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The Protection of Our Global Commons

The Protection of our Global Commons: the Atmosphere and the Oceans

Chapter 4 lists and defines several problems that faces mankind with regard to the atmosphere and oceans. The chapter also describes suggested framework and methodologies for addressing or at least managing the issues and the scope of the costs involved in funding to address the issues.  Protection of our global commons is a narrowing of focus within the wider theme presented in chapter 3, Efficient Use of the Earth's Natural Resources.

The issues surrounding the Atmosphere are:
   -Depletion of the Ozone layer    -Climate Change          -Acid Rain
   -Forest Destruction                 -Desertification           -Air Pollution 

Air pollution is known to impact human health in negative ways.  Life cannot exist without the ozone layer, and desertification of prime crop land puts the worlds food supply at risk.  Many daily human activities perpetuate these issues including industrial manufacturing, conventional agriculture, livestock production, and fossil fuel usage.

The issues surrounding the Ocean are:
   -Over Exploitation of Living Marine Resources (fisheries)
   -Marine Pollution
   -Coastal Degradation

Human impacts that create or worsen these situations include habitat destruction through wasteful fishing techniques like un
selective seining, rapid development of coastal settlements, urban and industrial runoff, and dumping at sea.
"Marine pollution is also caused by shipping and sea-based activities.  Approximately 600,000 tons of oil enter the oceans each year as a result of normal shipping operations, accidental and illegal discharges." (149)

Suggested methodologies for addressing the issues included enacting international treaties and U.N. agreements to regulate carbon emissions, chemical manufacturing and uses of those chemicals, and greater regulation of fishing practices in the open oceans (international waters). The costs of managing these issues are estimated.

Traditional economic and political decision making processes have been failing to address these issues up to now because those frameworks are not accustomed to dealing with time spans that go beyond human life-times. The industrialized countries have created most of the products and methods that are causing these difficulties, but it is the developing countries that are most likely to suffer the greatest harm as a result of leaving these issues unchecked. It is our duty, as citizens of developed countries, to lead the efforts to address these issues, to set an example, even if full international cooperation and consensus is difficult to reach. The treaties and U.N. agreements must begin with us.

News and Online Articles with Local and International Examples:

Air Pollution - Lehigh Cement Plant in Cupertino

Climate Change - Polar Bear's Epic Nine-Day Swim, Fossil Fuels and Energy Use

Coastal Degradation - South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project, Coasts in Crisis, Coastal Change

Over Exploitation of Marine Resources  - Seafood Watch, Seagrass

Marine Pollution -Save The Bay, Mediterranean Sea Turtles Die Choking on Plastic Bags, Silicon Valley Ban on Plastic Bags

Depletion of the Ozone layer - The Ozone Depletion Phenomenon

Desertification - Desertification Defined

Acid Rain - What is acid rain?