Water, Water, Everywhere, But Not A Drop To Eat

Today, I’d like to talk briefly about water.

It’s one of the most amazing substances on earth, and also the one most taken for granted. It’s mind-bogglingly small. A single water molecule is made up of just three atoms. Two hydrogen, one oxygen. Of course, we never see it as just one molecule (outside a chemistry textbook, anyway). There’s actually an amazing amount of water on the planet. The oceans of the planet cover 71% of the surface of the earth to an average depth of 4 kilometres. That’s huge.

Unfortunately, due to the rampant consumerism in western countries, coupled with our love of dodgy waste disposal methods (and a bit of bad luck), the oceans are fast filling up with human rubbish. A single litre of oil can contaminate 8 million litres of sea water. That’s 8 million litres that isn’t suitable for aquatic life. Chris Jordan has some amazing photographs of sea birds who have stomachs full of junk. All the junk that ends up in our oceans (either deliberately or accidentally) takes a huge toll not only on aquatic animals, but on our future.

The trash we put into the ocean will slowly be crushed into minuscule pieces, which poison the tiny plankton (among other animals). Any animal that eats plankton is then affected by the lower populations, and it all works it’s way up the food chain until eventually we run out of fish because they have nothing to eat, and we all run out of fish and chips and have to eat chicken instead die.

So what can we all do about this salty, vinegary problem?

  • Firstly, we can put rubbish in it’s proper place. Rubbish in rubbish bins, recycling in recycling bins, compost in compost bins. Throwing plastic or cigarette butts out the car window is probably the worst thing you can do.
  • Secondly, whenever you see a rubbish bin somewhere (like a bus stop or a food court) that doesn’t have a matching recycling bin, ring up the relevant authority and complain.
  • Thirdly, cut down on the amount of plastic you consume. Plastic products take years and years to break down (if they aren’t recycled) and use up precious supplies of oil that we need so that I can drive to the beach and take a  swim in that lovely 71% of the planet.

This post is part of Blog Action Day 2010, an annual event in the blogging community that brings global attention to a single issue.