A Note From Our Chapter Chair
April 2022 Newsletter
It’s a rainy Saturday and crocuses are popping up. There are daffodils ready to burst open along a sunny stone wall. Neighbors are out cleaning up the roadsides and beaches. It’s Spring!
It will soon be Earth Day and I’m looking forward to seeing Sierra Club members again. Our Chapter will be having tables at Earth Day events around the state, our “50 for 50 Clean Up Campaign” is beginning on April 12th, and we have some special presentations planned so check out our Events and Outings. I hope you can join us!
Earth Day evokes images of rallies, fairs, clean ups, and outdoor activities. It makes us remember our value of the Earth we live on. But, the fact is, that 70% of the Earth’s surface is ocean! The ocean is the Earth’s largest biosphere, and the health of the ocean is essential for life on Earth!
I recently spent a week by the sea, in Falmouth, MA. It was a lovely break which included walks along the sandy shore, brilliant sunsets, and fresh seafood. A favorite spot is the village of Woods Hole, home of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) where we happened to observe a bright yellow, mini “submarine” being hoisted up and loaded onto a WHOI research vessel. Intrigued, I questioned a staff person and learned that it was a “REMUS,” or Remote Environmental Monitoring Unit, an unmanned, underwater vehicle used for a wide variety of research including surveying the wreck of the Titanic and capturing dramatic footage of great white sharks in the wild (this video shows a shark trying to eat a REMUS!)
Photo: Ocean Research Vessel at Woods Hole in Massachusetts
Photo credit: Anthony Paticchio
This piqued my interest in oceanic research related to climate change. You have seen the news of bleaching coral reefs, shifting weather patterns, and ocean acidification. Those are just a few of the areas being explored by scientists with curious and creative minds. And it turns out that learning more about the oceans may lead to real solutions to our climate crisis.
“Climate change is the crisis of our generation, and understanding the ocean’s role in climate is essential to mitigating its impacts." ~Francis E. “Van” Fowler IV
The ocean plays a vital role by sequestering carbon dioxide (CO2), annually removing as much as two to six times as much CO2 as automobiles emit worldwide. The ocean’s “biological pump” removes CO2 from the atmosphere, where it is converted to organic carbon, and circulated to the depths of the ocean, sequestered for centuries or millennia. Marine algae also play a role by using dissolved CO2 in photosynthesis. The ocean has already absorbed about one-third of the CO2 emissions from our burning of fossil fuels.
Without the help of the ocean to absorb heat and carbon, we would already be facing an inhospitable world. But there are limits to what the ocean can hold. Scientists are looking at ways the ocean ecosystem can be ‘enhanced’ to sequester more carbon. These proposals offer hope, as well as risks. More research is needed to avoid unintended consequences from tampering with natural systems.
While our ocean, and our own shores on the Long Island Sound, face challenges from rising seas, plastic and chemical pollution, acidification, and rapid warming, it gives me hope to know that scientists are gaining a better understanding of how our ocean’s systems work to regulate our climate, and are seeking ways to mitigate the impacts of climate change within those systems. As for the rest of us, we must learn to live more sustainably with our Earth!
If you are interested in this topic, you will enjoy an upcoming presentation, organized by our Shoreline Group: Changes on the Connecticut River: Climate Crisis Impacts on Riparian Communities, on April 14th.
HAPPY EARTH DAY!
Susan Eastwood is Chapter Chair of Sierra Club Connecticut.