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A big, blue, acid ocean

POSTED October 11, 2011 9:52 p.m.

Our deep blue has always been engulfed in a rich and remarkable legacy. After all, its Portuguese name “pacifico” was chosen by explorer Ferdinand Magellan to mean peaceful, steady, pacific. But such times are quickly changing.            

The Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, as a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has affirmed that the oceans are truly the prisoners of our pollution– adapting to increasing carbon-dioxide emissions by swallowing one-fourth of them.  But it’s our beloved Pacific shore that seems to be bearing the brunt of these burdens. An NOAA funded study shows the growing acidity of waters within 20 miles of the coastline. Even more thought-provoking: in a little over 10 decades, the acidity is expected to increase over 100 percent.     

Mankind will do anything to displace the blame—we’ll call the statistics outrageous, improbable. We’ll accuse scientists of overly-active imaginations and label their documentaries as mystical, make-believe tales. I am, for the most part, an easily convinced individual, but I do understand that there can be some incidents in which the “evidence” is overly amplified, and the numbers seem to be rounded a few too many place values up. Nevertheless, I do feel that there must be some elements of truth behind the figures presented, especially if they are given by an association devoted to predicting ocean trends and are directly linked to our ever-increasing effects on the environment.

I do not wish to demean any of our breakthroughs, and I do believe our new-found ingenuity has solved more troubles than it’s created. I just think it’s high time we come to terms that all our remarkable advancements come with a price tag, and it seems this time we’re compensating the ocean and its life.

For some background information, the retention of carbon dioxide in the saltwater of the ocean “kick-starts” a series of chemical reactions that contribute to a lower pH level and other harmful results. For individuals not familiar with the pH scale, it is a set of values from 0-14, with neutrality at seven and anything under acidic.

It’s key to note that the concept of the Pacific Ocean, or rather all oceans, acidifying is not interchangeable with global warming. Whether one believes in the greenhouse effect or not, it’s difficult to dispute the fact that carbon dioxide emissions are increasing, and as our lungs suffer, so do those of the ocean. And by that I mean the life of the bay.

We think little of the origins of the seafood we consume daily, but this industrious era of history renders it especially crucial we remember that we all share these surroundings— polluted or not. The radiant, friendly aquatic critters we love to observe at the Monterey Bay Aquarium were barely made to withstand the rough and shark-infested waters of the Pacific Ocean, let alone the acidic ones we’re custom-designing with our pollution. If it is going to take the degradation and depopulation of helpless marine creatures for us to see the effect of our increased carbon dioxide emissions on oceans and their life, then we truly won’t be waiting much longer.

That leaves an impending question — where will we go from here? Hopefully I don’t need to remind individuals that the picture of a Californian is always painted with a glimmering sun, soaring seagulls, and a big, blue bay for the background. Our shore adds a unique, integral attribute to an already incomparable state, one that the Rocky Mountain Range of Colorado and the Grand Canyon of Arizona will forever fail to rival. Such an image won’t be upheld when the word is spread that this so celebrated coastline is turning into acid, though. It’s as if it has come to the point where we need to be in a race to conquer the rumors and solve the issue before the secret gets out. In the meantime, no telling.

The soothing sounds of waves breaking onto shore and the tenderness of stepping foot in soft, melting sand can offer great respite as the rest of the globe embarks on a competitive quest for power and production. The great-great-grandchildren of the Golden State will be glad to use a relaxing day at the beach.

  — Henna Hundal is a high school student and resident of Turlock. She writes a monthly column on matters related to youth and our society.

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