Response to “The Ocean is Broken”

‘The Ocean is Broken’ article has sparked off many conversations about the state of of our seas, the nature and volume of litter which is afloat and creating hazards to the marine life is washed up. Such conversations are needed.  Personally I have  received phone calls and e mails  about the issue following the article.  The following letter was written and shared with me by  John McIntyre a resident living near Ullapool . ‘A couple of years ago for a project that set a buoy adrift filled with letters. I made the buoy for them so sent a letter too….’

I am writing because I want those people who will be
alive a hundred from now to inherit the rich hospitable sun lit leaf
shaded and life tangled world that I grew up in. I hope that our
literature and art can be saved and that our children will have time
to write and tell more stories. I hope that they will be able to
wander and dance in the moss deep northern forests still filled with
the flight of birds. I hope that whales, tigers and the great apes
will not have disappeared and become mythological.
I am also writing because I have spent my entire adult life working as
a scientist and owe it to those people yet to live to speak.

We are living in a blizzard of change and yet act as if nothing is
changing. It is not much more than one hundred years the first
aircraft flew. In that time radio and television were invented, atomic
power and the fusion bomb, jet engines and air travel, cars and motor
ways, computers and electronics, the population of the planet
quadrupled and we have burnt about half of the oil and coal. Even our
education system is not so much older then they are, yet we behave as
if all of these things are unchanging.

The climate and ecology of the world are finely balanced and easily
shifted from one state of almost equilibrium to another. Ice ages
start and end as the amount of sunlight falling at high latitudes
alters imperceptibly.  The oceans act to slow the change for a while
and then the world warms or cools and life must move and adapt to the
Many times the world has changed and life has changed with it
sometimes coming close to being extinguished and sometimes so changing
the environment that it has almost extinguished itself.

Now we have walked into a trap. We didn’t know we had and we didn’t
intend to but we have. The coal and oil that we have burnt to fuel our
technology and agriculture has altered the composition of the
atmosphere and is changing the balance of the climate so that our
civilization will be overwhelmed unless we act.  There is no doubt
about this. The same mathematics and science that allowed us to make
aircraft and computers also allows us to describe and understand why
this plant grows here and not there, why the forest ends where it dose
giving way to a sea of grass. How the earths orbit changes across deep
time and what sunlight is made from.

If we are to escape the trap we must act quickly and do many things all at once.

We must reduce the population of the planet at least ten fold.
We need to create a sustainable agriculture that depends less on
fossil fuel, uses the land more efficiently and dose no great harm to
the life that shares the earth with us.
We must live with less and to use what we use more carefully.
We must learn to look ahead and to plan for change and for stability
over hundreds of years.

Everyone should read “Limits to Growth

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