Testing the Second Breath refers to the maxim that half the Earth’s oxygen is generated by marine life. “Take two breaths,” conservationists say. “The second comes from the ocean.” Of course, we could attribute the first breath to the ocean’s phytoplankton and the second to trees and other land plants; the sentence structure illustrates our tendency to prioritize the things we can most easily see, and the environment where we spend the most time.
The voices on the recording describe various ways human beings have affected the ocean: overfishing, acidification, plastics pollution, contamination from construction, oil and nuclear spills. These activities have created a “quiet crisis” which endangers many lifeforms, on land as well as in the sea, and yet is not obviously felt by most people in developed countries. Solutions will require sustained attention to the consequences of our lifestyles—especially in areas that are difficult to see.
Watch Martha Cargo and Allison Nicotera perform Testing the Second Breath in Brooklyn: