Different audiences have different levels of comprehension of the fact that ocean acidification compromises the sustainability of ocean ecosystem services. Much of the general public is still unaware of the large problem posed by ocean acidification, let alone its effect on the sustainability of ocean ecosystem services. Furthermore, of those that are familiar with the concept of ocean acidification, even fewer realize the multitude of ramifications from the decreasing pH of the world’s oceans. Scientists are of course much more familiar with ocean acidification than the general public, especially those who study the ecosystems of the sea. However, many scientists tend to focus more on the consequences for marine life than the compromisation of the sustainability of ocean ecosystem services. Although some policymakers are aware of the issues posed by ocean acidification, many seem to focus more on the more widely known issues that gain more public attention in order to gain greater political standing. It seems that major legislation regarding possible remedies for or regulations pertaining to ocean acidification never occurs, so policymakers definitely do not prioritize the effects of ocean acidification of ocean ecosystem services. On the other hand, fisheries must be very aware of ocean acidification’s ramifications, as the lowering ocean pH affects fish populations and thereby the business of the fisheries. Some commercial fishing companies even direct research to determine the extent to which ocean acidification affects their business and ways in which to avoid business disruption.
There are many possible changes that could be implemented in order to further understanding and communication concerning the extent to which ocean acidification compromises the sustainability. Teaching about environmental issues such as ocean acidification in school could raise awareness and interest in younger people and also in their parents. Also, the government could concern itself more with ocean acidification. For example, congress could pass guidelines concerning carbon emissions and other practices that contribute to ocean acidification. Congress could also pass legislation calling for measures to remedy acidification rather than just limit it. In addition to helping stop acidification, the simple discussion of such measures by the government would raise nationwide awareness of ocean acidification and its effects. Additionally, local museums or learning centers could design programs to reach out into their communities and educate the public about the dangers of ocean acidification and how the falling pH of the ocean compromises the sustainability of ocean ecosystem services. With a combination of any of all of these measures, public awareness would begin to grow, and the general population would become more interested in the issue of ocean acidification, subsequently beginning to do their own research to learn more and possibly contribute to a remedy for acidification. This new knowledge would also lead to a newfound sense of responsibility that would compel people to try to do their part to save the world’s oceans.
Ocean acidification is a global issue that is just now starting o make its way into the periphery of the public eye despite its very close tie with well known issues such as carbon emissions and global warming. The fact that ocean acidification is not well known may only be true for the general public though. I believe that ocean acidification and its consequences on sustainability are issues that are at least somewhat well known among the scientific, political, fishery, and other stakeholders, but a topic that some would seek to push back behind a veil of the unknown in order to continue to exploit resources in a business as usual fashion.
The fact that ocean acidification is not a well known issue is not surprising. Being a terrestrial species the ocean has always been one of the great unknowns and very little was known about it until recently in the historically spectrum. Because human existence has never truly been reliant or dependent on the ocean, unless one considers trade and fisheries, it is an area that could easily be overlooked in the past. But now the ocean is an integral part of modern society. The ocean provides many resources and services; promoting tourism and leisure through cruises, scuba etc; providing trade routes; economic opportunities for those in the fishery business, not to mention the environmental benefits of heat and carbon absorption. I believe that ocean acidification will be forced into the forefront of issues as these benefits, and especially the economic services, are affected. When ocean acidification begins to decrease the amount of revenue pulled in by the tourism industry due to changing aesthetics and the fishery industry plummets due to the lack of product rendered hen those in charge will have no choice but to acknowledge it as it will be affecting their own pocketbooks. Likewise the politicians will be forced to acknowledge it and speak actively as much of their funding comes from large industries who then hold power over them, such as that of the tourism sector.
Luckily are many ways to promote further understanding and communication of the topic of ocean acidification. I believe that one of the biggest steps to achieving understanding in this and future generations is to begin teaching about the topic in high schools in the nation and around the world, because I know that even in my Oceanography class I had never heard of the phenomenon. By getting the issue included in a textbook or in standard curriculum awareness would likely increase. Additionally this issue would need to be added to the docket of major activist groups in order to raise awareness. And what better way to raise awareness than by getting a highlight of the issue in some sort of documentary available on television or a service like Netflix, in addition to attempting to get a feature of the issue on some sort of nightly news in the feature. By getting the issue into the mass media awareness would increase substantially, which would theoretically lead to greater understanding.
