BUS2SUS: Essay - Pollution in Oceans - Sustainability Challenges - Research Paper Assessment Answers

August 17, 2017
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Question: Research Paper Assignment

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Purpose and aims:

This assessment is designed to apply the knowledge and skills developed by the students in evaluating the role of systems thinking in global and local sustainability challenges.  The topic for your paper is:

‘Systems thinking is critical in developing solutions to sustainability challenges.’

To what extent do you agree with this statement, and why?  Draw on one of the following wicked problems to illustrate your answer:

  • Ice (Crystal meth) use in Australia
  • Pollution in oceans
  • Placing a price on carbon

 How to write a Research Essay

  1. Finding, reading and selecting your sources

At a minimum, this essay will reference sources identified by the student, in addition to the subject readings (10-15 references in total).  Your references should primarily include academic journals and books.  The University library has developed a useful resource on how to evaluate your sources, and can be found in the subject LMS page.

  1. Writing the Introduction

In the introduction you will need to do the following things:

  • Present relevant background to the topic and its significance
  • Introduce your ‘wicked problem’
  • Define terms or concepts when necessary
  • Explain the aim/purpose of the essay
  • Reveal your plan of organization for the essay

  1. Writing the Body

  • Build your essay around points you want to make (i.e., don't let your sources organize your paper)
  • Integrate your sources into your discussion
  • Be critical, and where relevant present two sides of an argument
  • Give examples where relevant
  • Summarize, analyse, explain, and evaluate published work rather than merely reporting it
  • Make sure you have answered the topic question – to what extent do you agree with the statement?

  1. Writing the Conclusion

  • If the argument or point of your paper is complex, you may need to summarize the argument for your reader.
  • If prior to your conclusion you have not yet explained the significance of your findings or if you are proceeding inductively, use the end of your paper to add your points up, to explain their significance.
  • Move from a detailed to a general level of consideration that returns the topic to the context provided by the introduction.

  1. Revising the Final Draft

  • Check overall organization: logical flow of introduction, coherence and depth of discussion in body, effectiveness of conclusion.
  • Paragraph level concerns: topic sentences, sequence of ideas within paragraphs, use of details to support generalizations, summary sentences where necessary, use of transitions within and between paragraphs.
  • Sentence level concerns: sentence structure, word choices, punctuation, spelling.


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Solution: Pollution in Oceans


The oceans are so vast and deep that even if the human race pollutes them bit by bit each day the results would be impeccable. It has been proved from the historical context that the oceans have suffered a lot at the hands of mankind since a long time dating back to Roman times (Erdison, 2015).


The recent statistics show that the industrial discharge and even the run offs from the cities have catastrophically increased the degradation rates of the ocean. When we talk about pollution, we should clearly understand the terminology, in simple language. Pollution is the release of anything which is outside the norms of the ecological cycle and harmful at the same time. A number of human activities ranging from industrial production, burning of fuels, agricultural produce generate pollutants in large quantities (Cole, 2011). These contaminants then thrown into the water are eaten up by the marine organisms, which in turn somehow manage their way into the global food chain. According to Marie Wild in the article about "Ocean Pollution”, it is one of the major killers of our sea animals.


The objective behind writing this essay is to discuss the major causes, effects and simultaneously the solution to the problem of marine pollution.

Organizing the essay

Starting with the background, there is a brief introduction to the topic. Then with the discussion of the root cause of marine pollution, various sub headings have been covered. Lastly the effects and measures to control marine pollution are discussed with a brief conclusion in the end.


Industrial Pollution

The garbage trashed is not the only threat for the marine life but also to the human race. The chemicals and even the ships cause much of the ocean pollution. Also, in the line, join in the factories which dump their waste into the ocean with the major culprits being the paper mills, wood processing industries and related plants. Industries that are located on the upstream usually dump their wastes into the water streams directly. Even the runoff from the storm water carries away potential waste into the oceans. Contaminants enter the oceans through various ways, for instance, there was monitored an increase in built up of mercury into the tissues of fishes and human bodies which was deposited due to large scale burning of coal and other fuels (Burnett, 2011). These then generate considerable amount of mercury into the environment. Among such cycles there are a few contaminants, which stay in the environment for a longer span such as persistent organic pollutants, which ultimately get into the tissues of the marine animals and even the people who eat them. Various methods have been used in the past thirty years to remove such contaminants, but they have proven to be of little success.


In New York City for instance, ocean dumping was banned by Ocean court and legislations. It stated that the sludge must be transported to other places to be used as fertilizer than being dumped in the oceans. Back in 1987, an international agreement was passed on and a law came   into the order to prevent ocean dumping. Pollutants travel their way into the ocean through ocean currents, migratory birds or by various means of biological process.

This in depth problem of ocean pollution is spreading worldwide at a fast pace since long (Andrady, 2011). Campaigning started in States where 140,000 volunteers gathered on September 16, 1995 to scour the coastlines of United States. The Natural Resource Defense Council presented a paper on the amount of water used in US for Industrial purposes which is 4 gallons out of every 10 gallons of water.

Collapse of Fisheries

The collapse of fisheries came into the scene as a major problem thereafter. Studies show that the production of marine plankton, which is a part of the ecological cycle has been reduced as a result of increasing concentration of mercury and DDT.H.L. Windom once said that 25 pecent of the annually produced DDT is drained into the world’s oceans. A type of human poisoning once occurred in Japan in the Minimata Bay, which dates back to 1953, when the animals were found dead on the streets. With this not even the human race was found to be safe as people also suffered from serious symptoms of a disease. It was then found out that the shellfish had a high concentration of mercury, and the people feeding on it showed the symptoms of poisoning (Burnett, 2011). Another common incident happened in Scandinavia where people developed high mercury concentrations in their bodies like the people in Japan majorly because of their fish eating habits.

