There are numerous vested interests, spanning the entire globe, which make the issues surrounding the degradation of the ocean and the ability of the planet to sustain human life and civilization, virtually impossible to resolve from our normal perspectives. Any change that seems necessary or even critical for our future is opposed by those who profit by the status quo, or those who enjoy the results of the status quo. Yet, there are some very clear directions that can provide the difference between success and failure, and therefore, between life and death. For the most part, we avoid addressing these leverage points because they are so hard to attain, and fall back on “feel good” solutions that have, in reality, very minimal impact for the future. Thus, we tackle the question of “plastic straws” which represent an almost infinitesimal percentage of the plastic waste in the ocean rather than stratifying the issue based on the amount of real impact it has. An example can illustrate this point:

Fishing line and tackle may represent as much as 50% of the plastic waste in the oceans, and it is deadly, as innumerable sea creatures, including those at the top of the chain, such as whales and dolphins, or others such as sea turtles, get trapped and killed in large numbers by the fishnet residues clogging major sections of the oceans. Yet, we never hear about this issue!
Commercial fishing also has adopted more and more aggressive techniques as global fish stocks in the ocean have declined precipitously over the last decades. Thus, massive trawling efforts, which not only collect huge numbers of the desired fish, but also trap innumerable other fish that are simply left behind to die, and which destroy reefs and plants which support the entire food chain, are a preferred method of harvesting a declining fish population.
Commercial fish farming relies on feeding the captive raised fish on fish meal which is a by-product of commercial fishing, so the ocean fish stocks are depleted while we create farmed-fish for the market. Even further, the fish being raised in this manner are generally not healthy and are crowded together in ways that prevent them from moving and which concentrates them in a tight and polluted area, thus ensuring higher incidence of disease among farmed fish than in their wild counterparts.
Climate change caused by our use of hydrocarbons, and the by-products of hydrocarbon production in the form of plastics, are additional primary causes of the destruction of the oceans.
If we could tackle these two major issues, commercial fishing and its impacts, and climate change and the use of hydrocarbons, we could set ourselves on a path towards ocean health, and planetary health. Consider for a moment that it is the algae and plankton in the ocean which are a primary source of the oxygen we breathe, in fact, more than comes from all plants and trees found on land. As we destroy the ocean environment, we are destroying the oxygen-generating capacity of the world, to our own future detriment.
How can we tackle these issues?
First, we need to recognize that serious changes in human habits cannot be avoided. We simply cannot go on the way we are going and survive the existential crisis that we face. A change of consciousness and an exercise of informed intelligence and will is required to overcome this crisis. If we come to recognize the root significance of these issues, we need to address them directly rather than believe that by banning straws or plastic cutlery (good steps in themselves, but relatively small in relation to the problem we need to solve) we are accomplishing something real. This means changing humanity’s reliance on fish as a food source, changing our dietary habits and desires, and moving toward a total, or at least a more plant-based diet. Instead of trying to find “sustainable” fish to eat (there is no such thing), it would be better to directly recognize that 8 billion people on the planet cannot continue to eat massive amounts of fish, as we already see massive declines in fish stocks and the imminent collapse of the global fishery industry in the next decades in any case. For those who are not prepared to entirely give up eating fish there should at least be a concerted effort to massively reduce consumption. If we choose to give up eating and demanding fish as a primary source of food for humanity, we will reduce the fishery industry and the pressure to over-fish the oceans. It takes education and encouragement and the development of plant-based options to achieve this result, which will eventually become obvious and necessary as the global fisheries implode in the not too distant future in any case.
Second, we need to grapple directly with the need for and use of hydrocarbons and put intensive effort into the various alternatives to continue to supply the energy needs for humanity on the planet. This involves energy conservation, more efficient production, distribution and use of energy, as well as alternative forms of energy development and storage. All options must ben explored, including solar, wind, geothermal, hydro-electric generation, wave action, and more efficient methods of storage and distribution must be developed. We should also be considering our overall impact in the use of energy for frivolous uses that have arisen from our carelessness about the costs and sources of the energy we dissipate.
Third, we need to develop alternative ways to create the tools and products we need to replace hydro-carbon sourced plastics. This will include options such as hemp and bamboo, but also should include a closer look at what products we create and sell in the world.

The kind of radical changes envisioned above are difficult due to the way we organize our society and rely on jobs in these industries to provide survival necessities to people. Thus, we need to then tackle the core question of what it means to be alive on the planet, what amount of access to the necessities of life, food, water, shelter, habitat etc. needs to be provided for every human being, and every other living being on the planet and how we can accomplish this through disengaging the mechanisms that we have developed to tie sustenance to jobs, and which treats the world as a dead resource bin to be exploited without concern for the consequences for the future.
These are tough questions, but they need to be asked and addressed effectively if we are to survive the challenges we face in today’s world. All of the gridlock is due to entrenched vested interests in the current state of things refusing to let go, even as they themselves can see the drastic and negative impacts starting to become highly visible and overwhelming in intensity. A change in the way we look at things is the starting point for all the difficult changes we need to address in a way that is both effective and humane.

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been actively involved in exploring the change of consciousness needed to survive the current existential crisis since 1971. He is author of 16 books and has a daily blog at and is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.