Global warming has been particularly prominent in the media for this last decade. As a result, the general public is now aware of what global warming is, and the problems it causes. Because ocean acidification has only started to gain prominence, it unfortunately has yet to reach that level of exposure. Outside of the scientific realm of people who have direct interactions with the ocean like ocean scientists, fish harvesters, or fishery operators, not enough people understand the problem of ocean acidification and the impact it might have on the future of the ocean’s ecosystems.
“There are plenty of fish in the sea.” This quote used when speaking of something that is found in large quantities says something about the way we perceive the ocean. We think of the ocean as this vast, possibly never ending, resource. There will always be more fish in the sea, that’s something we don’t question, and almost take for granted. However, this might no longer be as true as it once was. Yes, there are still plenty of fish in the sea, but whether it remains that way is now in our hands. The problem is that not enough people know about this.
What needs to be done to remediate to this problem is clear: The general public needs to be more informed, the issue of ocean acidification should be more widespread, and there should be more emphasis on it in the media. This is rather straightforward. The greater difficulty, however, lies in the “how” more than the “what.” Yes, this issue needs to be brought to public attention, but there are already many issues that have public attention and that haven’t gotten any closer to being resolved. Awareness needs to be raised in a way that won’t cause further desensitization and won’t make ocean acidification just another problem on the list, along with the economy, unemployment global warming. One way to avoid this would be to not present the problem on its own. Permanent solutions to the problem of ocean acidification haven’t been found, but methods of mitigation are being explored, via geoengineering or the adoption of alternative energy sources. So presenting the issue as something that is currently being worked on, as opposed to something about which no one has a clue what to do, would generate a better response from the general public. Alternative energy sources are already being heavily promoted nowadays, so if helping mitigate ocean acidification could be added to the list of benefits they provide, it would further their promotion.
I believe that the awareness of ocean acidification depends on the audience. Scientists and fisheries professionals are more likely to know what ocean acidification is and realize how it affects sustainability. Similarly, environmental activists are probably more aware of the issue. Since ocean acidification is closely related to these fields, it would make sense that these people would have a better understanding and knowledge of the subject.
However, on a large scale, I feel that few people know of ocean acidification and its consequences. While many people understand global warming, I think that very little have heard of ocean acidification. Before, this class I did not know much about the issue, and I believe that it is difficult to come across information on ocean acidification unless you are searching for it. Ocean acidification is definitely not a popular topic in society today, and even if some people have heard of it, I doubt many people truly understand its effects.
In order to increase awareness, I think that the media would need to be heavily involved. Recently, global warming has become a more popular issue, and it seems that more and more people are trying to become more sustainable. One way to increase the public’s knowledge of ocean acidification would be to demonstrate the correlation between ocean acidification and global warming. In general, most people see global warming as a larger problem, and while ocean acidification is important, I don’t think that many people would be as interested in it on its own. This is why linking it to global warming might inspire more people to learn about it and get involved.
Another way to capture society’s interest in ocean acidification would be to discuss more publicly the economic effects that could occur from it. More people would want to help if they knew that the issue could possibly hurt the economy. By showing that ocean acidification affects the food chain, people might view the issue as more pressing. Although framing the issue apocalyptically is not always the best option, since ocean acidification has such a small audience at the moment, I feel that presenting it in an urgent manner may be the best way to get people to actually consider the problem.
Foust, C. R. & Murphy, W. O. (2009) Revealing and Reframing Apocalyptic Tragedy in Global Warming Discourse. Environmental Communication, 3, 151-167.
I do feel that different audiences know that ocean acidification is affecting the sustainability of our ecosystem services, but I believe that a larger percentage of people are not aware of its effects. The select few who do know of the effects are primarily only those who are directly affected by ocean acidification. These might include scientist in the field or owners of fisheries who are seeing the impact on their business. I feel others would only know of ocean acidification and its effects if they briefly touched upon it in a class or heard about it from an environmental protection campaign of some sort.
