Archive for Human Action
What better way to raise awareness for climate change than get a respected meteorologist to jump off a tall building? Make that meteorologist weatherman Michael Fish MBE and put the tall building in the vibrant city of London during the security blitz of the Olympics and we quickly have to thank the imagination of the Rapanui team who put the whole thing in motion. Rapanui is an eco-clothing brand founded by Rob & Mart Drake-Knight and based on the Isle of Wight. It uses ethically accredited factories that are powered by wind and solar energy and cutting edge eco-textiles from sustainable sources.
The Rapanui team got together with Michael Fish (above) to film the latter BASE (Buildings, Antenna, Spans [bridges], Earth [cliffs]) jumping from a tower block in central London. The resulting video can be viewed above and is highly entertaining (“if anything is going to raise awareness for climate change it is doing damn silly things like this”). In Michael’s own words: “Despite what most people think, my TV career was not based on my stunning good looks. I’m a highly qualified meteorologist - and lately I’ve been thinking a lot about climate change. It’s probably the biggest problem we’ve ever faced and it’s not going away. If we want to live sustainably, we need to take action now, not when it’s too late.”
www.bbc.co.uk 19th August 2012
A row has erupted between China and Japan over the arrest of a group of 14 Chinese protestors who set foot on the disputed islands known as Senkaku In Japan and Diaoyu in China. It is the first time non-Japanese nationals have set foot on the islands, which are owned by Japan, since 2004. The islands are largely uninhabited but are close to strategically important shipping lanes, rich fishing grounds, and are believed to contain oil deposits. The activists arrived by boat and plane and their arrest immediately caused the Chinese government to call for their arrest. Chinese protestors also gathered outside the Japanese embassy in Beijing. Shortly afterwards, 150 Japanese protestors also embarked for the islands but were prevented from landing by Japanese coastguard. Ten of the group swam ashore though and are now being questioned by police. Tensions have risen before when a Chinese trawler was apprehended by Japanese coastguard in September 2010 after it rammed two Japanese vessels. As Sino-Japanese relations plummeted though, the Japanese dropped charges.
e360.yale.edu 15th August 2012
Quoted from source:
‘A Brazilian judge has ordered a suspension of the controversial Belo Monte dam project, saying that local indigenous people who will be affected by the massive hydroelectric project were not sufficiently consulted during the environmental assessment process. In a ruling issued Tuesday, Judge Souza Prudente of the Federal Tribunal of Brazil’s Amazon region found that no consultations were held with local communities before Congress approved what would be the world’s third-largest dam project. The $16 billion project, which is expected to produce 11,000 megawatts of energy, would flood 260 square miles of rainforest in Brazil’s Para state and displace more than 20,000 people who depend on free-flowing rivers for their livelihoods. “The Brazilian Congress must take into account the decisions taken by the indigenous communities,” Prudente wrote. “Legislators can only give the go-ahead if the indigenous communities agree with the project.” The developer of the project, Norte Energia, will be fined $250,000 per day if construction on the project continues. The company says it will appeal the decision to a higher court.’
The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) has organised the world’s first symposium dedicated to how animal welfare is affected by entanglement in marine debris. Arranged between the 4th to the 6th of December this year in Miami, Florida, the symposium differs from other marine debris conferences as it looks specifically at the problem from an animal welfare perspective. Marine debris, particularly plastic pollution, causes numerous problems in the world’s oceans, several of which cause the death of aquatic species. The UN has estimated that around 100,000 marine mammals and 1 million seabirds die every year because of entanglement and ingestion of marine debris, although accurate figures are impossible to calculate. A commonly cited example of how this happens is with turtles mistaking floating plastic bags for jellyfish. The bag then either suffocates the turtle, or causes its stomach to produce excessive amounts of digestive gases so that the creature ends up floating to the sea’s surface, unable to dive for food thereby dying of starvation.
www.independent.co.uk 16th August 2012
Scientists have created a “systematic way of scoring the health of the world’s oceans” in an attempt to evaluate their health in the face of growing problems such as pollution, overfishing, and acidification. The Ocean Health Index (graph below) places the overall health of the world’s oceans at 60 out of 100. The worst affected areas included the territorial waters of Sierra Leone, which scored just 37 and failed in every one of the ten measures the index uses to measure the sea’s health. Measures include water quality, biodiversity, and the sustainability and productivity of local maritime industries, such as fishing and tourism. Interestingly, the survey found that waters of the coasts of developed countries such as Germany differed little on the index than those in remote areas such as Jarvis Island in the Pacific Ocean. The survey was put together by 30 scientists and published in Nature. Only 5% of countries rated over 70 whereas a third were below 50. Great Britain weighed in at 61, just above the global average but below the US (63) and Germany (73).
