An Earth Day Message from Executive Director Mark Perry
Today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, a great reminder about how individuals can work together to help restore and protect the health of our oceans, wildlife and environment. Although we are not able to celebrate this occasion in the ways we typically like during these uncertain times, it’s important we still take the time to recognize the significance of Earth Day, understand the risks if we don’t make the effort to protect our environment and take the steps we can to make a difference.
Our Ocean covers ¾ of our planet – Water is unique to this Earth and provides all life with the life support system we need to survive. The Ocean feeds us, drives our climate, absorbs our heat and carbon dioxide and produces 70% of the oxygen we breathe. But we have been the cause of major changes and damage to our Earth and our Ocean. The Ocean absorbs 90% of the heat in our environment and since 1970 ocean temperatures have increased by 1 degree, causing coral bleaching and disease and a loss of over 50% of our coral reefs around the world. The excess heat has caused ice caps and glaciers to melt and also caused thermal expansion of our seas creating sea level rise, over 8 inches since 1950.
We have continued to add more Carbon Dioxide to our atmosphere as we have industrialized the activities on planet Earth. In 1970 concentrations of CO2 were 325 ppm and today they are 425. Our Oceans absorb most of the CO2 from our atmosphere but they are becoming saturated and the excess is forming carbonic acid which has caused a 25% increase in the acidity of our Ocean. This means shells cannot form, from the tiniest zooplankton to larger shellfish like shrimp, crabs and oysters. Major crashes to the food chain may be on the horizon unless we can get our Planet back in balance.
On that first Earth Day in 1970, I was 18 years old and graduating high school. I was super excited to “Save the Planet”. We passed many laws in the next few years such as the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts and we set out to preserve the diversity of wildlife with the Endangered Species Act. As we celebrate this Earth Day 2020, we realize we have grown in population from 3.6 Billion to 7.7 Billion and although this increase has created huge demands on our Planet’s life support system, I am still encouraged and hopeful. The recent global pandemic has shown us that we must work together to get through this crisis which impacts the entire Earth. The crisis of pollution to our Earth must be addressed in the same way. We must continue to work together to stop the pollution and protect and preserve our Planet for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren and generations to come. Let’s use this Earth Day 2020 to recommit ourselves to saving our Planet on a local scale and building the momentum for global change.
Let’s do what we can today for the future of our Planet Earth.
Florida Oceanographic Society