For audiences who do not know, I feel they are the people who can continue their lives without feeling ocean acidification’s impact. The general public does not engage in activities everyday that would be influenced by a different pH in the ocean. Policy makers, even, lack this exposure to acidifying waters, so we cannot expect them to know of its occurrence. However, even with this gap, I feel a larger gap exists between those who do and do not realize the extent to which ocean acidification effects sustainability. Yes people may aware that CO2 levels are rising, that we need to be eco-friendly to reduce these CO2 emissions, and maybe that the oceans are absorbing the CO2 at high levels. But they do not understand what happens when CO2 goes into the water. They do not realize that fish populations are decreasing, that this impacts other species, and as a result food chains are skewed. They may also not see the connection this could have to seafood prices. And they probably would not know these details unless they are involved in some type of environmental protection or they have read in depth articles that discuss these processes.
Again, since they do not involve themselves directly in activities that would in some way be affected by ocean acidification, they would probably not know how the ecosystems are being impacted. This is why education and awareness is imperative. Those unaware do not take classes on environmental sciences, or may read up about the other CO2 problem (considering not many people may also not understand the extent to which sustainability of ecosystems is not preserved from global warming). The initiative should be take to teach the importance and raise awareness of this issue just as we do with different cancers or situations in foreign countries. Not that they have not been taken already, but ocean acidification needs to be presented in a way to gain the attention of public while not over exaggerating its impact.
This would relay the simple message of what is going on, however an understanding of the magnitude of ocean acidification would, in reality, be difficult. People cannot exactly understand why something is important if it does not affect them or their lives in any way. Stakeholders in any situation only give attention and care to things that involve them; stakeholders would not be stakeholders if they were not a part of the situation. Similarly, if the public does not become a direct stakeholder, I feel they may not achieve the full understanding of the issue and how it affects the ecosystem and its services.
It is surprising that the majority of the general public is not familiarized with something as hugely affective as ocean acidification. The lack of information is just making matters worse for our health and safety, since people just wait until things get significantly bad before they start to take action. At that point, it could be too late to make an effective change. Ocean acidification is the rise in carbon dioxide and lowering of pH levels and it is increasingly damaging our oceans. More people need to be informed about this predicament. Resources that people are exposed to daily should take the opportunity and spread awareness about ocean acidification. Schools, media, and various types of propaganda can be used to help raise awareness. When people know more, they have a higher chance of taking actions that are needed to have resolve problems.
There have been some sources from the media that have tried to inform people about ocean acidification. Sven Huseby’s A Sea Change was a documentary that he created to help people fully understand what ocean acidification is and how it is affecting our world. There have been few instances where ocean acidification has been mentioned in the news, including ABC’s story on Ocean Acidification Hitting Northwest Oyster Farms, in April of 2010. Otherwise, there is not enough coverage on ocean acidification. Not everyone has heard of Huseby’s movie or watches the news everyday. Even when people watch the news, they may not catch a particular story that is only aired once. The news should take more action and try to continuously expose this growing dilemma to the public so they can take action and not forget about that story they ‘once heard’ about ‘something happening to our oceans on television.’ Newspapers and magazines can play a part and write more about the effects of ocean acidification. They can show scientific studies and findings, including predictions that scientists have made about what our oceans will be like in a few years, and what will happen if no action is taken to help reduce the rising carbon dioxide levels in the oceans. The internet is a strong source that people are exposed to everyday. Advertisement and certain sections on main web pages such as Google or Yahoo! could site sources and links of websites that help inform people and explain to them how they can take action. Many websites already have significant amounts of information about ocean acidification, and they should be presented to the public and informed that these sources are always available.
Awareness can be spread through school systems as well. Teachers can inform students whether it is mentioning facts about ocean acidification before class everyday, or teaching an entire class on ocean acidification. It does pertain to science, so why not have a discussion about it in science class? Teachers can inform students, who can pass on the information to their parents and friends. Schools can hold discussions or projects that encourage students to help spread awareness across town. This can possibly consist of posting flyers or using local newspapers to talk about the consequences of ocean acidification.
Even the smallest efforts can really help inform people about ocean acidification. It all starts with one step, and when one person takes action, it can start a chain reaction. The media and school somewhat play their roles in informing the public, but more needs to be done. People need to be continuously informed to the point of irritation. Even at the risk of an exasperated public, it is much better than the alternative possibility of panicking after worse events have occurred. There is always a solution when everyone makes the effort to take actions and inform others.
