Ecologist: Hope remains for world’s oceans, but swift response is needed

SOUTH KINGSTOWN — Outspoken marine ecologist Jeremy Jackson says humans have caused widespread and difficult-to-imagine damage to the world’s oceans and that the response needs to be of immense proportions. He says it boils down to two simple concepts: Become citizens instead of consumers, and elect real leaders, not facilitators of consumption.

“I felt good last Tuesday,” Jackson said of the election of Barack Obama, who on Tuesday was televised pledging a federal cap-and-trade system to limit carbon dioxide emissions and to invest billions in alternative energy. The hundreds of people attending the Fall 2008 Honors Colloquium on Global Environmental Change at the University of Rhode Island responded with enthusiastic applause.

Jackson, a 66-year-old ecologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California, said he realized about 15 years ago that many of the sea grass beds and coral reefs he studied as a young man were largely gone. That includes the grass beds of Chesapeake Bay and Florida Bay, and the reefs of Jamaica. Much of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef looks like a garbage dump, Jackson said. Fish populations are dramatically reduced and dead zones are growing in oceans around the world.

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