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Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Sea Change

This evening, I decided to take my four year old daughter on a date - a date with our history, the present, and our future.

So on the back of my bicycle she hopped, helmet, gloves, warm jacket, and all. And away we rode, off to LaSells Stewart Center on the Oregon State University campus to see "A Sea Change" - a movie about ocean acidification, moral and social responsibility, and the future. The film was showing as the culmination of the "Songs for the Blue Ocean", a symposium on Oceans and Ethics put on by the Spring Creek Project.

The film is a touching account of the relationship between a grandfather and his grandson and their interactions around the ocean - interactions they, and millions of others like them, may not be able to continue having if our oceans continue changing at the rate they currently are. Given that nearly 71% of our planet is covered by oceans, it's not surprising that our oceans are absorbing pollutants we put into our atmosphere - pollutants that include carbon dioxide (CO2), the focal chemical compound discussed in this film. The gist of the story is that as the oceans absorb carbon dioxide, they are becoming increasingly acidic - a process known as ocean acidification. And while this change in pH may be seemingly very small (akin to pouring a can of soda pop into a bathtub), it's becoming large enough that many of the ocean's critters, specifically the ones with calcareous shells, are unable to adapt - they are either unable to build suitable shells or their shells dissolve too fast - and, as a result, they are either already dying, or are likely to die (e.g., coral bleaching).

(Bleached elk horn coral; Flikr - World Resources)

While this may seem like heavy material for a four year old to digest, you might be surprised by how much they DO absorb - their minds are like little (non-calcareous) sponges. And the message was driven home by an experience we had midway through the movie during her restroom break. In the lobby, we bumped into Sven and Barbara, the writer and director couple from the movie. She couldn't believe her eyes that they were actually here - right in front of us. We visited for a few minutes, snapped a picture, then headed back to watch the rest of the movie.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time together and on the bike ride home, she melted my heart more than she has yet to date. We were riding home, well after dark, our bike lights flashing and casting curious shadows about, looking into the well-lit windows of OSU's Dixon Recreation Center when - after a moment of silence - she says to me "Papa? You take me to see some of the coolest things" and then was quiet again. I was so moved...speechless and full of love.

(Sven, Barbara, Jeremiah and Finn...who's acting shy in this picture)

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