The Wolf of The Sea
A wise man (Aldo Leopold) once said that we must think like the mountain, because the mountain understands how all life in its lands are connected. And that there exists a delicate balance to all life on Earth, which if interrupted, can change everything. In his book A Sand County Almanac, Leopold explains that by hunting the wolf, man allows the deer to roam free and eat all of the grass, and for the time being this hurts the mountain. But what about the sea? The mother of all life on Earth and the largest part of our planet. Who is the wolf of the sea?
The Wolf of the sea is the top predator. It’s the shark that hunts in the vast open ocean, and the Dolphin that outwits its prey near the coast. But it’s also the grouper with its huge mouth, and the Albatross that flies across the largest oceans in the world in search of food. It’s the tuna with its torpedo-like speed, and the seal with its graceful resilience to the cold. And we hunt them all. These animals understand the ocean’s depths in ways that we never can. The ways the water moves with the tides, and the ways the winds make waves and currents. The sea is connected in far different ways than the mountain, and only the animals that live there understand this way of life.
People don’t understand this. We hunt every wolf in the sea, from the sharks that are left to die with their fins cut off, to the dolphins and albatross that become stuck in our fishing gear and drown. But we don’t stop there. We pollute the sea with our garbage, and change the chemistry of the waters with our greenhouse gases. We even clear-cut huge expanses of ocean prairies with our bottom trawls, which sweep through the sea day and night leaving few behind in their tracks. You might not hunt these animals or pollute these waters yourself, but by spending money on the industries that do, you’re indirectly hunting these animals. And by hunting these animals the way we do, the sea has already begun to change.
As we chase away the wolves and change the sea itself, all life is affected. The deer of the sea, the sea urchin, will grow uncontrollably without otters to eat them, and will tear down the kelp forests that line the Pacific Northwest. In “dead zones” where waste from our homes and farms reaches the sea, oxygen is sucked out of the water and the life that cannot escape is left to perish. Only animals that can survive with little oxygen can live in these places. Coral reefs, the lungs of our great oceans, are beginning to crumble under the changing climate that has resulted from the relentless fog of carbon dioxide produced ever day. Animals that can live in our man-made sea will survive, while the natural balance crumbles.
So how can we think like the sea? Every dollar that you spend has the power to change some part of the world we live in; Whether it’s the kind of food that you buy, the way that you power your home, or how you get around. The money that you spend on something supports that system’s existence. Spending money on a on a sustainable system could help make that system the norm (eg: buying sustainably caught fish, eating lower on the food chain, using renewable energies). But if we purchase from industries that are unsustainable (eg: overfishing, large polluters), then the sea will suffer the consequences. We can think like the sea by respecting it. By spending each dollar on something that we know is good, and by taking personal actions to reduce our every-day impacts, we can more closely understand the delicate balance known between the sea and its wolves.
Here are some ways to think like the sea:
- Try to minimize the use of plastic in your everyday life. Whether its saying no to using a plastic straw with your drink, or bringing your own re-usable shopping bag to the store with you. Little mindful actions like these can make a big difference.
- Eat lower on the marine food chain. This means absolutely avoiding shark products or large pelagic fish (tuna, swordfish, etc.) as these are some of the ocean’s most endangered fish from commercial fishing. Instead opt for some locally-caught clams or fish caught in more sustainable fisheries. Be aware of eco-labels on food products, as those may help you determine how the food was caught. Reducing your seafood consumption all together would make the biggest impact of all.
- Reduce your carbon footprint. If you own a home, a big way to help reduce the emissions that you produce on a daily basis is to go solar. There are plenty of companies out there and new systems developed to allow any home owner to actually save money by installing solar panels. Everyday actions that you can take as well are simple carpooling with friends, or even opting to ride a bike or walk instead of taking a car. The oceans are the world’s biggest sink for carbon dioxide, and so reducing your personal footprint is a step towards thinking like the ocean.
- Respect the ocean and convince others around you to do the same. We live in a world today that’s more connected than ever before. Positive actions often do not go unnoticed, and so by doing something positive for the marine environment, such as picking up litter on the beach, you can set an example for countless others. Be the change that you want to see in the world, and undoubtedly others will follow.
- Become a citizen of the high seas and sign up for your ocean passport by visiting us at: www.theterramarproject.org. Educate yourself on the most current issues and solutions facing our world’s oceans and become a part of the way forward.
Featured image used with permission of artist.