International Problem

Ocean dumping is not just a problem for America, but it is a worldwide problem. All the nations must take some relevant steps to combat this problem through international cooperation at large (Geriach, 2013). The World Trade organization, The Montreal Protocol, UN Summit on the environment and North  American Free Trade Agreement (NFTA) all are highly supportive of the fact.

Fishing Industry

Commercial fishing industry is on decline due to this problem of ocean dumping. According to the statistics almost 70 percent of the marine life is either fully fished or depleted, which poses a serious threat.

Oil Spills

Adding to this, oil spills are another major cause and concern for the same. Oil spills spread across miles of open water and the beaches rapidly (Miller, 2015). The most vulnerable regions of the oil spills then happen to be the habitat for birds, fish and other wildlife at the coastal areas. Animals perish when oil slicks down their fur. Talking of oil spills, one striking incident was of the Oil spill of the tanker in 1989 in States. This still remains as the largest oil spill in the history of US. The tanker spilled around 11 million gallons of cargo crude oil, killing almost 250,000 seabirds, 900 eagles 300 harbor seals, 2800 otters and millions of fishes and other lesser know marine species. According to the recent studies, more than 60 million gallons of oil enters the ocean annually, but this statistics is never reported (Kroon, 2012). This happens due to the natural process of seepage through the oil bearing rich layers. Even human activities at times add on to the gallons of oil spills, which is reportedly 363 million gallons from industrial wastes and agricultural wastes, which in turn affects the ocean ecosystem (Kroon, 2012).

Due to the increasing energy demands and high population growth, oil continues to be the alternative energy source for the next few decades. The National research council reports developed new methodology to estimate petroleum inputs into the oceans (Jong, 2010). The second largest blowout was of a Mexican oil well that released around 140 million gallon into the open sea in Gulf of Mexico. Oil from individual cars and boats, lawn mowers, jet skis, marine vessels, and airplanes—from both direct inputs and runoff—accounts for most oil pollution in the ocean, dwarfing inputs from oil and gas production activities. Talking about the recent and the latest statistics, accidental spills from platforms represent only 1 percent of discharge in North American waters and 3 percent worldwide, which is clear difference. According to the World watch institute’s research there are still traces of some low level oil contaminants which kill the marine life and disturb the ecosystem.


According to Rajan (2012), there was never an easy solution to clean oil spills and in today’s date too there is not any easy solution for the same. Physical methods include breaking down of the oil with the use of some kind of biological agents, use of materials that absorb oil or even by using hoses on shores.

Agricultural Waste

According to the statistics by Marine Pollution (2013),all the temperature sensitive species are killed by the water thrown into the oceans from the power plants .We as laymen always think of oceans as limitless and boundless source of water, which we are using as huge sinks as well as dump ground for wastes. Pesticides and fertilizers further aggravate the problem. As per the recent statistics, it is estimated to use 55,000 tons of pesticides on an average, annually and interestingly out of that almost 25-30 percent is carried off to the oceans (Cole, 2011). Besides this ship accidents and spillage in sea are another minor threats that happen every once a while (Cole, 2011).

Deep Sea Mining

Deep sea mining removes the parts of the ocean floor which disturbs the benthic layer at large and the marine habitat at that level. With the impacts of mining the area, there are additional impacts of leakage, corrosions and spills at such level which prove to be lethal.


After discussing various causes of ocean pollution we must discuss its effects too. Apart from disturbing the ecosystem and killing of commercially important marine species due to clogging, marine plants are also affected. During oil spills, oil sticks to the flowers and fruits and prevent their germinations. According to Erdison (2015), Fishes and shellfishes are chemically contaminated and have developed genetic defects and burns,which further result into fin damage and cancer.The benthic fauna is also disturbed due to production of toxics in the bottom, leading to sedimentation and finally resulting in elimination of fauna. The coral reefs are also threatened by this sedimentation and the agricultural and industrial runoff. Another important concern is the addition of organic waste, whose end products are no less toxic. These include hydrogen sulphide, methane and ammonia, which are high in toxicity (Benchley, 2013). This process then results in formation of an anoxic zone, i.e. a low oxygen content zone, from which most of the life fails to sustain except the anaerobic microorganism. This leaves the water fowl smelling.

Control Measures

Various measures to control the ocean pollution have been taken which include-introduction of sewage treatment plants at the industrial level. This basically reduces the BOD of the discharge before it is disposed off into the sea. Cleaning oil from the contaminated water by physical means as well as by application of various chemical dispersants is another control method. Crude oil washing is another new technique, which removes the crude oil with the help of jets whilst the cargoes are unloaded. Sometimes oil is even skimmed off the surfaces with the help of suction devices (Bauman, 2011). To add to this addition of high density powder over the spills, so that the oil sinks in to the bottom is another method.


This very complex and otherwise a diffused series of problem is never easily addressed. Because of the developments in the technological world, and the sciences that deal with such problems, there is a need to research ,monitor and develop some strategies which aim at reduction of ocean pollution. Efforts combined with the actions of federal, state and local government are better coordinated and communicated to public at large. Cleaning the oceans and even monitoring them will provide new job opportunities. The main reason behind not cleaning them up is the huge investment cost. But if the world waits too long, the cost can add up to be beyond our imagination. So even if it sounds expensive today, it can be a lot cheaper for the longer span of time (Amar, 2009). It is thus the responsibility of each and every person on the planet earth to take care of the resources for the betterment of our future generations. According to Oceans Day, "Having beach seeps, eco-regattas, youth projects, exhibits, concerts, research, and conferences will help to get the word out."

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