Yes, across the world capitalists are getting rich off the high seas, a vast reservoir of wealth holding 95% of the planet’s water, spanning 70% of the Earth’s surface. Often called the “last frontier,” a return to America’s 18th century Wild West, they are virtually unregulated, a new free market where capitalists roam like pirates, plundering wealth and treating our oceans as a freebie gold mine and trash dump.
Bad news for seven billion people living on the planet. And by 2050 we’ll be adding three billion more people. We already know we can’t feed 10 billion. Now we’re polluting their water. Won’t be enough clean water for all to drink, triggering resource wars.
The bad news gets worse: in “The Devolution of the Seas. The Consequences of Oceanic Destruction,” a challenging piece in Foreign Affairs journal, Alan Sielen of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography warns: “Over the last several decades, human activities have so altered the basic chemistry of the seas that they are now experiencing evolution in reverse: a return to the barren primeval waters of hundreds of millions of years ago.”
Yes, We’re Turning Back The Evolutionary Clock … A Billion Years!
Evolution in reverse? Yes, Planet-Earth is regressing eons to an earlier primitive era. Unregulated free-market competition on the high seas is turning back our evolutionary clock. That doesn’t bother today’s short-term-thinking capitalists. But it should. Because, ironically, shifting evolution into reverse will also self-destruct the very global economy that capitalism needs for future growth.
Yes, today’s capitalists see the next three billion people born on the planet only as the new customers essential to the expansion of free market capitalist globally. They ignore the reality that nature has designed all species with built-in termination programs. Deny it all you want, but every biological species, like every individual, has entrances and exits, as Shakespeare put it. Eventually we must say goodbye.
Capitalists will deny the dark impact they have on our global economy, dismissing the long-term economic reality of treating the world’s oceans as a free garbage dump. Capitalism is programmed to focus on the short term, on profits, high frequency trading, in microseconds, on day-end closing prices, quarterly earnings, annual bonuses. Rarely longer. They ignore the self-destruct button that will eventually boomerang, trigger the endgame for capitalism, their society, the human race, our planet’s water resources.
Capitalists are living in a new Wild West World. No lawmen, just free-market competitors, free to do whatever they want, whenever, unregulated, uncontrolled, unrestrained, skimming, mining, plundering the wealth of the high seas, free to use, misuse and abuse vast oceans of water—and at no cost to their profits. Here’s how the Scripps Institute of Oceanography’s Sielen summarizes the issues: 10 costly ways that capitalists increase their short-term profits, leaving the long-term losses to the masses worldwide, for the next generation to pay:
POLLUTERS TREATING OCEANS AS A FREE PUBLIC GARBAGE DUMP
Sielen’s imagery is powerful: “The oceans’ problems start with pollution, the most visible forms of which are the catastrophic spills from offshore oil and gas drilling or from tanker accidents.” But that “pollution pales in comparison to the much less spectacular waste that finds its way to the seas through rivers, pipes, runoff, and the air … trash, plastic bags, bottles, cans” washing into “coastal waters or discarded by ships … drifts out to sea … forms epic gyres of floating waste” covering “hundreds of miles.”
DESTRUCTION OF MARINE LIFE MEANS LOST JOBS, FOOD, HEALTH
“The prospect of vanishing whales, polar bears, Bluefin tuna, sea turtles, and wild coasts should be worrying enough on its own,” warns Sielen. “But the disruption of entire ecosystems threatens our very survival, since it is the healthy functioning of these diverse systems that sustains life on earth.” Destruction on this level” has massive consequences, and costs “humans dearly in terms of food, jobs, health, and quality of life.”
TOXIC CHEMICALS DANGEROUSLY POLLUTING OCEANS
It gets far worse: “The most dangerous pollutants are chemicals” poisoning the oceans with toxins, says Sielen. They “travel great distances, accumulate in marine life, and move up the food chain.” Mercury from burning coal “rains down on the oceans, rivers, and lakes.” Each year hundreds of new untested industrial chemicals “build up slowly in the tissues of fish and shellfish,” get passed to larger creatures and humans “causing death, disease, and abnormalities,” adversely affecting “development of the brain, the neurologic system, and the reproductive system in humans.”