www.guardian.co.uk 14th August 2012
The European Union has made radical changes to the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive, the world’s first comprehensive e-waste legislation introduced in 2003. The original legislation placed “producer responsibility” ‘on manufacturers that made them legally and financially responsible for the safe collection and disposal of old equipment’. However problems persisted with the export of e-waste to countries outside the EU for scrap. The updated directive ‘will impose a series of ambitious new e-waste recovery and recycling targets on the IT and electronics industry while also introducing stringent new penalties for companies and member states who fail to comply with the rules…new targets will require member states to collect 45 per cent of electronic equipment sold for approved recycling or disposal from 2016, rising to 65 per cent of equipment sold or 85 per cent of electronic waste generated by 2019, depending on which goal member states choose to adopt’. EU member states have until February 14 2014 to transcribe the new EU directive into their national e-waste laws.
A couple of days ago, LMV director Ed Scott-Clarke added his name to a letter sent to the editor of the Daily Telegraph by Greener Upon Thames, an environmental charity that hosted the first UK screening of Plastic Shores. The letter called for a reduction of plastic bags used during the 2012 Olympics and other signatories included Zac Goldsmith MP, Sir David Attenborough, Dame Vivienne Westwood, and Jeff Bridges. Already Locog (London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games) has stated it will not use disposable plastic bags in its shops but there are many other stores that still need to follow suit.
www.e360.yale.edu 11th July 2012
Quoted from source:
“The European Union has introduced strict new auto emissions standards that officials say would cut carbon dioxide emissions by a third by 2020. The new standard, which must be approved by all member states and the European Parliament, would require that new passenger cars emit no more than 95 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer driven, compared with 130 grams today, and 147 grams per kilometer for vans. Connie Hedegaard, the European commission’s climate chief, said the new standards would help European automakers compete with foreign manufacturers and cut fuel costs for consumers. According to EU estimates, the average driver would save about €340 in fuel during the first year, and between €2,900 and €3,800 during the lifetime of the vehicle. In addition, the EU predicts it would save about 160 million tons of imported oil. Greenpeace officials, however, called the plan too weak, saying that, among other loopholes, it allows manufacturers to continue producing heavy-emitting vehicles in return for building zero-emitting electric cars, regardless of how many electric vehicles are sold.”
www.cnn.com 3rd July 2012
The Government Office Administration of the State Council of China has announced its intention to ban shark fins being served at official banquets. Shark fins are usually served in a soup that was originally reserved for the elite during imperial times. With the Chinese economic boom however, demand for the luxury dish has rocketed resulting in widespread and unsustainable shark fishing. Sharks are usually finned while still alive and the rest of the body is discarded. The demand for shark fin soup has been attributed to the increase of endangered shark species across the planet, rising from 15 in 1996 to 181 today. Between 26 and 73 million sharks are killed every year. The move by the Government Office Administration came after a proposal was put forward in the National People’s Congress early last year. Although it may take as long as three years to implement, the ban would ‘help cut the cost of sometimes lavish banquets held for state functions.’ Several companies have also made moves to ban the product in China including the Peninsula Hotel and Shangri-la Hotels chains. Swissotel in Beijing has already stopped.
www.bbc.co.uk 22nd June 2012
Quoted from source:
‘On the final day of the UN sustainable development summit in Rio, UN chief Ban Ki-moon has urged governments to eliminate hunger from the world. The secretary-general said in a world of plenty, no-one should go hungry. The final phase of the summit has seen pledges from countries and companies on issues such as clean energy. But a number of veteran politicians have joined environment groups in saying the summit declaration was “a failure of leadership”. And UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg described the outcome as “insipid”. The meeting, marking 20 years since the iconic Earth Summit in the same city and 40 since the very first global environment gathering in Stockholm, was aimed at stimulating moves towards the “green economy”. But the declaration that was concluded by government negotiators on Tuesday and that ministers have not sought to re-open, puts the green economy as just one possible pathway to sustainable development. Mary Robinson, formerly both Irish president and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said it was not enough. ”This is a ‘once in a generation’ moment when the world needs vision, commitment and, above all, leadership,” she said.’
