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The Problem of Ocean Pollution Today

Introduction

Millions of people around the globe continue celebrating their achievements in the fields of technology, business, health care, and education. Certain steps have already been taken to improve the quality of life and create the best living conditions on the ground. However, society usually forgets that about 70% of the planet is covered by oceans that remain one of the most valuable and vulnerable natural resources (Denchak). Oceans manage weather and the air quality and control the lives of marine animals. Individuals depend a lot on oceans but neglect the level of harm and pollution they make. Annually, billions of pounds of pollutants enter the ocean from the land, and people are the leading sources of this trash (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). Despite many effective interventions like The National Estuary Program or Trash Free Water by the US Environmental Protection Agency and Blue Water Task Force by the Surfrider Foundation, pollution problems challenge the environment. Ocean pollution is an outcome of poorly managed human activities like trash, chemicals, and mining and a reason for concerns to be solved by enhanced education, attention to public opinions, and direct involvement.

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Problems

One of the main causes of the oceans being polluted is trash that includes various manufactured products like plastic bottles, shopping bags, food wrappers, and cigarettes. According to Hollaway et al., about 13 million metric tons of plastic reach the ocean from land every year, which equals one garbage truck of waste discharged every minute. Such statistics should scare and notify people about their contributions to environmental pollution. Although it is expected that marine debris are formed to reduce the impact of garbage, these so-called islands of trash are constantly moving and changing their sizes, negatively affecting flora and fauna (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). In other words, when an individual believes that some insignificant trash he or she leaves in the ocean does not bring any damage, it is better to think about the same event globally. The number of plastic bags and bottles indecently grows, making garbage patches dangerous for oceans and the land.

Another significant element of water pollution is chemical contamination due to inadequately organized spills and runoffs of excessive fertilizers. Although many industrial organizations and farmers develop their services for the public good, they have to understand that their activities have adverse outcomes on the environment. Non-profit source pollution caused by runoffs from farms, livestock ranches, vehicles, and septic tanks is spilled into waterways that bring pollutants directly to the ocean (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). Chemical discharges may be invisible and properly assessed by local inspection organizations, but the level of damage is still significant for different water resources and the environment in general (Denchak). Besides, even the most experienced chemical companies and experiences in related fields are not able to predict the outcomes of compounds that reach the ocean and provoke natural changes. Water pollution by chemicals is hard to control and impossible to stop because the work of factories, plants, and farms is necessary for modern populations.

Finally, the problem of ocean pollution grows due to the promotion of deep-sea mining that is an opportunity to reveal rich minerals and metals from the depths of the ocean. Casson investigates the outcomes of mining for the planet and concludes that this practice could provoke deep troubles because of irreversible environmental damage. In oceans, underwater mountains and ancient coral reefs serve as homes for marine habitats (Casson). As soon as technologies penetrate the water space, ocean species experience harm and damage, which results in their unpredictable migration. In addition to mammal extinction, the carbon that is naturally absorbed by marine life is also challenged, which provokes climate change (Casson). In their desire to find new sources of silver, gold, cobalt, and zinc, people destroy ecosystems and pollute oceans with the chosen petrol and gas stations. The aftermath of their actions may be hidden under water for a long period, and when everything becomes visible, it will be too late to change something.

Programs

Many professional organizations aim at protecting the environment worldwide, and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is one of them. During the last several decades, several programs were initiated to reduce and prevent ocean pollution, namely Trash Free Waters and the National Estuary Program. In the middle of the 2010s, the EPA introduced Trash Free Water to help the United States and other non-governmental organizations reduce the amount of littering and garbage packages in water (Environmental Protection Agency, “Trash Free Water” 1). The problem of aquatic trash has different forms like animal ingestion, reduced economic values of rivers, and habitat destruction (Environmental Protection Agency, “Trash Free Waters” 1). The program helps solve these concerns by establishing such priorities as research efforts, international cooperation, and public awareness. According to this program, people, organizations, and governments must work together to recognize their contributions to the environment and manage sustainable materials properly.

Another initiative, the National Estuary Program (NEP), was offered earlier in 1987 to pay attention to water quality and ecological integrity. The US Environmental Protection Agency invited several stakeholders from different communities like federal and state governments, non-profit organizations, industries, businesses, academics, and even the general public (“National Estuary Program” 2). The participants promote their NEP approach with the help of which it is possible to establish a governance structure and promote equality between all the potential partners (Environmental Protection Agency, “The National Estuary Program”). The government controls how a management plan is developed and implemented, and citizens ensure local needs being addressed. For example, riparian areas are defined and cleaned regularly to reduce pollution that could enter streams and reach the ocean. The idea to place native plants within living shorelines allows catching sediments before they enter local waters and contributes to ocean water quality improvement and coastal erosion prediction.

