By Ati Bakush, Ekoru.
Growing up in Perth, Western Australia, our activities revolved around the ocean. Spending weekends at Cottlesloe Beach, sailing on the Swan River, jumping off Blackwall Reach, or fishing off the Applecross jetty. I had always taken the ocean for granted – it was always there.
I have now lived in large bustling Southeast Asian cities for over 20 years, and that same connection to the ocean has been difficult to maintain. Beaches within reach are in less than pristine condition and the best ocean spots require a flight or a long drive. Smoke from the burning Sumatran forests have been smothering parts of Southeast Asia every year, acting as a constant reminder of environmental damage.
My entire career has been in telecommunications and internet services, and recently I have been involved in developing search engines for mobile operators. For some time, the idea of making a career change and starting a project focused on the environment had been brewing. After a lot of hard work, I launched Ekoru.org, a search engine that uses its revenue to help our ocean.
The idea is straightforward – take an activity that people perform every day, and turn it into an act of environmentalism. When you use Ekoru, the simple act of searching and surfing can support a clean, healthy and resilient ocean.
Conscious of our environmental responsibility, we have made sure that the technology behind our search engine searches on Ekoru are as green as possible with servers powered entirely by hydro-electricity. Each server is also water-cooled, eliminating the need for cooling fans, and the building uses natural air flows so that power-hungry air conditioning is not required. This ensures that we do not inadvertently contribute to CO2 emissions while trying to help the environment.
Since we launched Ekoru, we’ve enjoyed fantastic support and well wishes from new users who are now recognising that the health of our ocean and its marine life is as important in preventing climate change as the preservation of the Amazon rainforest.
Many people don’t know that a whale also acts as a massive carbon sink storing large amounts of CO2. When the whale dies it sinks to the bottom of the ocean carrying the carbon with it. It is estimated that 30,000 tons of CO2 are sequestered each year from whale carcasses. So, when we find whales with bellies full of plastic that have starved to death, we have lost an important ally in our fight against climate change.
Hidden from view are meadows of seagrass – the forests of our ocean that are incredibly productive ecosystems that can store carbon up to 40 times faster than terrestrial forests. One acre of seagrass can store three times as much carbon as an acre of rain forest. Their root systems prevent coastal erosion, and make waters clearer by absorbing nutrients in runoff from the land.
To support the protection of these amazing ecosystems and wildlife, Ekoru donates 60% of our revenue to two worthwhile causes and organisations: cleaning the ocean with Big Blue Ocean Cleanup, and reforesting our ocean with Operation Posidonia.
The Big Blue Ocean Cleanup has teams around the world which reclaim ocean waste. Their efforts ensure that there is less plastic in our marine environments to harm marine life and which can break down into microplastics over time. They also gather scientific data on microplastics from water and sediment samples which is then used by researchers, government, and businesses.
Operation Posidonia, based in Australia, is leading the way in efforts to “reforest the ocean” by replanting seagrass meadows on the ocean floor. The project is led by the University of New South Wales and is setting the standard for other initiatives worldwide in recovering seagrass meadows which are being lost at a rate of one football field every 30 minutes. Citizen scientists help collect washed-up seagrass shoots from beaches which are then cleaned and replanted by divers into specially designed mats on the ocean floor.
We should always take the opportunity to do our part in helping our environment. We cannot go back in time to undo the harm we have caused, We can, however, take actions now, big or small, and be aware that even a search engine can have an impact in our environment. Let’s make a difference in saving our ocean.
After 20 years in telecommunications, concern for the environment prompted Ati Bakush to commit to a seachange and launch Ekoru.org, the search engine that donates a portion of its revenues to ocean conservation charities. An Australian expatriate, he currently resides in Kuala Lumpur with his wife, four children, and their ginger cat.
This post is part of Ocean Unite’s blog series. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Ocean Unite.