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If there's one thing without which modern society would seize to exist, it's oil. (Well, living without Internet will also positively suck, but that's a whole different story right here.) Realistically speaking, for the time being, despite the billions of dollars that are being put into the development of green technologies, oil remains essential to the proper functioning of our lives. Oil supplies our factories and makes our means of transportation move, it helps trade, makes manufacturing and transportation of goods, including food and medicines, possible. All in all, we need oil to survive. But the huge demand for oil we've experienced since the Second Industrial Revolution comes at a great cost for the planet and respectively, for the entire human kind. Each year we drill about 14 trillion liters of oil. That alone has tremendous environmental consequences which are next to impossible to be countered because, hey, "Drill, baby, drill!". But there's another negative side of oil consumption, and it's the fact that during transportation a significant quantity of oil is spilled, thereby destroying entire ecosystems, polluting the habitat of all kinds of plant and animal species. And because oil is mostly transported across oceans, this is where most spills occur. The results are both immediate and long-term, so looking for ways to eliminate the spill and counter its effect is crucial for the preservation of Earth's oceans. But cleaning something so vast as an ocean is not an easy task. Luckily, technology has evolved and continues to rapidly do so to such an extent that we might already have a working solution to the issue – drones. We've seen drones being deployed in various places, efficiently handling all kinds of situations. Recently a startup in the Netherlands even introduced a project which aims to develop a fully functional house cleaning drone. So if the technology could be utilized for the needs of home cleaning, it's only natural for it to be used in the quest of preserving our oceans. Airborne Emergency Response to Oil SpillsHere's where AEROS (Airborne Emergency Response to Oil Spills) comes into play. Essentially, AEROS is an unmanned, robotic system which locates oils spills and deploys robots and inflatable booms at spill sites by an airplane. Once in the water, the booms inflate themselves and surround the spill. Then the unmanned robots start purging the water. The water-cleansing robots suck the contaminated water in and spin it inside. The swirl that forms leaves the oil at the center and then collects it in a special bladder, while it pushes the pure water outside. Each robot has an incredible capacity, filtrating over 7000 litres per minute. And the oil that is recovered, up to 90% of the spill, is later collected from the bladders and can be later sold as an additional stream of revenue. Just in comparison, the methods that is being used by far could only filtrate and recover about 5% of the oil. Protei ProjectThe Protei Project is another promising startup which aims to counter oil spills. The people behind this large-scale international project have developed a shape-shifting sailing robots which will patrol the oceans, clean up oil spills and collect plastic waste. The autonomous robots will essentially sail upwind, using the power of the wind, and pull a long boom-tail which will absorbs oil. What makes the Protei boat prototypes so innovative is their hulls which are flexible and are made to move left and right like a fish. That movement allows the drone boat to utilize the power of the wind to the fullest and never lose power, easily pulling the heavy boom tail. Large oil spills like the Deep Water Horizon in the Mexican Gulf don't happen too often, but when they do, the effects to the environment are catastrophic. And as I already mentioned, at that point in time it's impossible for oil companies to cease oil transportation, however, they can use technology to contain the spills and counter the negative impact of the spills. For now the technology is not market-ready, but with some backing it will be there we we most need it.
