As World Oceans Day approaches on June 8, Guam teens look to ocean preservation and the medley of roles they can play to diminish the effects of global warming on the rise of sea levels and water pollution.
Emphasizing the ocean's impact on Guam's visitor industry, Donovan Nelson, a recent home-schooled graduate, said the ocean is vital to ecotourism.
Nelson explained the detrimental effects of losing coral reefs. He is worried that the island’s economy would tank, forcing businesses to find alternative sources of exports or products to sell. In terms of safety, the marine enthusiast is afraid that tsunamis might occur once the coral reefs start to weaken and deteriorate.
The recent high school graduate is also concerned about the recent data disclosed by the University of Guam Marine Lab, claiming that climate change cannot be changed or reversed. As a result, biologists are currently collecting data, observing trends in bleaching and attempting to predict future trends.
“The main problem is our current administration and its war on climate change and scientific data,” Nelson said. “The Trump administration threatened to cut all funding to the Department of Interior, if any information regarding climate change is published.”
Nelson concluded with how oceans are in critical danger if fossil-fuel-based plastics continue to be produced since it takes thousands of years for plastic to break down.
“Microplastics are an entirely different issue regarding plastics deteriorated,” he said. “Finding alternatives to fossil fuels and developing biodegradable plastics are critical for the survival of ocean marine life as well as humans.”
Pollution poses threat to tourism
Incoming senior Anthony Meno at Father Duenas Memorial School explained how Guam's beaches appeal to a huge pool of tourists every year.
"Without the beauty of our ocean and its coral reefs, there is a possibility that the influx of tourists to our island will change," Meno said. "The ocean is an attractive part of Guam's tourism as Tumon provides access to our coveted beaches."
"Our ocean is a prime selling point for tourism, and without it we will be turning away a lot of tourists from our island," Meno said.
Meno expressed concerns over the threat to coral reefs, which provide safe areas for young fish and serve as barriers that help limit destructive waves and storms.
Ocean is important to culture
Growing up on Guam, Maria Egurrola, a student at the Academy of Our Lady of Guam, recognized the integration of Guam’s waters and the CHamoro culture.
“Other than losing our biggest defense against tsunamis, CHamorus would lose their culture of fishing since the tiny creatures’ habitats would be destroyed,” she said.
According to the incoming senior, islanders can help protect the ocean. They can use reef-safe sunblock, carpool to reduce their carbon footprint, and even prevent off-roading in the mountains.
“When people go off-roading, they kick up a lot of dirt. When it rains, the dirt is brought down to the ocean causing sedimentation,” she said. “Sedimentation covers the sun, starving the photosynthetic algae, zooxanthellae, which helps feed the coral.”
“Climate change greatly impacts corals since they are very sensitive to temperature," she said. "If it is too hot or too cold, they will bleach. Zooxanthellae provides the coral with its food and color, and the coral provides a home for the zooxanthellae."
According to the incoming senior, if the zooxanthellae is released, the coral loses its color and starves — leading to the gradual decay of the reef.
Egurrola shared ideas for reducing waste. She said restaurants can encourage customers to bring reusable straws and institutions can have recycling bins.
The biggest challenge is getting the whole island community to help. Some people believe the problem is too massive, causing them not to exert effort at all. However, the important step in changing people’s perspective is to constantly raise awareness of the harm of water pollution.
“We are all guilty of maybe dropping a piece of plastic, thinking it won't affect anything because it is so small,” Egurrola said. “But if everyone does that, it builds up into something bigger, and we might not be able to fix a growing problem in the future.”
As the impact of global warming on oceans worsens, teens come up with effective remedies. If more teens take action against marine pollution, the faster the tide will turn to save our oceans.