Climate action and the sustainability of life on earth requires us to maintain the integrity of our oceans and all life below water. My Octopus Teacher, which was filmed on the coastline of South Africa, rose to global acclaim and won best documentary feature at the 93rd annual Academy Awards earlier this year.
This documentary gives us an on-screen experience of a unique relationship built between a human and an octopus that is built over time based on reciprocity, trust and empathy. It not only transcends the limits of inter-species relationships and cohabitation, but gives us a deeper appreciation for our different worlds while showing us that while we are different, we are also much the same.
The ocean provides us with food, medicine, biofuel and an expansive body of beauty that supports complex ecosystems and the richest diversity of marine life.
Over three billion people depend on marine biodiversity for their livelihoods whilst around 40% of our oceans are affected by human activities which cause pollution, depleted fisheries and the loss of coastal habitats.
We simply cannot continue with exploitative and irresponsible behaviours that are destroying our oceans. In addition, the ocean provides many stressed corporate citizens with the chance to relax and unwind, offering us not only a place of economic sustenance but also a place of mental relaxation and rest.
As the ocean is the world’s largest carbon reservoir, the rising levels of CO² globally has contributed to the oceans becoming more acidic. This has had devastating effects on coral reefs and the loss of marine life found within those reefs, which has a direct human impact as we rely on these reefs for food, medicine and tourism income.
We need to reduce marine pollution, effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, conserve coastal and marine areas and seek to increase the economic benefits to small island developing states.
The targets underlying SDG 14 speak broadly to three areas of focus: ensuring the correct legislative policies are in place to protect our oceans, decreasing the adverse consequences of our activities on our oceans and placing more importance on preserving marine and coastal areas and ecosystems.
We need to reduce marine pollution, effectivelyregulate harvesting and end overfishing, conserve coastal and marine areas andseek to increase the economic benefits to small island developing states.
The global movement towards plastic-free alternatives has shone a light on just how much plastic we use. It is estimated that we already consume unhealthy levels of microplastic daily given the levels of plastic we have dumped into the oceans in the past. We need to continue the momentum created with plastic-free alternatives and make active choices to limit our plastic usage as far as possible.
If you live in a coastal area, volunteer for beach clean-ups and be sure to reuse, reduce and recycle wherever possible. If you visit a beach, be sure to remove any litter that may make its way into the ocean and spread awareness about the impact of marine litter.
If you do not live near a coastal area, take the time to investigate the source of the seafood you consume, the working conditions of the fishing industry and other factors that might be of importance in empowering you with the knowledge to make informed decisions. Learn to explore the watershed closest to you that connects to the ocean.
If we make small changes to the way we live, we can achieve SDG 14, prioritising life below water in the same way we prioritise our life on land. To quote David Attenborough “the living world can’t operate without a healthy ocean and neither can we”.
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