www.independent.co.uk 17th June 2012
A stonemason has come up with the brilliant idea of creating a monument to commemorate all the species on the planet that have gone extinct. Sebastian Brooke’s original idea was to carve sculptures of non-existent species but the project soon spiralled to more grandiose designs. Mr Brooke has teamed up with David Adjaye, a London-based architect, to create Memo (“The Mass Extinction Monitoring Observatory”). The monument will be situated on the Portland coast, the southernmost tip of Dorset and part of the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site. A bell made from Portland stone (a practice that hasn’t been around since the Bronze Age) will be situated in the building and will toll out every time a species becomes extinct. Considering 20,000 species are currently listed as on the brink of extinction, and this number is only set to rise as human beings continue to destroy the environment, the bell should toll out fairly frequently. The Royal Society, the project has the support of Sir Crispin Tickell, chairman emeritus of the Climate Institute in Washington, the Eden Project creator Tim Smit, and Edward O Wilson, the Harvard biologist acknowledged as the father of biodiversity. Mr Adjaye is donating the design,an elegy to the ammonite, for free, so impressed was he by the idea. It will cost £20 million and take 18 months to complete, following an 18 month period for fund-raising.
e360.yale.edu 14th June 2012
Quoted from source:
‘Australia has announced that it will create the world’s largest marine reserve, a network of protected areas that will cover 1.2 million square miles, more than one-third of the country’s waters. Environment Minister Tony Burke, making the announcement in advance of the Rio+20 sustainability summit, said the action will expand the number of Australia’s marine reserves from 27 to 60 and will protect waters of the Coral Sea and other key ocean habitats. “It’ time for the world to turn a corner on protection of our oceans, and Australia today is leading that next step,” said Burke. “What we’ve done is effectively create a national parks estate in the ocean.” Limited fishing and oil drilling will be allowed in some areas, and the fishing industry will receive hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation for reducing or eliminating commercial fishing in numerous tracts of ocean.’
LMV comment: only 1.1 million square miles of the world’s oceans were protected before the expansion, of which 310,000 square miles were in Australian waters. This move by the Australian government means that over half of the world’s marine reserves are now in Australia.
www.bbc.co.uk 13th June 2012
EU fishery ministers have provisionally backed a ban on the wasteful practice of discards, whereby fishermen throw back non-target fish that are caught up in their nets. This would see discards of Herring and Mackerel banned by 2014 and those of Cod, Haddock, Plaice and Sole by 2018. The latter four will take longer to implement because of their tendency to swim together, therefore making it harder to avoid catching non-target species. The ban in not binding however and came as a result of a compromise following 24 hours of intense discussions between ministers, who all agreed that overfishing should end by 2015, 2020 at the latest. However, green groups such as Greenpeace have condemned the wording of the ‘agreement’, particularly the sentence: ”quantifiable targets linked to biological parameters”. Greenpeace argue that targets should be governed by science, not linked to it.
Sign Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s Fish Fight campaign now to keep the pressure on the EU Fisheries Commission to change.
Treehugger has just posted a series of photographs from the Smoke Control Lantern Slide Collection, ca. 1940-1950, from the Archives Service Center at the University of Pittsburgh. See a selection of the photographs below. They demonstrate how it is not just modern-day cities such as Beijing, Mexico City, and Rio de Janeiro that experience severe air pollution. Many cities that have relatively clear skies today such as Chicago, London, and Berlin also used to have dangerous smogs but these were tackled with curbs on emissions and stricter controls on air quality. Let us hope the industrialising nations manage to implement their own restrictions soon. These beautiful yet terrifying images are taken from war-time Chicago. The air quality is much the same as that LMV saw in the Beijing of today.
