Tiki's blog

Blue Acceleration: our dash for ocean resources mirrors what we’ve already done to the land

Oil tankers load up in a port at twilight. Avigator Fortuner/Shutterstock
Robert Blasiak, Stockholm University

Humans are leaving a heavy footprint on the Earth, but when did we become the main driver of change in the planet’s ecosystems? Many scientists point to the 1950s, when all kinds of socioeconomic trends began accelerating. Since then, the world population has tripled. Fertiliser and water use expanded as more food was grown than ever before. The construction of motorways sped up to accommodate rising car ownership while international flights took off to satisfy a growing taste for tourism.

The scale of human demands on Earth grew beyond historic proportions. This post-war period became known as the “Great Acceleration”, and many believe it gave birth to the Anthropocene – the geological epoch during which human activity surpassed natural forces as the biggest influence on the functioning of Earth’s living systems.

But researchers studying the ocean are currently feeling a sense of déjà vu. Over the past three decades, patterns seen on land 70 years ago have been occurring in the ocean. We’re living through a “Blue Acceleration”, and it will have significant consequences for life on the blue planet.

Human claims on ocean resources and space have increased rapidly in the last three decades. Jouffray et al. (2020), Author provided

Why is the Blue Acceleration happening now?

As land-based resources have declined, hopes and expectations have increasingly turned to the ocean as a new engine of human development. Take deep sea mining. The international seabed and its mineral riches have excited commercial interest in recent years due to soaring commodity prices. According to the International Monetary Fund, the price of gold is up 454% since 2000, silver is up 317% and lead 493%. Around 1.4 million square kilometres of the seabed has been leased since 2001 by the International Seabed Authority for exploratory mining activities.

In some industries, technological advances have driven these trends. Virtually all offshore windfarms were installed in the last 20 years. The marine biotechnology sector scarcely existed at the end of the 20th century, and over 99% of genetic sequences from marine organisms found in patents were registered since 2000.

During the 1990s, as the Blue Acceleration got underway, the world population reached 6 billion. Today there are around 7.8 billion people. Population growth in water-scarce areas like the Middle East, Australia and South Africa has caused a three-fold growth in volumes of desalinated seawater generated since 2000. It has also meant a nearly four-fold increase in the volume of goods transported around the world by shipping since 2000.

Cargo ships enter Singapore – one of the busiest ports in the world. Donvictorio/Shutterstock

Why does the Blue Acceleration matter?

The ocean was once thought – even among prominent scientists – to be too vast to be changed by human activity. That view has been replaced by the uncomfortable recognition that not only can humans change the ocean, but also that the current trajectory of human demands on the ocean simply isn’t sustainable.

Consider the coast of Norway. The region is home to a multi-million dollar ocean-based oil and gas industry, aquaculture, popular cruises, busy shipping routes and fisheries. All of these interests are vying for the same ocean space, and their demands are growing. A five-fold increase in the number of salmon grown by aquaculture is expected by 2050, while the region’s tourism industry is predicted to welcome a five-fold increase in visitors by 2030. Meanwhile, vast offshore wind farms have been proposed off the southern tip of Norway.

The ocean is vast, but it’s not limitless. This saturation of ocean space is not unique to Norway, and a densely populated ocean space runs the risk of conflict across industries. Escapee salmon from aquaculture have spread sea lice in wild populations, creating tensions with Norwegian fisheries. An industrial accident in the oil and gas industry could cause significant damage to local seafood and tourism as well as the seafood export market.

A salmon farm off the coast of Vestland, Norway. Marius Dobilas/Shutterstock

More fundamentally, the burden on ocean ecosystems is growing, and we simply don’t know as much about these ecosystems as we would like. An ecologist once quipped that fisheries management is the same as forestry management. Instead of trees you’re counting fish, except you can’t see the fish, and they move.

Exploitation of the ocean has tended to precede exploration. One iconic example is the scaly-foot snail. This deep sea mollusc was discovered in 1999 and was on the IUCN Red List of endangered species by 2019. Why? As far as scientists can tell, the species is only found in three hydrothermal vent systems more than 2,400 metres below the Indian Ocean, covering less than 0.02 square kilometres. Today, two of the three vent systems fall within exploratory mining leases.

Read more: Sea Pangolin: the first ever species endangered by potential deep sea mining

What next?

