About 71% of the earth’s surface is water, and less than 3% of surface water is freshwater. Most of the earth’s surface water is in the ocean seas, home to over a million different species, although this is not known since many oceans have not been explored. It is thought that 50-80% of all life resides in the oceans. The vastness of the oceans offers false security that the bodies of water can manage the challenges imposed by humans. Unfortunately, scenarios around the world show that humans are polluting the oceans. For example, the rate of plastic pollution emitted into the oceans, according to recent studies, will lead to more pieces of plastic than fish in a few decades.
A current report on the pollution along the coast of Turkey describes thick layers of viscous, slimy mucus, which is termed sea snot. For months, this thick layer of slime has suffocated marine life and clogged fishermen’s nets. The sources of the nasty mucus are untreated sewage, agricultural runoff, and other forms of pollution. Higher than average temperatures associated with climate change have likely exacerbated the problem in the Sea of Marmara, which is between the Black and Aegean Seas. To counter the embarrassing situation, the government is designating this coastline as a conservation area. Large tankers and hundreds of workers are attempting to vacuum the slime as part of the most extensive coastal cleanup by the country.
According to the World Health Organization, around 2 billion people around the globe drink water contaminated by waste, leading to an estimated 485,000 deaths annually. It is clear that the earth’s great bodies of water are fragile and rely on regulations based on science for protection. Investments in proper treatment of water and regular monitoring mainly prevent severe contamination. Lack of clean water is a life-and-death issue since all life depends on clean water. There are many terrific organizations, such as H2O FOR LIFE, Charity: Water, and Water.org, working to provide clean drinking water to people worldwide.
Julie Peller Ph.D. is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ) and she leads the Environmental Ministry at Nativity of Our Savior in Portage IN. Julie has been writing a weekly column for church bulletins for the past ~6 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are in Advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), student and citizen participation in environmental work