Earth Day warning

Earth Day is a celebration of this beautiful organic spaceship we all live on, but it’s also a day when we remind ourselves that the Earth and its creatures are suffering because of the impact of human life on the ecosystem. So it was fitting that a major new report on the health of America’s oceans from the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy came out this week, which marks the 34th anniversary of Earth Day.

Interestingly, the report, which was two years in the making, is almost exactly the same as one the non-governmental Pew Oceans Commission issued a year ago. Both point to declining coastal waters, increasing loss of fisheries and pollution, wetlands destroyed by development and, most important, a failure of ocean governance. And both call for elevating ocean health as a national priority, ecosystem-based (rather than regional) management and greatly increased federal spending on protection and cleanup.

There’s one big difference between the reports. Whereas the Pew study was lambasted on Capitol Hill as biased environmentalism, the commission’s report is receiving a warm welcome, at least so far. Whether the Bush administration, which has spent the national treasury on war and tax cuts for the wealthy, will find the money to implement the report’s recommendations remains to be seen. We certainly hope so. Without healthy oceans, life as we know it on Earth cannot be sustained.