Tomorrow’s leaders and environmental citizens are today’s children, and that is why it is never too soon to teach the children in our communities about the steps they can take to protect our environment, especially our ocean waters.
Long ago, our lives were deeply connected to the environment. We worked on ranches and farms, grew our own vegetables and fruits, and raised our own chickens, cows and pigs. We knew the serious consequences of droughts firsthand and worried about typhoons, earthquakes, and flash floods, which could destroy our crops.
Today, however, we live in cities of concrete and paved roads and purchase our meat, eggs, and produce from our favorite local market.
Protecting Our Oceans
The same is true for our ocean waters. When was the last time you went to the beach and thought about all the creatures of the sea that live beneath the surface? You’ll be amazed by how many there are.
First, did you know that water covers 71% of the Earth’s surface and that approximately 230,000 organisms catalogued by the World Registry of Green Species live in our oceans? In addition, according to Rutgers University, there are an estimated two million species that live underwater.
There are anemone, sunfish, whales, crabs, starfish, jellyfish, otters, eels, flounder, salmon, herring, harbor seals, lobsters, lionfish, pike, paddlefish, praying mantis, prawns, octopus, rays, sea urchins, shrimp, scallops, abalone, swordfish and many more creatures that live in the sea. But this list is far from complete.
Our Coral Reefs Are Endangered
There’s also coral in our oceans, and it’s an ocean creature that’s in trouble.
A coral reef is a community of living organisms. It’s made up of plants, fish and other creatures and provides a home to about 25% of all marine life. Coral reefs have been around for millions of years but cover less than 0.1% of the world’s ocean floor. The coral reef itself is made of tiny animals called polyps that provide the main structure for the reef.
The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef in the world. It is made up of more than 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands off the north coast of Australia.
Coral reefs fulfill a number of purposes. For example, they protect shorelines from big waves, provide a safe place for fish to spawn, and provide habitats for organisms. In addition, the reefs are used to create some anti-cancer medication and painkillers.
I have sad news for you: Our coral reefs are disappearing. Here’s a list of some of the causes:
- Fertilizers from farms and home gardens wash out into the oceans, damaging the reefs.
- Carbon dioxide emissions make the water acidic.
- Chemicals from sunscreen, sewage, and pesticides are sometimes washed into the water and poison the coral.
You Can Help to Protect the Coral Reef
If you’d like to protect the future of the coral reefs education the children in your family, classroom or greater community to take the following steps:
- Overfishing is today the greatest threat to our oceans. Use the OceanWise website to learn about sustainable caught fish.
- Buy and grow organic fruits and vegetables. This will reduce the amount of pesticides and herbicides dumped into our oceans.
- Purchase items with less packaging and pack litter-free lunches. Too often, containers made of plastic end up in our oceans.
- Purchase organic sunscreen with safe ingredients.
- Reduce your carbon footprint. For example, why drive when the distance is short, and you could just as well walk? Also use energy-efficient light bulbs.
- Never purchase coral jewelry.
- Go to the beach and enjoy it.
Benefits of Teaching Kids About the Environment
If you are a teacher or parent reading this post, I encourage you to teach your children about the importance of caring for our oceans. Presently, children between the ages of 3 -12 spend 27 percent of their time watching television while spending only 1 percent of their time outdoors. Plan field trips to the beach and teach them about tide pools, starfish, and sea urchins.
According to Project Learning Tree, educating children about the environment:
- Improves critical thinking in children.
- Helps foster leadership qualities.
- Fosters increased focus and improved cognition.
So take your children to the beach and educate them about the reasons why protecting our oceans is good for the species who live in water and important to our own lives.