A wise man (Aldo Leopold) once said that we must think like the mountain, because the mountain understands how all life in its lands are connected. And that there exists a delicate balance to all life on Earth, which if interrupted, can change everything. In his book A Sand County Almanac, Leopold explains that by hunting the wolf, man allows the deer to roam free and eat all of the grass, and for the time being this hurts the mountain. But what about the sea? The mother of all life on Earth and the largest part of our planet. Who is the wolf of the sea?
The Wolf of the sea is the top predator. It’s the shark that hunts in the vast open ocean, and the Dolphin that outwits its prey near the coast. But it’s also the grouper with its huge mouth, and the Albatross that flies across the largest oceans in the world in search of food. It’s the tuna with its torpedo-like speed, and the seal with its graceful resilience to the cold. And we hunt them all. These animals understand the ocean’s depths in ways that we never can. The ways the water moves with the tides, and the ways the winds make waves and currents. The sea is connected in far different ways than the mountain, and only the animals that live there understand this way of life.
People don’t understand this. We hunt every wolf in the sea, from the sharks that are left to die with their fins cut off, to the dolphins and albatross that become stuck in our fishing gear and drown. But we don’t stop there. We pollute the sea with our garbage, and change the chemistry of the waters with our greenhouse gases. We even clear-cut huge expanses of ocean prairies with our bottom trawls, which sweep through the sea day and night leaving few behind in their tracks. You might not hunt these animals or pollute these waters yourself, but by spending money on the industries that do, you’re indirectly hunting these animals. And by hunting these animals the way we do, the sea has already begun to change.
As we chase away the wolves and change the sea itself, all life is affected. The deer of the sea, the sea urchin, will grow uncontrollably without otters to eat them, and will tear down the kelp forests that line the Pacific Northwest. In “dead zones” where waste from our homes and farms reaches the sea, oxygen is sucked out of the water and the life that cannot escape is left to perish. Only animals that can survive with little oxygen can live in these places. Coral reefs, the lungs of our great oceans, are beginning to crumble under the changing climate that has resulted from the relentless fog of carbon dioxide produced ever day. Animals that can live in our man-made sea will survive, while the natural balance crumbles.
So how can we think like the sea? Every dollar that you spend has the power to change some part of the world we live in; Whether it’s the kind of food that you buy, the way that you power your home, or how you get around. The money that you spend on something supports that system’s existence. Spending money on a sustainable system could help make that system the norm (eg: buying sustainably caught fish, eating lower on the food chain, using renewable energies). But if we purchase from industries that are unsustainable (eg: overfishing, large polluters), then the sea will suffer the consequences. We can think like the sea by respecting it. By spending each dollar on something that we know is good, and by taking personal actions to reduce our every-day impacts, we can more closely understand the delicate balance known between the sea and its wolves.
Photo: David Clode/Unsplash