World-renowned science journalist, Alanna Mitchell, has learnt some astonishing things throughout her three-decade-long career.
From observing coral reproduction on a midnight expedition in Panama to plunging 3,000 metres below sea level in a submersive, Alanna’s once-in-a-lifetime experiences have provided her with enviable, in-depth scientific knowledge.
Here she explains some of her key findings in a way everyone can understand.
The ocean contains the switch to all life
If everything on land were to die, everything in the ocean would be absolutely fine. However, if everything in the ocean were to die, everything on land would die too. Everything!
Oxygen comes from the ocean
You might be surprised to learn that 99% of living space on the earth is ocean and every second breath of oxygen a human breathes is produced by plankton living in these oceans. Climate change is resulting in dangerous environmental changes for this plankton, putting half of the oxygen that we breathe every day at risk.
Humans have changed the pH level of the ocean
With the burning of fossil fuels, a huge amount of CO2 is put out into the air and a third of this is dissolved into the ocean, where it reacts with the water and makes carbonic acid. This process is making the ocean more acidic, 30% more acidic than the ocean was before the Industrial Revolution 265 years ago.
This acidity means sea creatures, like plankton, have a hard time producing their shells, teeth and bones, reefs have trouble making their hard structures and the list goes on. An acidic ocean also isn’t an ideal environment for fish. They become (for lack of a better word) stupid and start swimming towards their predators instead of away.
Dead zones are a big issue
Dead zones are areas in the ocean which have no life in them because there is, quite simply, no oxygen. As of today, there are over 500 dead zones in the ocean. But, how do they come about?
With the increased use of chemical fertilisers by farmers, chemicals like nitrogen and phosphorus are washing down from farms and into the ocean. These chemicals fertilise excessive amounts of algae blooms which then die and fall to the bottom of the ocean - this is where the problem escalates. The dead algae then become a rich food source for bacteria and during this feeding and decomposition process, huge amounts of oxygen is consumed in the surrounding waters leaving nothing left for other life to survive.
Fossil fuels come from actual fossils that are hundreds of millions of years old
Fossil fuels that we burn today are fossils, plants and animals that lived millions of years ago. The act of burning these fossils means that the carbon dioxide being released from them is from an ancient time, resulting in something from an era millions of years ago entering today’s atmosphere.
In short, two things that were never meant to meet are now meeting in huge quantities and the carbon load on the earth’s atmosphere is becoming too immense to handle. Lesson: the burning of fossil fuels needs to reduce right away.
To hear Alanna share her stories of adventure and more about the things she has learned along the way, click here to book your tickets.