Former first lady Laura Bush is advocating new territory for national parks in another natural area that is in peril: the ocean. And Bush points to perhaps the country’s most famous national park, Yellowstone, as a blueprint to expand the National Marine Sanctuary System and save the waters from ruination.
|Laura Bush: “We are at risk of permanently losing vital marine resources and harming our quality of life." (Getty Images Photo)
“Our first national park was named not after a mountain or forest but for a mighty river: Yellowstone,” Bush writes in an Op-Ed in The Wall Street Journal
. “For centuries the world's waters have connected us. Explorers, traders, scientists and fishermen have traveled our oceans and rivers in search of new resources and a greater understanding of the world. This Wednesday, as we mark World Oceans Day, we must intensify our efforts to better understand, manage and conserve our waters and marine habitats if they are to remain a vibrant source of life for future generations.”
Bush acknowledges tremendous strides in protecting the environment during the past several decades, except for the area that covers 70 percent of the globe’s surface, the oceans. “Less than one-half of 1 percent of the world's oceans are protected in ways that will ensure they stay wild,” she writes.
“We are at risk of permanently losing vital marine resources and harming our quality of life,” Bush observes. “Overfishing and degrading our ocean waters damages the habitats needed to sustain diverse marine populations. Perhaps the most vital function our oceans serve is that of climate regulator — they produce oxygen, reduce pollution, and remove carbon dioxide. If we don't protect our oceans, we could witness the destruction of some of the world's most beautiful and important natural resources.”
To avoid such dire consequences, Bush advocates ramping up conservation efforts for the oceans similar to the moves that evolved from the creation of Yellowstone to expand marine sanctuaries.
“In the coming years, protecting our oceans will be even more important. Nearly half of the world's population lives within 60 miles of an ocean, and that percentage will rise as more people settle in coastal communities,” Bush writes. “Today there are few waters outside the reach of human exploitation. Our wild ocean frontiers are disappearing and, like we did with Yellowstone, it is up to us to conserve the most important wild areas that remain. Doing so will preserve something that is all too easy to destroy but impossible to replace: natural, undisturbed incubators of life.”
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