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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The Earth's oceans are vast and mysterious places full of life, from glow-in-the-dark fish who troll its depths, to plant life that brighten coral reefs to dolphins that play along its surface.
Sadly, pollution is a threat to many of the creatures who call the ocean home.
According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, billions of pounds of trash and other pollutants — like oil or fertilizer — make their way into the ocean every year.
Even though we don't live close to an ocean, the choices we make can help protect the Earth's waters. So what can you do?
Use less plastic
Plastic does not decompose, so even plastic that we recycle can end up polluting the seas. According to the NOAA, some of that pollution gets broken down into microplastic — plastic bits smaller than a grain of rice. Microplastic is almost impossible to fish out of our waters.
You probably throw away more plastic than you realize. Think about the straw in your soda, your water bottle, maybe even your toothpaste (if it contains microbeads)! Using less single-use plastics — stuff you use once and then throw away — can help decrease the amount of plastic that makes its way to the ocean.
What are some choices you can make to reduce your own plastic use?
Reduce your energy use
According to the World Wildlife Foundation, the ocean absorbs 90% of the excess heat created by the burning of natural fuels like coal and gas, which we use to power our houses, schools and cars.
That extra heat is dangerous to lots of ocean life, not to mention glaciers near the north and south poles.
An easy way to reduce your own carbon emissions is to turn off or unplug things when you're not using them. When it gets chilly, try putting on a sweater instead of turning up the thermostat. Choosing to walk, ride your bike or take the bus instead of in a car can also make a difference.
When it comes to climate activism, some of the strongest voices are those of kids. Greta Thunberg, a 17-year-old girl from Sweden, led the largest climate strike in history in 2019. She even came to Iowa City to meet with students here who are speaking up about climate change and global warming.
One of the students she met with was Massimo Paciotto-Biggers. At 14, he had already convinced his district's school board to pass a climate resolution, and soon his city council formally recognized the climate crisis, too.
Activism can take many forms. Some people go to rallies, protest or write letters. You can direct your call for change anywhere — to your school board or even to your parents. What could you do to speak out?