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Life on the Seven Seas

Life on the Seven SeasOriginally published by RiAus on 31st July 2015.

Everything is affected by climate change. From the mountains to the bottom of the ocean, our every action can have an impact on the world around us. The 25zero campaign helps to highlight the impact through the loss of our snow-capped mountains along the equator. But it’s not just the mountains that are affected by climate change and global warming, the oceans are too.

There has been a lot of publicity about rising sea levels in the past years. And why wouldn’t there be, with 44% of the world’s population living within 150 kilometres of the coast. In Australia, we are even more drastically affected by the idea of rising sea levels with an astonishing 85% of our population living in coastal cities. Needless to say, rising sea levels are an immensely worrying and relevant issue for billions of people.

Scientists have found that sea levels have risen an average of 3.5 millimetres every year since the early 1990s. That doesn’t sound like much, but in the past 25 years, that means that sea levels have risen 8.75 centimetres. If this trend continues, in 85 years, sea levels could rise 2 metres, effectively wiping out most of Australia’s cities and towns, alongside 44% of the world’s settlements.

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This spectacular phenomenon happens because of two reasons; thermal expansion and melting ice. Thermal expansion occurs because as Earth’s atmosphere heats up (about 0.7 degrees in the last century, ten times faster than any other period in history), so too does the water. And as anybody who has taken basic chemistry can attest, as things heat, they expand. Alongside this, the increased heat means that more of the ice caps and glaciers are melting, leading to a vicious circle of heating, expansion and rising sea levels.

Yet, surprisingly, it’s not all doom and gloom. Yes, there is a chance that there will be less and less land to live on, but Earth has always been the ‘Blue Planet’ and some groups of people have decided to embrace this. Carving out lives on the seven seas, the Bajau of South East Asia have embraced the open oceans and almost never set foot on land. They are born aboard boats, get married, have children and eventually die out at sea. Proving that we can survive the rising sea levels. In fact, some Bajau are so adapted for a life at sea that they appear almost amphibian!

These ‘Guardians of the Sea’ have been trailing the high seas since at least the 16th century, trading and thriving at sea for many generations. In fact, they spend some Bajau spend so little time on land that they get ‘land sick’! For them, the islands throughout the South East Asian oceans are merely a layover to trade for rice, grain and petrol before returning to their aquatic way of life. But never fear! If you don’t want to spend all of your days rocking from side to side on a boat, some Bajau living just off the coast in houses on stilts. These homes still take advantage of the many bounties that the ocean has to offer, but keeps the owners dry and out of danger in all but the most horrific weather.

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Alternatively, we could always make our own island like the Uru people of Peru. Originally building these ‘floating islands’ to escape persecution, the Uru people have now made more than forty-two buoyant masses that they live, play and even raise chickens on! Lake Titicaca is 58,000 kilometres squared, so there is plenty of room for these drifting abodes, and the Uru have even managed to make money from their unique living situation through tourism. But how do they do it?

Lake Titicaca has many reed beds throughout its vast expanse, and the Uru have taken advantage of this. Taking these reeds, they literally weave their own island to stay afloat. By trapping air bubbles within this botanic mass, buoyancy is assured and up to six families can live on one makeshift raft. But, reeds do rot away, especially when they are in constant contact with water, so they must constantly be replaced and replenished to keep this sustainable home ‘sea-worthy’.

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And there are many more peoples of the world who have embraced a more aquatic way of life. Using human ingenuity, adaptability and resourcefulness, humans have proved yet again that we can thrive in almost any circumstance. Still not keen on living on the seven seas? Well, tune into Channel 25zero to discover more about climate change and help us and the amazing 25zero team to raise awareness for COP21 in November this year! Join the fight to stop the rising sea levels! If only so you don’t have to spend your life aboard a boat.

Find out more about climate change with Channel 25zero!

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