The problem will wash ashore.

Who and what are the divers of change?

What is happening?

What can be done?

· Carbon emissions.

· Climate change.

· Ocean deoxygenation.

· Pollution.

· Greenhouse gasses.

· Industrial corporations.

· Ocean is absorbing roughly 30% of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

· Chemical reactions within the ocean are increasing its acidity.

· The ocean is rising in temperature.

· Marine organisms are being negatively affected, which could lead to the extinction of calcareous marine organism.

· Fisheries, shells and corals are being affected.

· Indigenous marine species are being threatened by alien species that thrive in waters with high carbon levels.

· Limiting the emission of greenhouse gases.

· Lowering the maximum temperature rise for climate change agreed to by governments.

· Creating awareness so that fisheries and aquaculture are included in the discussion surrounding the effects of global warming or climate change.


 The ocean is far more important than it is often made out to be. This is proven by the fact that, according to the Mail & Guardian (2011) article, the ocean acts as a habitat for eighty percent of the living organisms found on earth and a source of sixty percent of the protein consumed by developing countries in the tropics. It provides a sustainable income for at least five hundred million people. Due to the fact that many people are ignorant to the important role the ocean plays, very little attention is paid to the effect that carbon emissions, which result in the acidification of the ocean, have on the ocean and marine life in conjunction with deoxygenation and global warming.

The purpose of the blog post is to provide an environmental humanities analysis as a means of critiquing three articles from the media that focus on ocean acidification. The three aforementioned articles are ‘Acidity is on the rise’ by Mail & Guardian (2011), ‘Emissions threaten the ocean crisis’ by BBC News (2015), and ‘Ocean acidification benefits invasive species’ from CBS News (2015). This post aims to provide the analysis by employing the theories of Poul Holm et al, which are proposed in ‘Humanities for the Environment – A Manifesto for research and action’ (2015), and Shelby Grant and Mary Lawhon, which are put forth in their article titled ‘Reporting on rhinos: an analysis of the newspaper coverage of rhino poaching’ (2014). This environmental humanities analysis proposes the following questions: Do the drivers for change relate to the “Great Acceleration” of human technologies, powers and consumption? How does the absence or presence of solutions relate to “The New Human Condition”? Do the proposed solutions engage with the business or corporate sector? Do the proposed solutions and means to do it stem from collaborative processes of research, stakeholder engagement and public participation? Are the solutions translated into practical means that can easily be achieved by the public?


According to BBC News’ ‘CO2 emissions threaten ocean crisis’ (2015) article, since 1750, the ocean has absorbed approximately thirty percent of the carbon dioxide that has been emitted as a result of the burning of fossil fuels. This absorption is a problem due to the fact that, according to the Mail & Guardian article titled ‘Ocean acidity is on the rise’ (2011), the carbon dioxide that has been absorbed acts as a catalyst for a series of chemical reactions that cause the surface water of the ocean to increase in acidity as the pH levels are lowered. The acidification of the ocean is further aggravated by the fact that the ocean has also absorbed approximately ninety percent of the heat produced by industrial corporations since 1970. Both the acidification and rising water temperatures have ramifications, such as deoxygenation, that negatively affect marine life. To make matters worse, according to the CBS News (2015) article, marine species that are indigenous are becoming increasingly threatened by alien species that thrive in acidified conditions and high temperatures. 


According to Holm (2015:980), the “Great Acceleration” is a concept referring to ‘human technologies, powers and consumption in the last 70 years that [have] operated as a key driver of Global Change. These human advances have come with an alteration of the planet’s carbon and nitrogen cycles, rapidly rising species extinction rates, and the generation of atmospheric greenhouse gases, which in turn are catalysts for adverse weather patterns and increased ocean acidification, the consequences of which will condition life on the planet for centuries to come’.

The drivers that are causing the acidification of the ocean are related to reckless human behavior involving carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases, especially when it comes to industrial corporations, according to the three media articles from CBS News (2015), Mail & Guardian (2011) and BBC News (2015). These drivers that are affecting negative change in terms of the acidification of the ocean can in fact be linked to Holm’s notion of the “Great Acceleration”. The ocean continues to absorb the carbon dioxide emissions and the additional heat being produced as a result of global warming, thus the process of acidification and deoxygenation is further perpetuated. This not only increases the likelihood of extinction of marine life that are unable to adapt to the hotter and more acidic oceanic environment, but also affects human beings as a source of food, specifically protein, is being heavily affected. Jobs will be lost too as those who work for fisheries will find it increasingly hard to find employment as less and less seafood is available for them to harvest and sell. The seafood industry will suffer at the hands of other industries that produce and emit a surplus amount of green house gases.