In crises that society faced throughout history, people tend to ignore distant problems that do not show up in front of their eyes. Americans shrugged off the threat posed by the Axis powers in World War 2 until the Japanese attacked American soil at Pearl Harbor. Al-Qaeda, an organization barely publicized before the 21st century, suddenly dominated the minds of every airline passenger for years after the 9/11 incident. The same indifference towards hidden but dangerous threats could be said about the way ocean acidification is viewed today.
For the majority of the world’s population who don’t see the ocean on an everyday basis, ocean acidification is a problem shoved aside for others to take care of. Even policymakers are guilty of this indifference and apathy. Governors from inland states such as Kansas or Minnesota would be very hesitant to shell out taxpayer money to decrease carbon emissions to protect crabbing industries in Maryland. The root of the inaction about ocean acidification is that individuals not connected with marine activities in any way, recreationally or vocationally, perceive no apparent harm towards themselves.
But their perception of a lack of danger is errant. Ocean acidification can have significant secondary repercussions beyond declining fishing revenues. As argued in my perspectives article, a debilitated fishing industry may very well precipitate a recession in a national economy and even on the global economy as well. Once workers in the fishing industry are displaced, they would need to cut back on consumer spending, such as a purchasing new Xbox 360 or a laptop. Across the board, every industry, from electronics to clothing, would suffer a hit due to declining fishing industries. A very similar phenomenon occurred with the recent global recession, where a housing market crisis in the United States negatively impacted economies of nations across the globe. If the world’s citizens don’t care at all about the aesthetic value of having pristine coral reefs or other marine habitats around the world, they should at least realize that their own small-businesses are at risk of suffering a financial hit along with fishing industries.
This notion that everybody will be affected by ocean acidification, even through cascading effects, needs to be publicized. This way, when voters express high interest about environmental protection, Democrats and Republicans alike will be forced to face this issue and plan to address it in office. When writing up policies, there needs to be careful attention towards making sure that every factory, no matter the geographic location, shares the responsibility of reducing carbon emissions. Carbon dioxide emitted from a Nebraskan firm will eventually diffuse throughout the entire atmosphere and maybe dissolve in the waters of the Indian Ocean, negatively affecting fishers in Bangladesh. Because the threat of ocean acidification is relevant for a wide range of people, the solution to fix it must be concerted as well.
Compared to global warming and climate change, ocean acidification is still a less familiar topic to the general public. Although there has been increasing coverage in the media, such as newspaper and magazines, about this ongoing environmental issue, many people are still not aware of its causes and consequences. Since people by nature tend to pay more attention to immediate and tangible effects of certain issue, we can safely guess that even fewer people truly understand that ocean acidification compromises the sustainability of ocean ecosystem, threatening the survival of our future generations. Given this lack of awareness, we can hardly expect any major policies or social movements coming up to tackle this problem. Therefore, I believe the first step to solving the problem of ocean acidification in long-run is to raise the public’s awareness about how it can reduce marine sustainability and lead to decline of well-being of human beings in the future.
So far, there has been an uneven distribution of information about ocean acidification among different groups of audience. Scientists who specialize in ocean chemistry may know how acidification can lead to less sustainable ocean ecosystem in every detail, whereas people living in the interior part of the country whose sore relation with the ocean is buying fish from the supermarket may not have even heard about ocean acidification at all. The problem is that scientists usually publish their papers on scientific journals such as Science magazine, whose target audience are other scientists. Only a small portion of the general public will read those journals and the contents are often too professional for layman to understand. This hinders information flow from scientists to the general public, results in less effective communication between them and reduces understanding about ocean acidification among the public.
Here, we can try to figure out the solution by reviewing how global warming and climate change have become so well-known to public. It is not difficult to realize that the popular media, politicians and education actually played a huge role in ensuring strong presence of the two issues among the public. Al Gole’s Inconvenience Truth presented global warming to the public in an impactful way. Mainstream media such as CNN and BBC regard climate change as a hot topic to draw the public’s attention. Global warming is included in most of the textbooks when talking about greenhouse effects. It is through these ways that the general public is kept in contact with the information about the two issues.
Similarly, I believe raising the public’s awareness about ocean acidification requires efforts from politicians, popular media and educational sectors. Scientists should take the responsibility to first make the policy makers fully aware of the problem of ocean acidification, so that they can possibly become strong advocates. Mainstream media should also focus more on sustainable ocean ecosystem and introduce ocean acidification as a serious environmental issue that will affect our future to the public. Besides, more knowledge about how ocean acidification may cause less sustainable ocean ecosystem can be included in textbooks to make the issue known to our young generation, building solid foundation for solving this problem in the future.
