Editor’s note: This is the 2nd in a series of posts by environmental reporting students on things they learned at the recent Society of Environmental Journalists conference.
By Yue Jiang
I was born in Beijing, a city that is surrounded by mountains on three sides and is a bit far from the ocean. I never saw an ocean until I was 11 years old. At that time, I visited the sea as a tourist or more like a spectator.
Neither do I live near the ocean, so why should I care about it? Those questions popped up when I was in geography class in my middle school.
One of our mandatory homework assignments was to recite and repeat the names of the seven oceans in the world. I didn’t know why they required me to do it, but I was glad to get points on my quiz. I used to think that the seven oceans stood for grades in my exam.
However, one thing changed my mind forever. I visited one of my friends whose campus was near the sea, which is famous for angling and birdwatching. My friend and I saw an aquatic diving bird at its last gasp with fishing line wrapped around its wings. We couldn’t save it, even if we cut the fishing line and called the conservation center.
The moment you watch life passing is always a turning point to think about something. I was afraid that the sea could be full of fishing line, which is a nightmare for most marine organisms.
Where does fishing line come from? From humans. Who leaves it in the sea? Humans. In my mind, the human impact on oceans is negative all the time.
With the severity of global warming, high sea levels have become a prevalent issue. I feel like more and more media intend to consider the ocean as victim and the human as inflictor.
In a workshop “Oceans, Coasts and the 2020 Election” at the recent Society of Environmental Journalists online conference, Oregon State University professor Jane Lubchenco, a world-renowned environmental scientist, referred to a dominant narrative that oceans are now higher, warmer and more acidic. With less oxygen, they also are less productive and less predictable, based on the 2019 The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate. Those stories and articles are strong evidence to prove my prejudice. I became radical and polarized. Continue reading