A dead zone is an area at the bottom of the ocean that is oxygen depleted and cannot maintain any marine life. The biggest cause of these dead zones is an overflow of fertilizers, sewage and industrial pollutants being pumped into rivers all over the world.
Thankfully dead zones can be reversed and living a vegan lifestyle can help enormously and I’ll show you how.
What are Ocean Dead Zones?
Ocean dead zones are one of the most tragic illustrations of the negative impact that we human beings have on the world’s oceans.
The constant flow of pollutants such as industrial waste, sewage and chemical fertilizers being pumped into our rivers, or flowing off the land into the water, and making its way into our oceans, causes low oxygen (hypoxic) areas at the bottom of the oceans, known as dead zones. The pollutants cause excessive overgrowth of algae which sinks and decomposes in the water. This decomposition consumes all the available oxygen so that marine life can no longer survive there.
Dead zones can occur naturally, but human-related causes are considered to have the biggest impact.
It wasn’t until the 1970s that oceanographers first began to notice the increased number of dead zones around the world. In 2004 the Global Environment Outlook Year Book reported 146 dead zones in the world’s oceans. A further study in 2008 found 208 dead zones.
Today it is believed that there are now over 530 dead zones which in total encompass 95,000 square miles according to the WRI, World Resources Institute.
The problem with dead zones is that because no one sees what is happening at the bottom of our oceans, dead zones are largely ignored. Inger Naslund from the environmental group WWF in Sweden believes that “The effects of human behavior is many times reflected at the sea bottom and should be discussed with a louder voice.”
No part of the world is immune to dead zones. The second largest dead zone in the world is located in the United States, in the northern Gulf of Mexico.
What is Being Done to Stop the Increase of Dead Zones?
Thankfully dead zones are reversible. This was proven when the dead zone in the Black Sea largely disappeared between 1991 and 2001. This happened unintentionally and was the result of fertilizers being too costly to buy following the collapse of the Soviet Union, along with a decrease in the manufacturing of other industrial products.
In Australia, to combat the increase of dead zones and repair some of the damage already done, the government plans to create the world’s largest network of marine reserves which will increase the number of protected areas from 27 to 60 and will cover 3.1 million square kilometers, or 1.9 million square miles which is roughly one third of Australian waters.
The largest protected area will jointly be the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the Coral Sea Commonwealth marine reserve which will cover a whopping 1.3 square kilometers.
WWF Australia has called the plan “an important example to the world.” The marine network was hoped to be finalized by the end of 2012.
In Sweden, scientists are testing an idea to pump oxygen back into the Baltic Sea, which lies between Scandinavia and mainland Europe and is one of the world’s biggest man-made dead zone. So far the scheme hasn’t worked and the Baltic dead zone is getting larger, and is now said to be one and a half times the size of Denmark.
To speed things up, the Swedish government is funding research into the possibility of using wind turbines to pump oxygen into the Baltic. But this would require about 100 pumping stations and so far not everyone is convinced of the that this idea will work and others are worried about this dangerous “quick-fix” which could have several unforeseen consequences, such as causing countries to ignore their responsibility of reducing waste pumped into the sea.
It could also release contaminants that are buried deep beneath the bottom. There is also worry that it could also raise the water temperature and cause even more algae to grow. Not only that, but the whole scheme will cost millions and need to run for several decades.
It’s easy to see that time and money would be better spent finding ways to reduce the waste that is allowed to flow into the Baltic.
And that is how a vegan lifestyle can help
Vegan Lifestyle Helping Ocean Dead Zones.
To many people, being a vegan simply means not eating animals, eggs and dairy.
But to vegans, it is about much more than that. Being vegan is a complete change of lifestyle that consists of eating more naturally, eating organically and living minimally.
Eating more naturally means eating food that is closer to nature. A plant-based diet. Vegans tend to stay away from foods that are highly processed and instead prefer to buy organic ingredients and make (or grow) their own food.
It’s well know that to raise animals for food takes up 10-times more land than growing crops. That means that an acre of land, which can feed 10 people for a year if it’s used for raising animals, can feed 100 people for a year if it’s used for growing crops.
Eating animals is much more than just a health issue for humans. The large amount of slurry that their feaces produces is usually left to wash into the rivers. Cows and pigs also eat far more than humans and so the amount of land needed to grow animal feed means more deforestation and more environmental damage. And because producing feed for animals needs to be done quickly, it means higher use of chemical fertilizers, which are a big cause of dead zones.
Eating organically is also beneficial to the planet and helps eradicate dead zones because of the lack of chemicals needed to grow the crops. Growing food organically means a better understanding of the planet and how one plant is beneficial to another.
Vegans also use permiculture practices when growing their own food. This means nothing is wasted and the soil is fed and nurtured with natural compost from plants, weeds are stirred into buckets of water and used as a natural fertilizer with no waste at all, and no pesticides are used to keep insects away because companion planting and plant-produced insect repellents are used instead.
With permiculture nothing is wasted and nothing artificial is needed.
Living minimally is also part of the vegan lifestyle which means less factory produced goods. Vegans don’t have a consumerist attitude and instead prefer to reuse and recycle and are happy to go without unnecessary items. They live an uncluttered and simple life.
Vegans don’t want to harm the planet. On the contrary they want to save it and what better way than living with nature instead of against it and helping the planet in ways we probably never even realised, like helping to reverse our oceans dead zones.
Next time you think about buying something you don’t need, or eating food that is highly processed or non-organic, spare a thought for the largely unknown dead zones and how overconsumption and an unnatural lifestyle is slowly killing both you and them.
Ruth Barringham is a vegan, writer and web entrepreneur from Brisbane, Australia. She runs several websites on the internet and her main site for writers is Writeaholics. She also has a new vegan website, Australian Vegan.
- Published: 15 January 2013
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