DEADLY FERTILIZERS DEPLETING OXYGEN, CREATING DEAD ZONES
Add to this disaster scenario, fertilizers, which are now being added in excessive levels causing “havoc on the natural environment,” an explosive growth of algae, decomposition, a loss of “oxygen needed to support complex marine life.” This trend is creating “dead zones devoid of the ocean life” that “have more than quadrupled” in a decade.
HUMANS ARE EATING TOO MANY FISH, OTHER SEA FOODS
World population was less than 3 billion in 1950, 6 billion in 2000. Projected at 10 billion in 2050. Sielen warns: “Humans are simply killing and eating too many fish,” with fish supplies falling “dramatically.” Tuna, swordfish, halibut, flounder populations dropped 90% since 1950. “Human appetite has nearly wiped those populations out.” The NY Times reports that oceans off “West Africa now provides the vast majority of the fish caught by China’s distant-water fleets,” many subsidized by the government and violating maritime laws.
FISH SUPPLIES DISAPPEAR AS DEMAND KEEPS INCREASING
And demand keeps growing as supplies “are rapidly dwindling.” Exploding prices add to the demand: This year, a 489-pound Bluefin tuna sold for $1.7 million making it “profitable to employ airplanes and helicopters to scan the ocean for the fish that remain; against such technologies, marine animals don’t stand a chance.” Small fish like sardines, anchovy, herring, are also disappearing, meaning less food for bigger fish up the food chain.
DESTRUCTIVE, WASTEFUL FISHING METHODS
Unfortunately, “modern industrial fishing fleets drag lines with thousands of hooks miles behind a vessel,” with “nets thousands of feet below the sea’s surface.” Untargeted seals, turtles, dolphins, whales, albatross get entangled, killing millions of tons each year. “Some of the most destructive fisheries discard 80% to 90%.” In the Gulf of Mexico, “for every pound of shrimp … over three pounds of marine life is thrown away.”
DESTROYING MARINE HABITATS KILLS FUTURE GROWTH
Another factor destroying our oceans: “The destruction of the habitats that have allowed spectacular marine life to thrive for millennia,” says Sielen. And yet capitalism continues the “wholesale destruction of deep-ocean habitats … submerged mountain chains called seamounts,” some higher than Mt Rainier. They are “homes to a rich variety of marine life.” Yet, industrial trawlers bulldoze their way” destroying “deep cold-water corals, some older than the California redwoods.”
ACID BUILDUP IN OCEANS IS WEAKENING MARINE LIFE
“The buildup of acid in ocean waters,” warns Sielen “reduces the availability of calcium carbonate, a key building block for the skeletons and shells of corals, plankton, shellfish, and many other marine organisms” that need it “to grow and also to guard against predators.”
YES, OUR HOME PLANET-EARTH REALLY IS IN HOT WATER
Echoing findings by 2,000 scientists in the recent Fifth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Sielen says scientists predict “climate change will drive the planet’s temperature up by between 4 and 7 degrees Fahrenheit over the course of this century” causing “hotter oceans … rising sea levels … stronger storms” as the “life cycles of plants and animals are upended, changing migration patterns, causing other serious disruptions … surface waters mixing less with cooler, deeper waters,” reducing phytoplankton population, “the foundation of the ocean’s food chain.”
For more than two decades U.N. climate agreement negotiations have exposed how capitalism’s power-players control governmental decision-makers, prompting Sielen’s final warning: “So long as pollution, overfishing, and ocean acidification remain concerns only for scientists … little will change … Diplomats and national security experts, who understand the potential for conflict in an overheated world, should realize that climate change might soon become a matter of war and peace … Business leaders should understand better than most the direct links between healthy seas and healthy economies … And government officials, who are entrusted with the public’s well-being, must surely see the importance of clean air, land, and water.”
“The world faces a choice,” warns Sielen: “We do not have to return to an oceanic Stone Age,” but that’s where we’re headed. To avoid that from happening we need to “summon the political will and moral courage to restore the seas to health before it is too late.” The risks are enormous … the odds very long … the denial overwhelming … the fuse burning short … and the consequences not only catastrophic but irreversible.