People's World posted a article in BiodiversityPresident Obama used his executive authority on June 17 to create the world's largest marine sanctuary. This has huge implications for the environment, as it bans commercial fishing, mining, and oil exploration in a major portion of the Pacific Ocean. The move will bypass Republican lawmakers who have long acted as roadblocks to environmental struggles, and could protect up to 800,000 square miles of the south-central Pacific from commercial and corporate exploitation. To this end, the Obama administration also announced the development of a new task force that will combat illegal fishing operations in the Pacific. The President will also consult with scientists and conservationists before determining the precise location and geographic scope of the sanctuary. It will, however, border and vastly expand the areas around the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, which was established back in 2009 and placed 77,020 square miles under the protection of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Obama also sought to add more national monuments. In a continuation of his use of executive power, under the Antiquities Act of 1906, he will designate 11 new national monuments on land across the U.S., allowing a plethora of new protections for millions of acres of precious wilderness. "We can protect our oceans for future generations," said the President. "Growing up in Hawaii, I learned to appreciate the beauty and power of the ocean. And like Presidents Clinton and Bush before me, I'm going to use my authority as President to protect some of our most precious marine landscapes, just like we do for mountains and rivers and forests." The move came directly on the heels of a bold and direct speech by Obama during a commencement address at the University of California-Irvine on June 14. During that address, the President openly criticized the obstinance of Republicans who denied the threat of climate change and the need to defend the environment. He encouraged young voters to speak out about environmentalism and reiterated the need to get legislation passed to change things for the better. With this plan for what will be the largest protected marine area in history, it would seem that Obama is showing he has lived up to his words. The White House's new task force is part and parcel of Obama's new initiative. It will be called the Presidential Task Force on Combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing and Seafood Fraud, and will report to the National Ocean Council, which itself was established via executive order in 2010. Obama explained that illegal and unregulated fishing in the Pacific continues to "undermine the economic and environmental sustainability of fisheries and fish stocks. Global losses attributable to the black market from such fishing are estimated to be $10-23 billion annually, weakening profitability for legally caught seafood, fueling illegal trafficking operations, and undermining economic opportunity for legitimate fishermen in the U.S. and around the world." Meanwhile, anti-environment Republicans and corporate oil executives are likely seething over the development of the marine sanctuary. Thousands of square miles of what oil companies see as potential territory for offshore drilling will now be closed off to them. And in addition to defending the waters from such tampering, the area's tuna and other fish stocks will be able to recover and increase their numbers. Obama made the announcement at a State Department Our Ocean conference; amongst the attendees was actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who had been strongly pushing for such a move and had previously donated $3 million to the Oceana conservation group. He declared he would now donate an additional $7 million over the next two years to "meaningful ocean protection" and to bolster the President's move. DiCaprio called the interference of oil corporations and illegal fishing markets "the Wild West on the high seas," and called for "an end to the incessant plundering of the ocean and its vital resources." He added that this is a worldwide problem, remarking, "Since my very first dive in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia 20 years ago, to the dive I got to do in the very same location just two years ago, I've witnessed environmental devastation firsthand. What once looked like an endless underwater utopia is now riddled with bleached coral reefs and massive dead zones." Secretary of State John Kerry added, "Most people think the ocean is larger than life; an endless resource impossible to destroy. But people underestimate the enormous damage that we as humans are inflicting upon the ocean every day."
According to a recent published report, by Benjamin Halpern and his colleagues at UCSB's National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, over 40% of the world's oceans are heavily impacted by anthropogenic activities. Only a few, "if any", areas are unaffected. The report have taken four years to compile and resulted in 17 models of the earth. Each of the different models shows the damage caused by human activities such as pollution and fishing. The different models have then been merged into one showing the global effect (see image). Benjamin Halpern explains, on the UCSB website, the process he and his colleagues followed to make the composite map: "1. We gathered or created maps (with global coverage) of all types of human activities that directly or indirectly have an impact on the ecological communities in the ocean's ecosystems. In total, we used maps for 17 different activities in categories like fishing, climate change, and pollution. We also gathered maps for 14 distinct marine ecosystems and modeled the distribution of 6 others. 2. To estimate the ecological consequences of these activities, we created an approach to quantify the vulnerability of different marine ecosystems (e.g., mangroves, coral reefs, or seamounts) to each of these activities, published in Conservation Biology, October 2007. For example, fertilizer runoff has been shown to have a large effect on coral reefs but a much smaller one on kelp forests. 3. We then created the cumulative impact map by overlaying the 17 threat maps onto the ecosystems, and using the vulnerability scores to translate the threats into a metric of ecological impact. 4. Finally, using global estimates of the condition of marine ecosystems from previous studies, we were able to ground-truth their impact scores."