Picture: REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo – Stacked containers are shown as ships unload their cargo at the Port of Los Angeles in Los Angeles, California, U.S. November 22, 2021.
By Kershni Ramreddi
About 71% of the surface of the Earth is covered by the ocean, which also holds 97% of the planet’s water.
It is essential for creating oxygen, regulating the global climate, and supporting a wide variety of habitats.
The importance of the ocean has positive consequences, such as the ability to manage the climate given that it absorbs and stores enormous amounts of heat.
A significant fraction of the oxygen on Earth is produced by marine plants, particularly the microscopic algae known as phytoplankton, through photosynthesis.
The oceans are crucial to maintaining life on Earth because they produce around half of the oxygen that we inhale.
Some of the planet’s most productive ecosystems include coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds, and kelp forests, which offer vital habitats, breeding grounds, and nurseries for a vast array of marine species.
However, mankind has had a substantial detrimental impact on the oceans, which has resulted in a number of environmental problems like overfishing.
Fish populations have been depleted, marine food webs have been disrupted, and some regions’ fisheries have collapsed as a result of unsustainable fishing tactics, such as exploitation and destructive fishing techniques, which were brought on by the demand for seafood.
This directly impacts subsistence fishers. Pollution from land-based sources, such as sewage, plastics, oil spills, and run-off from industrial and agricultural activities, poses a serious threat to marine life by contaminating habitats, killing marine organisms, and causing dead zones where there is insufficient oxygen to support life.
South Africa was ranked 11th worst globally for contributing to ocean plastic in a recent assessment by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
According to estimates, South Africa is to blame for 109 000 tonnes of plastic waste, about 41kg each year that enters the ocean.
Coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass beds can all be destroyed by coastal development, dredging, oil and gas exploration and harmful fishing methods.
Marine life is seriously threatened by the growing number of plastic debris in the ocean. As extra carbon dioxide is absorbed by salt-water, it creates ocean acidification, which is harmful to marine creatures.
Climate change also contributes to sea level rise, altered ocean currents, and more frequent and severe weather events, impacting coastal communities and ecosystems.
For the future use of oceans to maintain sustainable and natural resources, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below water; Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources was created. The ocean must be protected and used responsibly, yet human activity is putting the oceans and seas in peril and impacting the livelihoods of billions of people.
Because of this, incorrectly meddling with the Earth’s natural elements will have adverse consequences.
Despite the dismal circumstances surrounding the state of our oceans right now, the good news is that there is still time to reverse the situation.
Every day, individuals all over the world are improving the ocean in a variety of ways. More companies are adopting circular economy strategies, which encourage the reuse, sharing, repair, renovation, remanufacturing and recycling of materials in order to close the loop and use fewer new resources.
According to a declaration made by the United Nations, ecosystem restoration and ocean science will take centre stage in the coming 10 years.
In many places, the creation of specially protected zones to increase the protection of the ocean has had a good effect on ecosystems and fish stocks. We can all practice conservation, and many people are contributing to ocean protection at home. You can #thinkocean from your own home.
According to the UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) report, it highlights the opportunities the ocean holds for developing countries and charts a new course to sustainably use marine resources, calling it the Global “Blue Deal” that urgently needs to protect and invest in our ocean.
Dependence on a single resource or product for export is one of the biggest challenges that developing countries face.
Because of this, economies are more susceptible to changes in the market, which could result in losses.
In order to solve this issue, diversification is crucial since it promotes a more stable economic climate. The UNCTAD report emphasises the significance of safeguarding social and environmental rights in addition to diversification.
This is crucial in developing countries where the exploitation of natural resources and substandard working conditions are widespread.
These actions have the potential to destroy both the environment and the people whose livelihoods rely on it.
In order to ensure that the advantages of economic progress are distributed fairly and that future generations can enjoy a sustainable environment, environmental regulations and social rights must be protected.
It is crucial that we confront these problems in the long run. While short-term solutions that only aim to increase profits may yield quick results, they are unlikely to continue over a long period of time.
Opportunities that can endure changes in the market and offer communities long-term advantages must be created.
Both those who reside in developing countries and those conducting business with developing countries need to make a considerable mindset shift in order to accomplish this.
To solve these problems, I think a coordinated effort is required. Businesses, citizens, non-governmental organisations, and governments all have a part to play in expanding opportunities in developing nations.
Governments can enact laws and policies that safeguard the natural environment and human rights, and corporations can invest in environmentally friendly practices and cooperate with local organisations to generate long-term economic gains.
The negative effects of corruption in South Africa are severe, and they include the misuse of public funds, the deterioration of institutions, and a decline in trust in the government.
Corruption also adds to the country’s high levels of poverty and inequality, as it diverts resources away from the poorest and most vulnerable segments of society.
The corruption problem has been addressed in South Africa. Many contend that other measures, such as institutional strengthening, transparency promotion, and ensuring accountability for those responsible for corrupt acts, are necessary to effectively combat corruption.
People find it extremely challenging to utilise for example non-plastic products because basic needs have not yet been met and because of the absence of resources and technologies to battle climate change and the situation of the economy in the nation.
Third World countries put a higher priority on economic growth and eradicating poverty than on environmental concerns. As a result, it is extremely challenging to address these issues in a nation where the majority of people are in the lower and middle classes and are barely getting by.
Money and awareness are needed for environmental challenges.
We can make people aware of the impacts of climate change, but if we can’t provide them with a free alternative, we will never be able to solve environmental issues such as plastic pollution.
Therefore, a well-considered plan for using the ocean to boost our economy is necessary in order for South Africa to combat climate change.
South Africa and the world must take a long-term approach and work collaboratively to achieve these goals. By doing so, we can help create a more equitable and sustainable future for all.
*Kershni Ramreddi is a just transition and energy project officer at the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance.