Worth it´s “Plate” in gold to the environment
One of the most efficient ways you can contribute to the world is by making a conscious decision about what goes on your plate. Plant based diets consume much less resources than animal based diets and don’t have even half as many negative effects on the environment. If you want to make a positive change to the Oceans, then the single most important decision you can make is to eat a plant based diet.
Thanks to scientific findings on climate change in most news publications made available on a daily basis, we are well aware that these two effects are caused by increases in carbon dioxide (CO2) in our atmosphere. Although the world varies in temperature with natural cycles over time, what we are currently experiencing is exponential growth in carbon dioxide emissions leading to irregular increases in global temperatures. It turns out that 2016 has been the hottest year on record solidifying data of constant rising temperatures.
So is this the only effect that should concern us? Like all things in nature, balance is attained by the synchronization of natural variables that create the perfect living conditions for our species. Nevertheless, we would be ignorant to think that adjusting one variable in this complex system would not have knock on effects on others.
So how does going vegan reduce global warming?
This article talks about ocean acidification, which is another side effect caused by increased levels of CO2 in our atmosphere. It is important to remember throughout this article that industrial meat production is the largest contributor of green house gas emissions globally, the largest contributor of carbon monoxide, the largest contaminant of rivers and oceans among many others.
Warning this next part contains SCIENCE!!!
So, the perfect balance of gases in our atmosphere which allows us to breathe is not just there by chance. Humans need an exact quantifiable combination of gases in order to survive. This chemical formula of nitrogen (78%), oxygen (21%), argon (0.9%), carbon dioxide (0.04%) and five other gases are kept in perfect balance by the natural mechanisms and cycles that make up the earth’s atmosphere. In school we all learned that plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen as part of a natural process, but what is not emphasized, but is just as important, is the role that oceans have in absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The oceans are our largest carbon sinks, absorbing half of the CO2 emitted into the atmosphere every year.
This CO2 in the right quantities is used, amongst other things, to create ocean life. However, the ocean is not like a tree. A tree can only absorb a certain amount of CO2 depending on how much leaf surface is hit by sunlight. As it turns out, the ocean has a far larger capacity to absorb CO2 than its default setting, meaning it can absorb more than its natural limits.
Cause for concern
Why should we be worried? Because increases in CO2 are leading to more acidic oceans, altering species’ composition, killing coral reefs, disrupting ecosystems and damaging fisheries. Also, millions of people are seeing negative effects on coastal tourism, which is the main income generator for more than 500 million poor families around the world. Apart from this, the main problem we could face is less food security, one of the main pillars of stability that make up our prosperous society. The carbonate chemistry in the ocean was stable for millions of years until the Industrial Revolution. Since 1800 there has been a 30% decrease in the pH of the oceans and a 16% decrease in carbonate ion concentration. What does this mean? More acidic oceans mean lower carbonate ions, which affect the development of shells and reefs and affect all the ocean life that requires calcium carbonate in order to grow. Basically, all shells and crustacean bodies are made of calcium, so more acidity means less calcium for growth.
“Our civilization, in one year, uses the same amount of resources that our ancestors used every 100.000 years!”
How does it happen? When carbon dioxide (CO2) enters the water (H2O) it creates carbonic acid (H2CO3). Carbonic acid leads to higher positive ions (H+), which lead to lower PH levels.
In 1750, the Oceans had a pH of 8.2 today; they are at 8.1. This may seem like a small change, but it actually represents a 30% increase in acidity. To put this change into scale, above we already mentioned that CO2 comprises only 0.04% of our atmosphere, yet the effects we are seeing are huge. Effects are exacerbated with such a small quantity because of carbon dioxide’s properties, which allow it to very efficiently store heat. Also worthy of note is that CO2 remains in the atmosphere for at least 100 years, meaning the effects of climate change we have already made are irreversible for the next 100 years, and it takes about ten years for Earth’s climate system to absorb the emissions. Currently we are only feeling the effects of emissions from up to ten years ago.
The collaspe of fisheries means starvations for billions…
If current emissions increases continue, the ocean will reduce its pH by 0.3 by 2100. This represents a 150% increase in acidity. This rate of change has not been experienced for 65 million years, since the dinosaurs became extinct.
Our ancestors 5000 years ago had a far smaller footprint on the earth; their resource consumption was minuscule compared to ours. Our civilization, in one year, uses the same amount of resources that our ancestors used every 100.000 years!
So back to science, there are three types of carbonate: calcite (less soluble), aragonite and high magnesium calcite (more sensitive to ocean acidification). Ocean acidification makes it difficult for organisms to sustain calcified shells. Although some organisms have a compensation mechanism for positive ions, others are more vulnerable. But like all species in the seas, ocean acidification is not the only stressor on organisms. They have to survive with ocean warming, increases in sea levels, increased precipitation, more storms, overfishing and pollution. All these components will add to food security problems in the future as ocean life becomes scarcer.
About one billion people rely on fisheries for their primary source of protein and about 3 billion people consume fish as 15% of their animal protein diet. Therefore, almost half the world’s population relies on the oceans as a food source. Eighty percent of the fish caught are from continental shelf areas suffering from species depletion due to overfishing. As global population rises by another 2.5 billion people over the next 30 years, there will be a huge strain on ocean protein products as they rise in demand. It is also important to remember that the world’s most productive fishing grounds only account for 10% of the oceans, and we have already exploited most of that 10%.
Food security is defined as a condition when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active healthy life. If we are to retain global food security in order for society to remain prosperous and at peace, we will have to address the negative effects we are having on the oceans in order to keep them as a viable food source. Nevertheless, aquaculture is growing at a rate of 70% a year and already contributes 50% of the world’s fish production, which gives us an idea of the state of the oceans. On the other hand, aquaculture has its inherent problems with negative effects on the environment and human health, so we would be wise to implement ocean sustainability and climate policy to help maintain the natural status of the oceans for the benefit of everyone.
At Charly´s Vegan Tacos we specialize in tasty and authentic Mexican cuisine with a twist… its all 100% vegan meaning we use no animal products in any of our dishes. So if you are swinging by Tulum, come and help us save the oceans and reduce carbon emissions. Its as easy as what’s on your plate!