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Ocean acidification: prelude to Soylent Green?

The science-fiction movie, “Soylent Green” detailed food riots and the “recycling” of human bodies (after “assisted suicides”) as FOOD, because of a big secret: the oceans had been “killed” of life forms.

Guess what? :-)

A new study from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, which was published in the July issue of the journal Fish and Fisheries, shows that ocean acidification is becoming a VERY serious problem. The ocean acidification results from greenhouse gas emissions (think mostly carbon dioxide), and could SEVERELY damage shellfish populations that are the food supplies of some nations. According to CNN:

“What the study found was that in the next 10 to 50 years many countries are going to see impacts, particularly countries that are heavily reliant on clams and oysters and mussels, and will not be able to adapt by shifting to other foods or aquaculture methods,” said Jackie Savitz, senior scientist and chief strategist for the international ocean conservation and advocacy organization Oceana.

Don’t believe in Global Warming…? :-) Then you probably don’t believe in ocean acidification (essentially the oceans are becoming more acidic, with a lower pH), either…! :-) It’s OK. Science doesn’t care WHAT you believe! :-)

I usually tell such people that I am not in the “belief business” and urge them to contact their minister, psychiatrist, or bartender who IS! :-) The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute is a MAJOR scientific research institute on the East Coast (arguably, the West Coast equivalent is Scripps Institution of Oceanography), and you SHOULD believe them, because their science is excellent and, in any case, “peer review” (review by other scientists, who may NOT agree and have the education to support their beliefs) tends to drive the human race closer to objective, scientific truth.

I have said before in this blog that objective reality is pretty much INDEPENDENT of what you believe. :-) Sorry if that upsets anyone! 😉 Especially the fantasists out there….

Ocean acidification has occurred since the industrial revolution as the waters of the oceans have absorbed too much carbon dioxide, which is released in industrial activities, mainly from the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas. The Woods Hole people found that many marine animals, such as mollusks and coral that build hard shells and exoskeletons are at the greatest risk from ocean acidification.

I paid a short visit to Woods Hole with my college roommate when I was considering becoming a marine microbiologist.

The COUNTRIES that are most at risk of losing the main sources of protein in their diet (shellfish) are Senegal, Madagascar and Haiti. But guess what? (Again!) Ocean acidification is already being blamed for economic losses at oyster farms in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. and the slowing of coral growth in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, according to Oceana. Although the Woods Hole study found that the first severe impact will be on poor and developing countries, ultimately the problem will have widespread impact, including the U.S., the U.K., and European countries.

Because guess what? (“Third try is the charm!”) :-) We all SHARE this planet Earth, which pretty closely approximates a “closed system” so that “The evil that men do lives after them….” (Julius Caesar, Act 3 Scene ii) The biological and physical systems of planet Earth are all interconnected, so if you don’t believe the results of objective scientific research, YOU are are one with the problem! :-)

The CNN article mentions the case of Somalia, where industrial fishing has fished out the waters and local fishermen can’t get FOOD anymore. What do they do? They turn to piracy! Starving people will take desperate actions to survive. Additional pressures from ocean acidification surely will not help.

So… maybe we really ought to end taxpayer subsidies for the petroleum industry (how much money do they really need? :-) ) and continue a move toward “clean energy” sources.

In my undergraduate and graduate courses in biology and microbiology, I learned that “every culture sows the seeds of its own destruction.” So do we…. Supposedly, we have the “intelligence” to learn from the mistakes and change, before it becomes too late.

We shall see.

-Bill at

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