Billionaires dreaming of space colonies can dream a little closer to home. Even as the Blue Acceleration consumes more of the ocean’s resources, this vast area is every bit as mysterious as outer space. The surfaces of Mars and the Moon have been mapped in higher resolution than the seafloor. Life in the ocean has existed for two billion years longer than on land and an estimated 91% of marine species have not been described by science. Their genetic adaptations could help scientists develop the antibiotics and medicines of tomorrow, but they may disappear long before that’s possible.

Scientists have barely sampled the diversity of life in the deep sea. NOAA/Unsplash, CC BY-SA

The timing is right for guiding the Blue Acceleration towards more sustainable and equitable trajectories. The UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development is about to begin, a new international treaty on ocean biodiversity is in its final stages of negotiation, and in June 2020, governments, businesses, academics and civil society will assemble for the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon.

Yet many simple questions remain. Who is driving the Blue Acceleration? Who is benefiting from it? And who is being left out or forgotten? These are all urgent questions, but perhaps the most important and hardest to answer of all is how to create connections and engagement across all these groups. Otherwise, the drivers of the Blue Acceleration will be like the fish in the ecologist’s analogy: constantly moving, invisible and impossible to manage – before it is too late.The Conversation

Robert Blasiak, Research Fellow in Ocean Management, Stockholm University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Our planet may be big but it doesn't seem to be big enough

Our planet Earth is about 4.5 billion years old. It is the only planet we know of which supports life. Our nearest neighbour, the planet Venus, is so hot that the metal lead would melt. The only other possible planet is Mars which is extremely cold with a very thin atmosphere containing no oxygen. And there’s no water.

Back on Earth, life has probably existed for at least 4 billion years. Living things gradually changed and became ever more complex; they evolved into a fantastic array of living things ranging from tiny microscopic creatures to huge dinosaurs. But since life really got started in the so-called Ediacaran period about 600 million years ago, five mass extinctions have happened, because either the Earth suffered periods of huge volcanic eruptions which spewed poisonous gases into the air and caused global warming or it got hit by an asteroid — or both. The last mass extinction 65 million years ago famously caused most of the dinosaurs to die out. In between these horrific events, our planet has been a wonderful haven. The atmosphere today exists largely because of marine plankton that produce oxygen and absorb carbon.

But around about a million years ago, new animals (called hominins) which had evolved from ape like ancestors, began to appear in Africa. One of these creatures went on to become the most dangerous and aggressive animal ever known. They called themselves “wise men” (Homo sapiens) and certainly were and still are very clever. But some are also both lazy and very greedy. They’ve learnt to use technologies which are now seriously damaging our only home, planet Earth. Okay you guessed. I’m not talking about penguins and talking about human beings. So what is going on?

One way of looking at the problem of the Earths ‘lives’ is the atmosphere where these creatures burn huge quantities of carbon to fuel their machines, but in the process dumped gas pollution into the atmosphere, most of it CO2 and around 10 gigatonnes (that is 10,000 million tonnes) of carbon (equivalent to about 35 gigatonnes of CO2 every year! Carbon dioxide acts like a blanket making the earth too hot. So glaciers and ice caps all around the world are melting fast. So sea levels are rising causing serious coastal flooding when big storms occur. And that’s only life number one. Another one is what we now call biodiversity meaning simply an abundance of different forms of life. The trouble is humans have short memories and you kids won’t have any idea how much destruction and change has happened to wild country around the planet in the last hundred years. Destruction of habitats is the commonest cause of extinctions (not to mention hunting for fun). These have rapidly become the most serious disasters for life on Earth: the sixth extinction and the first ever to be caused by a self-declared intelligent animal.

Okay, people. What are you going to do about it? I’m pleased to say that a lot of you young people are getting it and really are doing something. Wonderful stuff! But first make sure you know your stuff so find out more here...

10 November 2019

11,000 scientists from 153 nations warn serious trouble ahead I wish I could say there was some good news for a change but I can't. This very sadly is a deadly serious business that will mean a great deal of suffering for many of us animals including humans. Most countries have hardly begun to do anything despite repeated warnings. Unfortunately, people when they hear this news tend to do what they always do: pretend nothing is happening and think about something else. Many things have to be done to avoid catastrophe but the four biggest and probably the most difficult are (says scince) ending population growth, leaving fossil fuels in the ground, halting forest destruction and slashing meat eating. I have no idea how or even if this will happen in time but I did notice as that horrifying news was released, the climate deniers immediately started their wicked business of saying, once again, that this was all nonsense and nothing to worry about. I wish!