Guest editorial by Elizabeth Odegaard, University of Washington 1st June 2012
SEATTLE, Washington – Located in the eastern part of the state of Washington, near the city of Richland, is the Hanford facility. The 586 square miles that comprise Hanford make up the most contaminated and radioactive site in the western hemisphere. Hanford was built out of the Manhattan Project during the nuclear arms race in WWII as the ideal location for producing the plutonium for an atomic bomb. Making it an ideal site was its close proximity to the cooling waters of the Columbia River and its relative isolation from major cities. So, in 1942, families, farmers, and three Native American tribes were evicted from their own land to make room for the construction of the Hanford facility. Because of the extreme secrecy and security of the project, those that were evicted had no idea why, other than that it was in the name of “the war effort”. And the site itself was virtually impenetrable by anyone that didn’t work there. By 1944 plutonium production was underway at Hanford and in 1945 the atomic bomb containing plutonium from Hanford was dropped on Nagasaki. The effects of Hanford are global, not only in terms of the devastation caused by the atomic bomb, but because of the far-reaching implications of what is now one of the most radioactive and contaminated sites in the world. At the time the facility was built, the future implications that a nuclear processing plant would have on the environment were not considered, but current generations are now dealing with the consequences of the short-sighted decision. This area of Washington is currently home to fruit orchards, farm and agriculture land, and recreational sports and camping which means that contamination and radiation have direct effects on the health of the region.
The history of Hanford is rife with tension; political, economic, and surrounding the health and safety of people and the environment. Hanford is currently managed under the Tri-Party Agreement which includes the United States Department of Energy, The United States Environmental Protection Agency, and the Washington Department of Ecology. The tension and in-fighting over the distribution of money, and the power to make decisions, is endless. Coupled with the secrecy, distrust, and denial that has long been characteristic of Hanford, an effective clean-up process has so far been impossible. Each of these stake-holders is working toward different expectations of clean-up, under different budget constraints, and answering to different federal and state administrations. As a provision under the Tri-Party agreement, the Yakima nation represents the loudest Native American voice in the clean-up of Hanford but this has so far done little to truly further clean-up and speak for their specific rights. Many people, within each of these organizations, would agree that because of conflicting ideas of clean-up and pressures from outside forces, true collaboration is more or less impossible to achieve.
Plutonium production at Hanford continued until 1989 when the era of clean-up began. However, the challenge of clean-up is staggering. So far, only 2% of the radioactivity at Hanford has been immobilized. One of the biggest challenges is the 53 million gallons of nuclear waste stored in 177 underground tanks. A third of these tanks have leaked more than one million gallons of radioactive waste into the soil and groundwater that feeds into the Columbia River, the largest river in the Pacific Northwest. The method of “disposal” used so far at Hanford includes the dumping of waste into miles of poorly designed trenches on the site. The future of waste management at Hanford looks to the operation of a Vitrification Plant that will immobilize the waste in the form of glass, encapsulating it in a secure cylinder that can then be ‘safely’ stored. However, the design and construction of the plant has been inefficient, slow-going, and expensive, and won’t even begin operations for what is estimated to be at least another ten years. Hanford is now the most expensive clean-up program and the largest public works project in the United States.
Plutonium is a man-made element with a half-life of over 24,000 years. This means that once it enters the body, through inhalation, consumption of contaminated food/water, or exposure to the skin, it doesn’t leave. The radioactive waste produced during the processing of plutonium is extremely dangerous, as plutonium is not only a carcinogen but also a mutagenic, it poses a serious health risk with long-term consequences for generations to come. In addition to the plutonium waste, other toxic chemicals, like chromium, tritium, uranium, strontium-90, and tetrachloride, have already contaminated the groundwater at Hanford, and threaten the Columbia River. Workers at Hanford, during both production and clean-up, as well as those living ‘down-wind’ from the facility, and people who use the Columbia River for recreational purposes, all face the continued dangers of potential exposure or contamination by an endless list of toxic chemicals. There are countless cases of people with cancers, thyroid diseases, and other illnesses because of radiation exposure or chemical contamination at Hanford.
Safe levels of radiation and chemical exposure are based on a “reference man” a statistical starting point that realistically only represents a small portion of the population; and the portion least at risk because it is based on a healthy, young, white male. Children have at least a three times greater risk of cancer than adults, and women are more vulnerable than men. The federal standard of ‘safe exposure’ from the Department of Energy is the least stringent and allows for 3 deaths out of every 10,000 people due to radiation exposure. The Washington State standard is 1 death per 100,000 people. These competing standards further reflect the challenge of collaboration and the problem of disjointed leadership perspectives at Hanford.
