LAST_UPDATESun, 24 Jun 2018 9pm

Column: Save Our Oceans

KUALA LUMPUR -- I was privileged to moderate a session on oceans organised by World Youth Foundation and funded by the British High Commission in Malaysia.

The session was attended by over 50 participants from all walks of life and the presenters, from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Sains Malaysia and Malaysian Nature Society, kept the audience enthralled with their in-depth sharing of knowledge and experience – all in the name of wanting to preserve this great gift of nature, the ocean.

The one-day session was effective in building the capacity of young people to bring about positive impact in their respective communities.

Oceans are living beings. They are very important for our survival. The oceans are also our source of clean drinking water.

However, human activities are contributing to more than 80 per cent of the wastewater being discharged into rivers or seas. This kills the marine ecosystem and impacts the ocean’s capacity to provide food, protect livelihoods and maintain the water's cleanliness. The oceans hold 96.5 per cent of the earth’s water, but less than one per cent is freshwater and available for human consumption.

Countries in the Commonwealth region are blessed with millions of kilometres of coastal areas.

Sadly, many of these countries are facing problems due to the rise in ocean temperatures, ocean acidification and marine pollution. Marine debris or marine litter has long been a problem to marine life. About 80 per cent of marine pollution comes from land-based activities.

Every year an estimated 67 million tonnes of plastic, all of them containing toxins, are dumped into the ocean as a result of irresponsible and despicable human activity, posing a threat to sea life along with the marine ecosystems and human health worldwide. Plastic debris causes the deaths of more than a million seabirds every year as well as more than 100,000 marine mammals.

According to the Ocean Conservancy International Coastal Cleanup Report 2017, the most common litter found in the ocean include cigarette butts, plastic bottles, plastic bottle caps, plastic bags, plastic straws and styrofoam containers which can cause harm to seals, dolphins, whales, sharks, and also human beings.

As consumers, we all need to make the shift in promoting ocean conservation by reducing plastic consumption, using biodegradable products and, diet-wise, opting for a more responsible and sustainable intake of seafood.

Effective ocean conservation strategies and solutions require actions from all sectors of society, be it young or old. We all have to do our part in protecting our diverse ecosystem.

There are several measures that we can implement to save our oceans for the sake of our future generations:

Encourage and enhance awareness by studying and sharing ocean facts. Environmental education and learning will encourage awareness, which in turn will promote its preservation.

Start them young – parents and teachers should expose their children/students to environmental education programmes that are focused on imparting the love for conservation and nature.

Stop using single-use plastic products. The importance of bottled water cannot be overlooked but single-use plastic bottles create a staggering pile of rubbish and are bad for the environment. Please use reusable or glass bottles instead as this will lead to a decrease in the number of plastic products purchased and less garbage in the landfill.

Practise the 3R's, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, to cut down on waste. Go for online shopping as it will indirectly help you to cut down on the purchase of unwanted items that you tend to buy on impulse when you walk into a store. Take along a reusable bag and avoid using plastic bags, even if you can afford to pay for it. 

Do your part; if you see rubbish lying around in your neighbourhood, office, playground or any public place, do pick it up. Your simple action will result in reducing millions of pieces of garbage floating their way to the coast and adding to the growing pollution problem in the oceans.

Organise community programmes such as beach clean-ups, tree planting and 3R campaigns, which will have a direct impact on the people, nature and our environment.

Plan a trip with your children to a landfill or a transfer station, or just take a ride on a waste compactor to know the sad truth that is kept away from our eyes and nostrils. The repulsive stench and all that garbage are kept “out of sight, out of mind” but it is the pernicious daily action of ours that is the root cause of all evil.

Let’s not forget that this planet is our only home and it will only remain healthy and beautiful if we all take the necessary steps to conserve our oceans. A healthy ocean guarantees its subsistence and our survival as well.

It was encouraging to note that the outcome of this event was fed to the Commonwealth youth forum at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting that took place from April 16 to 20, 2018, in London.