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  • Writer's pictureSteve Klass

Helping the Ocean to Help Us

Until recently, news on the resiliency of our communities has been depressing. Habitats for sea life and associated capacity to generate breathable oxygen for land animals has been decimated. Forest fires on several continents have shown all of us how almost any location can suffer an influx of unsafe air. Life feels under threat, a threat which we have exacerbated by being inconsiderate of the well-being of other species.

Ironically, the survival of these very same species are central to our own survival. A decade ago, I attended conferences where it was said the oceans were beyond salvation and humans could never truly regenerate robust riparian ecologies on land. I lost a lot of hope.

Some of my hope has now been restored and I wanted to share a couple of initiatives that I have learned about. Hopefully, many more of these projects exist and are growing in positive impact. The reason I share these projects is that my own thinking has evolved. Perhaps it is not too late. Perhaps we can still save ourselves and many other species from unnecessary extinction. One thing the growing trend of destructive weather events has shown us, is that we can no longer take for granted the defense that natural systems have provided to human communities.

We cannot hold back trying because ecological restoration is imperfect and clumsy. We have to work as fast as we can to restore buffers that healthy ecosystems provide to human settlements. The concept of terraforming is not some science fiction fantasy for the far-off future, it is a technology we have to scale up now for our own home planet. We have no choice.

Imagine a business that sequesters carbon, improves soil quality, filters polluted ocean wantr and creates shellfish that humans like to eat? I certainly cannot but the team at Greenwave has developed just such a low cost high impact technology. Soon to be deployed in multiple locations, this approach to regenerative agriculture is astounding.

“GreenWave’s polyculture farming system grows a mix of seaweeds and shellfish that require zero inputs—making it the most sustainable form of food production on the planet—while sequestering carbon and rebuilding reef ecosystems. Since our farms sit vertically below the surface, they produce high yields with a small footprint. With a low barrier to entry, anyone with 20 acres, a boat, and $20-50K can start their own farm.”

Will we ever be able to build high enough seawalls to protect the millions of humans at risk for rising sea levels? Probably not but natural systems can slow the flow of water and waves inland, just as they always have. We just need to give the ocean a chance the protect us better.

An amazing demonstration project is underway on Staten Island, a borough of New York City. Called Living Breakwaters, this project applies knowledge we’ve all had for a long time at a large enough scale. We have all seen sea life clinging to piers and seawalls. This project builds a large breakwater that protects coastal areas but purposefully replaces lost habitat for creatures that need the housing while providing humans an abundant source of protein. A recent magazine article explains the project in greater detail.

These kinds of projects do not replace nature that has evolved over millennia but it does rapidly scale up support for natural systems so that these systems can rebound much more quickly than if humans died off. At least, that’s the idea and its one of the best ideas we’ve had. These technologies, if deployed on a massive scale, can help protect human settlements while expanding the populations of healthy species of plants and animals.

While we cannot rebuild many natural systems, we can restore semblances of functioning coastal life communities. We owe it to other species which our civilization has decimated, bivalves to give them a chance to survive and evolve. By doing what they naturally do, they protect and feed us. Let’s speed up this important work.

Be P3!

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