Hanford, though in many ways seemingly isolated from the rest of the world, has the potential to continue to have relatively unseen, but far-reaching effects. An earthquake or a chemical reaction at the facility has the potential to cause a massive radiation release, contaminating the air and waters of the Columbia River. As the biggest river in the Pacific Northwest, contamination of the Columbia would easily impact the Pacific Ocean and the marine and human life that relies on it for survival. Through the bio-accumulation of contamination, would likely perpetuate the exposure to humans and animals over great distances. Already, the river water along the shore of the facility has been tested and shown to have contaminants at levels greater than 1,500 times the drinking water standard. This poses a major threat to the health of the people and animals in contact with the river. This means that effective and thorough clean-up is necessary in order to prevent even more contamination in the future.
Though there is much contention surrounding Hanford, everyone can agree that it needs to be cleaned up; the disagreement is as to how that should be done. Hanford was built behind curtains of secrecy and justified with a vehement sense of patriotism. These qualities have made it extremely difficult to enact changes in clean-up policy and standards of health and safety as Whistleblowers are harassed and treated vilely; and the “good ol’ boy’s” club makes it virtually impossible to speak out against the ‘way things are’ at Hanford. The political willpower of the 1940’s that built Hanford, and constructed nuclear weapons, stands in great contrast to the current apathy and lack of collaboration on the part of the federal and state government and the stake holders there. Many organizations are working hard toward a collaborative clean-up effort with federal and state programs, and give voices to those that are affected by Hanford.
If you would like to learn more about Hanford and the clean-up effort please explore some of the resources below.
Hanford Challenge: A non-profit organization working on a collaborative clean-up of Hanford
The United States Department of Ecology: One of the Tri-Party stake holders
Physicians for Social Responsibility: A non-profit organization working on environmental and social concerns related to Hanford
Heart of America Northwest: A citizen’s group that works in pursuit of Hanford clean-up
LMV recently wrote a post about the ‘First Fish War‘, which is our interpretation on the brewing dispute over the South China Sea. However, China and the Philippines are not the only two countries that are arguing over fishing rights in territorial waters. If fact, this is a problem that is regularly seen across the globe but rarely reported about. For example, when LMV was filming out in the Cayman Islands we interviewed the former head of police for marine conservation. He told us that in the 90s the Cayman Coastguard had to chase Japanese fishing vessels out of the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone because the ships were stealing tuna.
More recently, the BBC has reported a dispute between Spain and Gibraltar, a UK territory on the southern tip of Spain. According to the report, Spanish naval police escorted several Spanish fishing vessels into Gibraltar waters where they cast their nets near to Gibraltar harbour. The Royal Gibraltar Police surrounded the vessels, who did not leave the area until a Royal Navy ship, HMS Sabre (above) arrived on the scene. The use of large nets in Gibraltar waters is illegal under an environmental law. Although Spain disagrees with the UK’s ownership of Gibraltar, which has been a colony since 1713, the standoff between Spanish police and a UK military vessel is still surprising considering it is between two European countries. Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz stated to reporters: “We are not going to accept intimidations or humiliations. What the government is doing is defending the fishing rights of our fishermen.”
This particular clash comes amid a growing argument between northern and southern European countries on reforms to the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP, see the hard work done by British chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittenstall and his Fish Fight, above). Northern countries, such as those from Scandinavia, Germany and the UK have been pushing for greater reforms to the CFP in order to reduce discards, reduce the size of fishing fleets, and increase wild fish stocks. Their efforts have been sabotaged by southern countries such as Spain, Portugal and France who are more interested in the short-term future of their large fishing industries. The fact that these reforms are being discussed seriously at all is a huge step but also highlights just how serious the problem of over-fishing has become. Clashes such as those between Gibraltar and Spain and China and the Philippines are only going to become more common. Whereas violence is very unlikely in the northern Mediterranean due to the overarching influence of the EU, LMV is not so optimistic about the problem of the South China Sea.
www.latimes.com 24th May 2012
Los Angeles, California, became the largest city in the USA to ban single-use plastic bags at supermarket checkouts. In a city that has previously used 12 billion plastic bags a year (with only 5% of these being recycled), the decision the City Council is a huge victory for environmental campaigners trying to combat plastic pollution in the region’s landfills, waterways and ocean. The Council voted 13 to 1 to phase out bags over the next 16 months in the city’s 7,500 stores. California leads the way in the country with plastic bag bans. San Francisco was the first in 2007 and since then San Jose, Santa Monica, and Long Beach have all jumped on the wagon. The bans vary in wording with some silent on the contentious issue of paper bags (a long-held argument of plastic-bag manufacturers is that plastic bags reduce the amount of trees needed for paper bags) although the LA City Council has stipulated there should be a charge of 10c per paper bag. This, according to Jennie R. Romer of plasticbaglaws.org, has resulted in a 94% reduction of their use (a similar figure to the drop experienced in Rep. of Ireland when the country introduced a fee on plastic bags). Oakland, next to San Francisco, had less success with their ban after they were successfully sued because of it. It will however be included in Alameda County’s ban starting next year.