The Blue Water Task Force (BWTF) is a program by the Surfrider Foundation that pursues the purpose to underline the importance of water quality and its relation to public health. It is not enough to promote cleaning activities and respect for natural resources but to understand why water quality matters today and protects local communities. Although the Surfrider Foundation does not directly address the problem of ocean pollution, its intention to provide everyone with clean water to surf and swim has a positive effect on the water quality (8). One of the BWTF purposes is to measure bacteria levels at the ocean, bay, and estuary sites and test beaches (Surfrider Foundation 8). Students are usually involved in collecting and analyzing water samples to gain solid laboratory experience with the BWFT. When people learn how many bacteria and other dangerous substances could be in the water, they should define the value of pollution problems either for oceans or for their lives.

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Action Plan

The analysis of the existing ocean pollution problems and national environmental programs proves that people have already recognized the impact of their activities on natural resources and try to correct their mistakes and wrong decisions. However, most people believe that the protection of the environment is not their direct responsibility, and ocean contamination is not a threat to them if they live far from this huge natural resource. Such a delusion leads to a poor understanding of the problem and unwillingness to participate in different activities. Therefore, the first step of an action plan to reduce ocean pollution is to educate all citizens, even those who live far from oceans and other water resources. Educating communities about their impact on ocean water quality can be developed through neighborhood walks and sharing flyers with brief but essential information (Surfrider Foundation 15). This step allows people from low-income communities and of any age to enlarge their knowledge for free.

As soon as sufficient information is equally distributed among people, it is high time to see what they know about ocean pollution and their relation to this problem. The second step includes public polls to gather the opinions of people about oceans and their roles in human life. Even if a person knows nothing about the water cycle and potential distant outcomes of his or her activities on the ocean, a simple quiz or a questionnaire helps raise public awareness and promote cooperation. The Environmental Protection Agency underlines the importance of public and private partnerships to stimulate new approaches for material reuse and litter prevention (“Trash Free Waters” 1). Besides, this participation results in creating new waste management programs and change behaviors (Hollaway et al.). In other words, when people start sharing their opinions and recognize their roles in natural resource protection, improvements in ocean pollution-related problems can be observed.

In addition to public education and the assessment of people’s knowledge about the harms done to oceans, the action plan has to enhance real-life participation and personal initiatives. Public and local authorities make decisions whether to close beaches to protect public health and oceans (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). As a result, individuals demonstrate their negative attitudes towards such approaches due to evident limitation of their freedoms. Instead of blaming the government for restrictions, new activities must be initiated. Personal involvement in the decision of global problems is the third step to do something useful for the environment. Sometimes, it is enough to clean the adjacent territory, join a team of beach cleaners, or gather plastic for reuse but not to throw it away. Such simple steps are not difficult to take, but their overall effect is priceless for nature.

Conclusion

The problem of ocean pollution is ambiguous today due to its causes and outcomes in relation to humans. On the one hand, contamination happens because of human activities being poorly managed. Much trash and chemicals enter the ocean as a result of industrial and social progress. The deep-sea mining industry continues to grow and challenge the ocean, its structure, and inhabitants. Although many American governmental and non-profit organizations initiate their programs to protect oceans, not all people are actually engaged in saving activities. Therefore, if a new action plan to stop ocean pollution is necessary, attention should be paid to education for all communities, public opinions, and personal initiatives that underline the role of people in environmental protection.

Works Cited

Casson, Louisa. “5 Reasons Why Deep Sea Mining Will Only Get Our Planet into Deep Trouble.” Greenpeace, 2019, Web.

Denchak, Melissa. “Ocean Pollution: The Dirty Facts.” NRDC, 2018, Web.

Environmental Protection Agency. “The National Estuary Program.” EPA, 2015, Web.

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Trash Free Waters.” EPA, 2017, Web.

Hollaway, Liz, et al. “How to Reduce Plastic and Other Ocean Pollution Simultaneously.” World Resource Institute, 2020, Web.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Ocean Pollution.” NOAA, 2020, Web.

Surfrider Foundation. “Clean Water Report.” Surfrider, 2019, Web.

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