2 November 2019

Find out about fracking in my guideFracking is off

Friends of the Earth has been a leading campaigner in the battle to ban fracking in Britain. It seems their efforts have been rewarded. In November 2019, fracking was banned totally in England so "no new fracking can take place anywhere in the country. The industry is effectively over in the UK" (Friends of the Earth)"

Friends of the Earth has been a leading campaigner in the battle to ban fracking in Britain. It seems their efforts have been rewarded. In November 2019, fracking was banned totally in England so "no new fracking can take place anywhere in the country. The industry is effectively over in the UK" (Friends of the Earth)"

Fossil fuels have got to go, and fast. So even though gas is the least damaging, history shows again and again that some people will always take the easy option. If the gas stays undergound because the law says it must, then people will begin to move towards renewable renewable energy. Why? Because gas supplies will get more and more expensive and renewables are getting cheaper. People who  lose their jobs because of bans on extraction of any fossil fuel could get jobs in the rapidly expanding renewables industries.

What does 'renewable' mean?
Something that people use again and again without fear of running out. Renewable energy is super important because it all comes from the sun. Unlike coal, oil and gas, it cannot run out and nor does it cause the deadly pollution that fossil fuels make when they get burned (e.g. in cars, airplanes and so on).

13 October 2019

Extinction Rebellion is making a big impact around the world. "Big coal, oil and gas is killing us, everything that we love and all life. We are currently living in a climate and ecological emergency. Despite decades of protest and campaigning for climate action, governments have continued to prioritise profit and increase the wealth of a few, at the expense of the majority and our living planet. We are saying no more, and demanding radical and transformative climate action." Big demonstrations in 56 countries so far are beginning to get the message out. Their smart website has tons of information about what's happening and how you can get involved. They intend, like Greta Thunberg , to keep on demonstrating and spreading the word about the coming disaster of climate change and mass extinction. They will do this until politicians and big business actually begin to do something serious to try and stop these awful things happening. At present, nothing serious is being done, partly because of the deliberate lies spread by politicians and the fossil fuel business. Science is very clear about this and scientists who have been studying climate change for many years reckon we have 10 years to fix things. This will mean cutting carbon fuel use by half. It all sounds pretty scary. I think these demonstrators are truly courageous. They are prepared to get arrested and face prison to save our wonderful planet.

Greta Thunberg is a Swedish teenage girl who has shot to fame quite recently. She has been actively campaigning about climate change and is now known all around the world.


29 July 2019

The big and poHot Earth, caused by humans burning fossil fuelswerful fossil fuel companies have known about the damage caused by their products for over 60 years. So what did they do? This video shows how the companies decided to deliberately cover up the clear evidence that climate change was already underway. So they did and they've been very successful at sowing the seeds of doubt and confusion. Today, over 99 per cent of all climate scientists know that global warming is a fact and that it is getting ever faster. And yet, the coal, oil and gas industries that knowingly caused all this receive government support as they continue to confuse people and sell ever increasing amounts of their geo-toxic products.

Just imagine if they had been honest from the start and said "Hey folks, we've realised that we've got a problem with carbon emissions from our fuel products. So we are going to have to cut back on fossil fuels right now and start investing in clean renewable power generation systems. Because we realise the danger of carrying on with 'business as usual', we pledge to reduce carbon emissions over the next 60 years to a level which science shows will be sustainable. We have the money and the power and we can do this. And we will because we know that all our futures are on the line here".

Well, as we know, exactly the opposite happened. Power and money were more important to the people who had both than life iself and a future for us all. Shame!

Here's that link again to the video: Fossil Fuels Create Global Warming & Climate Change Episode 1

27 November 2018

Climate change denial is pretty stupidHumans reckon they're pretty smart. After reading this post from the New York Times, I begin to doubt that. Denying that something terrible is happening makes everything worse. That's not smart, it's dumb!

But there's hope when someone changes from dumb to smart. So read this and watch the video.

14 February 2018

Oh dear! It's been a long time since I updated my blog. A lot of things have happened which means change of some sort to my website. Obviously a simple Penguin like me cannot run a website and so I have always had a human friend who helps me. Unfortunately, my friend is not at all well and can't carry on helping me. So I am rather desperately looking for someone or some group to take over my website and, I hope, improve it. I would still be here, still giving you kids facts and news about really important stuff like climate change, pollution and so on, all based on science. The alternative, I'm sorry to say, will be that my website will die and I will be very sad indeed.