When LMV first arrived in the USA to start filming for Plastic Shores in March 2011, the first thing we did was attend the San Francisco Green Film Festival. It was a great event, which held the premier of Bag It, a film very similar to Plastic Shores in theme but done in a very different way. In fact, several interviewees in Bag It are also in our film such as Professor Fred vom Saal and Andy Keller. We met Andy (above on board with 5 Gyres) for the first time at the festival. He runs a company called ChicoBag, based in the nearby city of Chico, which makes innovative reusable bags made out of recycled plastic (below). Andy came up with the idea on a trip to his local landfill where he saw multitudes of single-use plastic bags flying around in the wind. ChicoBag now sells in over 80 different countries, including the UK.
Andy Keller was actually the first interview we held for Plastic Shores, underneath the Coit Tower in central San Francisco. He brought along another one of his creations, the Bag Monster, which was made to raise awareness of the amount of plastic bags US citizens use. It consists of 500 bags, the amount an average American uses in a year, tied to a jumpsuit creating a hilarious monster outfit (below) that is toured around the US in a herd. Andy was kind enough to give LMV one to take back to the UK. We hope to bring it out (and maybe make more) for one of our big public showings.
“People get it and they’re like ‘oh’,” said Andy. “Most people don’t keep their bags long enough to know how many bags they actually use in a year so this is a very awakening moment for most people when they see what a bag monster looks like. And to realise that maybe they are actually a bag monster themselves.” On several occasions Andy has managed to gather hundreds of Bag Monsters together to campaign for plastic bag reductions, which has made him somewhat of a target to large corporate bodies with vested interests in the disposable plastic industry.
Andy donated some fantastic footage to Plastic Shores, which features in the section about reducing our use of disposable plastics, and we can’t thank him enough for his help.
Plastic Shores is based across the USA and the UK but there were two main beaches we explored for plastic pollution. The first was Kamilo Point in Hawaii, where we were taken around by the Hawaii Wildlife Fund. The second was Porthtowan in Cornwall (above). Both these shorelines provided the small pieces of plastic used in the animation sequences put together by Alice Dunseath for the film.
We found out about Porthtowan through Chris Hines MBE, the founder of UK-based charity called Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), who Plastic Shores’ director Ed Scott-Clarke met at a lecture hosted by Selfridge’s department store for their Project Ocean campaign. Chris (above) was one of the interviewees for the film and told us all about SAS’s work in almost single-handedly changing the way the UK and the EU think about sewage. In Chris’ words though, “What we dealt with was the continuous crude raw discharges that had been inherited from Victorian times. And those are gone now…then, all those panty-liners and condoms that we used to see, and we saw a lot of them, they have been replaced by an ever-increasing amount of marine debris, marine litter. All kinds of pieces of plastic from plastic bags, to sheets of plastic, to broken down pieces of plastic bottles, to mermaid’s tears. And I’ve been seeing more and more of it.”
Chris put us in touch with his former colleagues (he has now left SAS and set up a new organisation called A Grain of Sand) at the SAS HQ in St. Agnes, Cornwall, including Andy Cummins (above, right). Andy, also an interviewee in Plastic Shores, took us down to Porthtowan beach, a beautiful spot near Truro. What was amazing about the beach was that, unless you were looking very closely, the majority of the plastic pollution was almost invisible to the eye. When we leant down close though, we could see that there were an infinite amount of small pieces of plastic in the sand. Andy explained about the ‘Blue Flag’ initiative put together by the Foundation for Environmental Education. “To get a Blue Flag…you go to the dirtiest part of the beach and you pick a 10cm by 10cm area…and there shouldn’t be 10 pieces of small plastic in there.” In the area Andy chose on Porthtowan, by far not the worst spot on the beach, he counted almost a 100 pieces. “The scale of this litter is phenomenal,” he said shaking his head.
