You might think being an ethical omnivore has nothing to do with the ocean; fish are wild caught so that’s ethics out the window, right? Wrong. Everything we do on land effects our oceans, from the way we farm, to the way we clean our houses and our bodies, and even the rubbish we produce.
Finding Nemo got it right; all drains lead to the ocean, meaning everything we tip down them ends up out there. Some of you might shrug and say “well I don’t eat fish, so why should I care?” Eating fish is the least of our worries if we don’t start treating our oceans with some respect.
Approximately 50% of our oxygen is produced by marine algae (1), approximately 25% of atmospheric carbon is absorbed by the oceans (2), not to mention the water cycle. So what can we do? Taking care of our oceans properly will involve a huge regime change for most people.
Ethical omnivores have already taken some of the most important steps towards cleaning up our seas; we buy sustainably and ethically produced food. But how does that help? For starters, sustainably produced food is organic or traditionally grown, so fewer or no artificial fertilizers or pesticides.
Using ‘quick fix’ chemicals is ruining our soil (3), and the run off of these chemicals is overloading our oceans with artificial nutrients and causing deadly algal blooms (4). A return to traditional, healthy soil based methods of farming, is the number one way to improve the health of our waterways.
Remove easily displaced nutrients from the equation, and replace them with a fertile soil structure that retains organic matter, acts as a carbon sink, and helps prevent flooding. Eutrophication is a huge problem; sudden algal blooms might sound like a positive, more oxygen produced and more carbon dioxide absorbed. Except it’s unsustainable, when that flush of artificial nutrients is used up we have a massive algal die off, choking our waterways with a large amount of decaying organic matter, producing extra carbon dioxide and methane (5).
Avoiding factory farmed produce goes a long way to help, intensively farmed crops are the number one source of eutrophication causing run off, that includes grain fed to cattle. So the answer is clear, factory farming needs to go, for so many reasons.
We can’t stop there though, there’s still a lot more work to be done. Everyone knows about plastic pollution, but how many of us are going out of our way to avoid it? And what about the chemicals we use in our homes every single day? It’s not enough to buy ethically sourced food and sit back feeling smug, it’s a start but it’s not enough to undo the damage we’ve done.
Let’s look at the cleaning products we use, both for our houses and our bodies. I would hope that ethical omnivores would be purchasing cruelty free cosmetics and cleaning products, sadly having worked in the animal care industry I know all too well the disconnect between different elements of our lives.
When you listen to your colleague preach at you about the importance of prioritizing the welfare of the animals in our care, then watch her use a shampoo you know full well was tested on animals and eat chicken you know full well isn’t free range, it really is enough to make you want to tear your hair out!
Most of the household cosmetic and cleaning products available on the market, are filled with damaging and persistently non biodegradable chemicals, the kind you wouldn’t want on your food, yet thoughtlessly use on your skin and the surfaces you reside on. All of these chemicals go down the drain, straight back to the oceans.
Our water treatment systems rely heavily on the earths natural ability to clean water as part of the water cycle, we don’t treat it to remove any of the harmful chemicals flushed into it daily. That’s not even including microplastics, which scientists now believe have infected nearly all water sources in the world, they are in your tap water (6), your bottled water (7), everything.
Evidence of oceanic pollution is moving through the food chain and bioaccumulating in top predators such as polar bears and orcas. A dead orca, nicknamed Lulu, who was found stranded on the Scottish coastline, was so polluted that her toxic pollution levels were over 100 times higher than the levels known to cause damage to health (8). She had never produced any offspring; it is now assumed the pollution caused her to become infertile.
This is the sad reality we face today; our oceans are under severe threat, not just from industrial arable agriculture, but also from the noxious chemicals that have crept into our daily lives in seemingly innocuous packages. Anyone who cares about protecting our oceans needs to immediately re-evaluate every aspect of their lives, and eliminate all the damaging factors from it. We’re running out of time to turn things around, as we approach a point of no return, we all need to come together, and face the consequences of our greed, laziness, and selfishness, head on.