The Science Behind It
Many of the changes associated with climate change are externally visible, like rising seas forcing the evacuation of low-lying islands, coral bleaching or the abundance of plastics floating in the sea. Some threats to the ocean, however, are less visible and inflict consequential, but hidden changes beneath the surface.
Consider that the ocean absorbs up to half of all carbon dioxide emissions, originating primarily in our burning of fossil fuels. This excess CO2 is altering the chemistry of the sea worldwide in a process called ocean acidification. A more acidic ocean means reduced levels of carbonate, the mineral used to make shells and skeletons of shellfish and coral. If pH levels drop enough, shells will actually dissolve. Altered chemistry is also contributing to large oxygen-deficient areas in the ocean known as ‘dead zones’, where life can simply no longer survive. Finally, noise pollution, originating in shipping, oil and gas exploration, and navy sonar, are widespread. These invisible hazards interfere with the communication, orientation, mating and hunting habits of marine creatures. Nevertheless, the sea abounds in wonder and we must balance the knowledge of what we are losing with the power of what we can change.
As Islanders, people of the Pacific have an intimate understanding of our dependence on the surrounding environment. Although Pacific nations are amongst those contributing the least to climate change, we are some of the first to experience the consequences. As direct witnesses in the context of valuable local knowledge, Pacific voyagers are voicing the immediate need for change, the need for a new story, a new sail plan.