What can you do to help? I guess the answer is to talk to your parents and your teachers at school to see what they suggest. Lots of kids from over 220 countries in the world use my website. In the last 5 years that's well over 1 1/2 million of you and not far off 4 million over the last 10 years (3,708,433 between February 1, 2008 and February 1, 2018). Almost 1/3 of my website visitors are from the USA. So you decide whether you think my website is worth supporting. If you think it is, do something! If you come up with a possible solution, scroll to the bottom of my home page where you can find out how to send me an email. I promise I will answer if your suggestion looks good.

1 December 2017

I've been very busy lately. You have to appreciate that I'm rather slow doing things, being a penguin. Having flippers and sharp beak is great in the cold seas which me and my friends live in in the southern ocean which surrounds Antarctica. But they are no good on a keyboard. This is why things like my guides don't get updated as often as I would like. The good news is that I may possibly get some human help soon.

Things aren't looking too good for the planet's climate right now. The most important greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, is increasing again after 2 or 3 years in which it didn't. People were hoping that they'd turned a corner and that this carbon pollution was actually on the point of going down. And so it should have been when you think of all the renewable energy stuff that has been installed all over the place. Sadly, the rise continues.

But there is a new book for kids about how you can do something to help save the world. Find out more


Lucky Dip7 October 2017

I'm launching my new 'Tiki's Lucky Dip' scroller today. It's taken me weeks of work which seems crazy when you look at it. It looks so simple, doesn't it! Well let me tell you it was not simple. Maybe it would be easy for you clever kids because a lot of you probably learn about coding. I had to teach myself and I am only a penguin. Anyway, do have a go with my Lucky Dips. You can find the button on the top right of my main pages. And please tell your friends.

3 September 2017

Hurricane Harvey, August 24, 2017. Photo by NASA Goddard Space Flight CenterWe have all heard lots about Hurricane Harvey and the devastation it has caused. Meanwhile in South Asia, heavy monsoon rains and massive floods have caused the deaths of over 1000 people. Around 40 million people have been affected in India, Bangladesh and Nepal. This sort of extreme weather is what climate scientists have been predicting for some time and now it's coming true. Fortunately, there are many things that people can do to slow or stop climate change. But at present, not enough is being done. There are two problems. One -- the big one -- is climate change itself; the other is people who won't accept that the planet is getting hotter or that it is caused by humans using enormous quantities of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas). Climate change is already seriously affecting millions of people (not to mention other animals and plants) and will soon be affecting billions unless people take big steps to tackle it. And yes, it will likely affect you, your family and friends in the near future so if you want to understand what's happening and what you can do, a good place to start is my Hot Earth guide.

They are usually called 'climate change deniers'. They claim that the all the world's climate scientists are wrong and the mass of evidence that it is happening is false.

28 July 2017

North of the Arctic Circle: Trollfjorden, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Dear me, how quickly the time passes. I've been away in Norway. Wow, fabulous scenery with trolls everywhere (so I was told).

Whoops! I don't think this troll IS real
And this was the first time I'd ever been north of the Arctic Circle where there is 24-hour daylight in mid-summer and where the sun never rises at all in mid-winter. And no, I didn't see any polar bears. If I had, I'd have scarpered pretty fast, I can tell you. Anyway, I don't suppose a polar bear has ever even seen a penguin, let alone eaten one! Why? So now it's back to work, struggling to keep this website up-to-date and trying to find enough money to keep it going. Groan!

Oh come on, you're kidding me! You know that polar bears only live in the Arctic and penguins only live in the Antarctic and southern oceans. So they never meet. Just as well. It's bad enough having leopard seals trying to eat us...

22 May 2017

Well, I got there. I finally finished my Eating the Future guide. I brought it all up to date including two quizzes. Do take a look!



Blast off for podcasts or what?Tiki the Penguin speaks...

Tiki's podcasts

How on earth can a Penguin speak English? Good question. And you know what? I'm not going to tell how I do it. That's my secret. So anyway, I make my recording. Then I put it online so you can listen. Cool, right? I will be doing new podcasts (mp3) every so often on topics that I hope you will find awesome! Watch this space.

Bye for now.

Tiki the Penguin Me October 2017