With three quarters of the globe covered by water, we truly live on an Ocean Planet. Although humans often focus on the dry land where we live, we are linked with the ocean in countless complex ways, powerfully affecting each other. The ocean is essential to all life on Earth and touches us every day—from our climate to the air we breathe, the food we eat, and spiritual nourishment we draw.
Yet this productive, precious global system is endangered by human activities. The threats of climate change, overharvesting, habitat destruction, pollution, and invasive species have created a "perfect storm" – a situation caused by simultaneous events that is far graver than if those events occurred separately. Coral reefs, for example, face warming and more acidic waters, overfishing, polluted run-off, and other threats all at once. Coastal areas are endangered by rising sea levels and the destruction of mangroves, marshes, and reefs that prevent erosion and shelter the shoreline during storms.
Who needs to care for the ocean? Everyone has a role. Because the ocean is one system and we all share it, we must all think and act locally and globally to conserve it.
Learning about the ocean and appreciating how it sustains us is the first step toward becoming a better ocean steward. Visiting the Smithsonian’s Sant Ocean Hall is a great way to get started, but even if you can't make the trip, you can explore this site to learn more. Find out what threatens our ocean and how scientists and citizens are working to protect it. Then, find out what you can do right away to help protect the ocean.
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