the most trouble?

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