As more research is done on ocean acidification it is becoming ever clearer that the majority of marine organisms are going to be increasingly negatively effected as the pH of the ocean drop.
Thus, with most of the marine life being affected than any interaction humans have with the ocean will also be affected. Incomes based on marine tourism will fall to next-to-nothing if all coral reefs disappear, and with them the plethora of exotic organisms which currently attract many people globally; Communities based around (subsistence) fishing will be affected if the fish they are rely on for food and income start to decrease in size, as they will then need to increase their catches; international fishing corporations will have to utilize more and more dramatic methods to harvest the thousands of tonnes of fish they are currently accustomed to providing to a fish-hungry world, and this in itself will only lead to further destruction of habitats.
These are only a few examples of what will probably happen over the next few decades, and not a single change sounds sustainable.
If we (as a planet) wish to keep the oceans as the valuable resource they are currently, then a lot of work needs to be done, and fast. One major obstacle is publicity; Ocean acidification is not a well-known problem. Global warming is caused by many of the same factors, and has an impact that is in the same league as ocean acidification, but the widespread knowledge of the two is incomparable – nearly every single person with some sort of education will have heard of global warming, where practically the reverse is true for ocean acidification! This problem is probably one of the most important. If the majority of people were to be educated about ocean acidification and it’s severity then it would be a fairly straightforward next step to press for immediate action. There are enough scientific studies in existence (and presumably countless more being currently undertaken) to convince the majority of sceptics that ocean acidification is truly happening, and a huge problem. This is where ocean acidification differs from global warming, which even now is still viewed as somewhat of a controversial issue.
Once the educated public knows of an issue as dire and immediate as ocean acidification clearly is, it is a (relatively) simple matter of creating pressure groups to demand change at a policy level of the government – whether this be increased investments to the scientific communities to come up with more ways to combat ocean acidification, or stricter goals set on cutting carbon emissions, with the appropriate change in pace to accommodate these goals with any sense of realism.
It may be too late to save some of the most delicate of species in the ocean, but if this issue were to be taken seriously by the global population, then it is definitely not too late to start making changes.
Climate change is a difficult issue to resolve because the effects of human’s actions now do not have an immediate effect on the planet and therefore on many individual’s lives. It is easier for most humans to respond to issues directly affecting their livelihoods as opposed to those affecting other groups of people or future generations. Reducing emissions, the only currently feasible solution to climate change, requires a lot of personal sacrifice and increased costs. It is hard to motivate some individuals to make these sacrifices because they do not necessarily have to face the consequences of their actions.
This phenomenon is even more significant with ocean acidification, a subset of the greater climate change issue. The ocean is almost a separate world from the world in which most humans live. Beyond fishermen, few people’s livelihoods depend directly on the oceans, and most people are unaware of the more subtle ecosystem services the oceans provide. For example, coral reefs not only provide the habitat for many species of fish that can then supply fisheries, they also provide coastal protection from waves. This is not a connection that most people make, and therefore many people are unaware of the importance of the ocean and its inhabitants. However, in addition to the lack of awareness, there is a lack of urgency about the changes occurring.
This lack of urgency is partially due to a lack of publicity about the issue, and partially due to the lack of information about the specific effects of ocean acidification. Even within the scientific community, few people have even heard of ocean acidification, let alone are aware of the consequences humans are facing if conditions are not reversed. Public media focuses on the direct effects of global warming, such as melting ice caps and rising sea levels. Ocean acidification has yet to make a big appearance in these medias, and therefore there is little awareness about the issue. In addition, current research has been unable to fully predict all the consequences of ocean acidification, especially at an ecosystem level. The effects are very species specific, so it is very difficult to predict how the ecosystem will shift due to the death and growth of different species. This contributes to the absence of ocean acidification from public media because there is a lack of specific information that the public can respond to.
If ocean acidification is to stop, the public and policy makers must be informed about ocean acidification and motivated to find a solution. This could be achieved through an increase in media coverage of the issue or in general increased knowledge about environmental issues and conservation among policy makers. Further research will reveal more specific consequences of ocean acidification, which could be linked to human livelihood to help inspire change. Scientists and environmentalists have to eliminate the invisibility of the issue if any major action is to be made towards solving the issue.