 The manner in which the consequences and responsibilities of environmental issues cause human beings to react is known as the “New Human Condition” (Holm, 2015:983).

The article from the Mail & Guardian (2011) proposes that people need to rally together to create awareness so that fisheries and aquaculture can be included in the climate change discussion. The reason they are often not included in the discussion is due to the fact that their contributions to both the production of food and the generation of income is not highlighted. This is an appeal to the general public and gives them a way to help show the authorities that ocean acidification poses a true threat to livelihood and a precious food source. This appeal might not necessarily work due to the fact that many people may not feel as though they are directly affected by it unless they live in a developing country and depend on the ocean to provide them with food and job security. Examples are those who live in the tropics and fishermen.

The Mail & Guardian (2011) article and the CBS News (2015) article urge, through implication, people to be conscious of the amount of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases they produce. The article from BBC News (2015), however, overtly states that governments need to come to an agreement to lower the maximum temperature rise for climate change as the current maximum temperature rise will not prevent irreversible damage to the ocean. Therefore, it is seemingly up to the authorities to cause the public to be aware of the situation and react accordingly.


 The Mail & Guardian (2011) article and the article from CBS News (2015) engage mostly with the general public as its implied solutions are for people to reduce their carbon footprints and to create awareness. These solutions are, however, ones that businesses can contribute towards too. The BBC news (2015) article engages more with the authorities but, like the Mail & Guardian (2011) and CBS (2015) articles, indirectly addresses the corporate sector. By stating the need for governments to lower the maximum temperature rise permitted, it is understood that the authorities need to put systems in place that prohibit corporations from producing excess amounts of greenhouse gases.


 The proposed, or rather implied, solutions and the means to make them happen in both the Mail & Guardian (2011) and CBS News (2015) articles stem from a collaborative effort that includes both the general public and business stakeholders. Though, there is very little information on the exact means to carry out actions to achieve a resolution. This does not help those of the public who feel that something needs to be done about ocean acidification. The BBC News (2015) article’s proposed solution calls for a collaboration between governments and business stakeholders. All three of the articles provide information that was obtained through research, making it evident that ocean acidification is most definitely a problem. However, they provide little to no information on the means to achieving their proposed solutions or how to get the authorities, general public and the corporate world to collaborate.


 The BBC News (2015) article does not provide solutions for the general public, but rather the authorities and so the solutions are not translated into practical means that can easily be achieved by the public. Despite the fact that the Mail & Guardian (2011) and CBS News (2015) articles call for the general public to engage with the problem of ocean acidification by reducing their carbon footprints and creating awareness, they fall short in providing easily achievable means for the general public to do so.


The ocean is extremely important due to the fact that it houses eighty percent of earth’s living organisms and acts as a food source that provides developing countries with a large percentage of their protein. The purpose of this blog post has been to create awareness about the acidification of the ocean by using an environmental humanities analysis of three articles in order to do so. This blog post proves that an analysis of this nature plays a crucial role in raising awareness as it indicates that the media has shortcomings in its discussion of ocean acidification. According to Mazur and Lee (1993), ‘public concern is reportedly proportional to the coverage of the environmental issue’ and the concern for ocean acidification is not as great as it should be due to a lack of media coverage.

Words: 1494


CBS News. 2015. Ocean acidification benefits invasive species. [Online] Available from:

[Accessed: 2 April 2016].


BBC News. 2015. CO2 emissions threaten ocean crisis. [Online] Available from:

[Accessed: 2 April 2016].


Grant, S & Lawhon, M. 2014. Reporting on rhinos: analysis of the newspaper

coverage of rhino poaching. Southern African Journal of Environmental

education 30:39-52.


Holm, P et al. 2015. Humanities for the environment – A manifesto for research

and action. Humanities 4:977-992.


Mail & Guardian. 2011. Acidity is on the rise. [Online] Available from:

[Accessed: 2 April 2016].


Mazur, A & Lee, J. 1993. Sounding the global alarm: Environmental issues in the

US national news. Social Studies of Science 23(4):281-720.

The problem will wash ashore.

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