She Sells Seashells

This post is part of the series Eleanor on the Environment.

As we know, Climate Change is the disruption of the earth’s climate due to an increase in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. Some major effects of climate change include ocean acidification, rising sea levels due to atmospheric warming, loss of biodiversity, and so much more. We also know that the increasing levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere come from humans. The oil industry, transportation (especially by plane), coal mining, factories, and even our own breath add to the amount of carbon dioxide in the air. These systems have a detrimental effect on the environment and our quality of life. Air pollution has been proven to cause 7 million deaths worldwide each year. I and many people like me are lucky enough to have the privilege of not experiencing the harsh lashes of climate change first hand. Tragically, the world has abandoned impoverished communities to fend for themselves against the very thing that privileged people created. Only recently through natural disasters have the privileged seen the powers of climate change. Through the California fires to the winter storm in Texas, people are waking up to the importance of taking action.

A pie chart of greenhouse gasses released in 2018. Total Emissions in 2018 = 6,677

Million Metric Tons of CO2 equivalent

I am from Seattle Washington. I love my city. Sometimes I make the mistake of thinking of it as a utopia, a beautiful place that cannot be touched by the ignorant. It’s a city that has its fair share of bike lanes and compost trucks that run the streets on Friday morning. A city that has figured out how to be “green”. As the cliché goes, though, nothing is perfect. I have experienced the effects of climate change on a small scale all due to my love for shellfish. 

Just up the coast of Washington lie many shellfish farms. The shellfish Industry is a two hundred and seventy million dollar industry. It employs over three thousand people. In recent years these family farms have been hit hard. Ocean acidification happens when CO2 reacts with water to create carbonic acid. Researchers have found that since 1980 the ocean is 30% more acidic. When oysters grow, the larvae are very sensitive. If the pH of the water is too low the larvae are unable to develop. Family oyster farms have to work around the pH of the ocean at different times of the year. My family gets our shellfish from Taylor Shellfish. They have a farm north of Seattle and deliver to their store near our house. However, they have been experiencing an extreme decrease in harvest because of ocean acidification. With the help of scientists they have found a way to sustain their business, but if ocean acidification continues to progress oyster farms in Washington will be in serious danger. 

A Taylor Shellfish employee on the oyster farm

Climate change needs to be recognized and fought. However so many people can’t conceptualize it. There is still a portion of the population that rejects the concept all together. This mindset is dangerous, and can be connected back to people with privilege. Without being impacted directly many people (often the ones in power) can continue their lives safely without having to think about climate change. To alter this there needs to be a change in education. From a young age children should be taught about the importance of the earth that they stand on. They should be made aware of the fact that climate change is real. Children should also be exposed to healthy practices to combat climate change such as recycling and planting trees. If schools provide this type of education children will grow up believing that they have a purpose to take care of the earth. These feelings can be powerful and with kids whose values surround the planet the future of the earth will be positive. 

Reference List:

Acidifying Water Takes Toll On Northwest Shellfish. Accessed March 31, 2021. 

Miller, G. Tyler, and Scott Spoolman. Living in the Environment: Principles, Connections, and Solutions. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning, 2015. 

“Ocean Acidification.” Washington Sea Grant. Accessed March 31, 2021. 

Read more from Eleanor on the Environment below