Surfers Against Sewage does fantastic work around the UK in raising awareness for the state of our coastlines and waterways. With their previous successes in tackling sewage discharges by taking on EU legislation and tackling the big water corporations, one can’t help but feel optimistic that they are now fighting to clear our seas of plastic pollution. We thank them for all the help they have given us.
en.bisnis.com 20th April 2012
Quoted from source:
‘Coral gardens that were among Asia’s most spectacular, teeming with colorful sea life just a few months ago, have been transformed into desolate gray moonscapes by illegal fishermen who use explosives or cyanide to kill or stun their prey. The site is among several to have been hit inside Komodo National Park, a 500,000-acre reserve in eastern Indonesia that spans several dusty, tan-colored volcanic islands. The area is most famous for its Komodo dragons, the world’s largest lizards, and its remote and hard-to-reach waters also burst with staggering levels of diversity, from corals in fluorescent reds and yellows to octopuses with lime-green banded eyes to black-and-blue sea snakes. Dive operators and conservationists say Indonesia’s government is not doing enough to keep illegal fishermen out of the boundaries of the national park, a U.N. World Heritage site. They say enforcement declined greatly following the exit two years ago of a U.S.-based environmental group that helped fight destructive fishing practices. Local officials disagree, pointing to dozens of arrests and several deadly gunbattles with suspects. Sustyo Iriyono, the head of the park, said problems are being exaggerated and denied claims of lax enforcement. He said rangers have arrested more than 60 fishermen over the past two years, including a group of young men captured last month after they were seen bombing fish in waters in the western part of the park. ”You see?” said Iriyono. “No one can say I’m not acting firmly against those who are destroying the dive spots!” He added that the park is one of the few places where fish bombing is monitored with any regularity in Indonesia, a Southeast Asian nation of more than 17,000 islands.
The National Geographic November 2011 Issue
Decades of civil war has taken its toll on the rich biodiversity of the East African Rift Valley, a monumental geological phenomenon that separates the Nubian tectonic plate from the Somalian plate before forking down either side of Uganda. The region has seen the numerous conflicts over the last century including the most deadly since WWII: The Great African War, which saw around 5 million die. It also happens to be home to the highest biomass of large mammals in the world as well s huge reserves of important minerals such as gold, tin and coltan. This, combined with the huge population increase that places like the Democratic Republic of Congo have seen recently (for example in Goma, pictured, which is located next to an active volcano), has made for a volatile situation. People want land, and there is only a limited amount to go around.
For the national parks of the area, times are not good. Africa’s oldest national park, Virunga National Park founded in 1925, is a ‘warzone’ with many people already settled inside the park’s boundaries. The lodges are gutted and tourism is almost non-existent following the Rwandan genocide of 1994. The remaining park rangers are constantly battling with local militias, called Mai-Mai fighters, who control illegal fishing and charcoal production. Conogolese soldiers stationed on the western shore of Lake Edward have decimated populations of megafauna. 96% of the park’s hippo population has been slaughtered and sold for bush meat by militias. If the park rangers’ job is hard enough, they also face direct threats to their lives. In response to the rangers destroying illegal fishing boats (the fishing fleet of Lake Albert has swelled from 760 in the 1960s to 6,000 today), the Mai-Mai have put out bounties on the rangers. Furthermore, 100,000 villagers have demanded the government to reduce the park by 90%, or they’ll take it by force.
The Ugandan Queen Elizabeth Park (above), established in 1952, is not a lot better. By 1980 elephant numbers had dropped from 3,000 to 150. A common belief among the crowded villages is that national parks are making the population poor. In Uganda’s Kagombe Forest Reserve, a presidential decree has disallowed National Forestry Authority from evicting immigrant settlers, largely because of the upcoming elections. In order to placate the native populations about the rise of immigrants, politicians then announced that they too should seize land (see picture below). Most wildlife has now been hunted out of the reserve, a once important corridor for chimps and other animals. According to the forestry authority’s sector manager, Patrick Kakeeto, “they’re cutting all of this down and we can’t touch them. For us, it’s kind of psychoprofessional torture.”
The problem of marine debris first entered the public consciousness in the USA, when Captain Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation sailed across the North Pacific Garbage Patch in the 1990s. Since then, most research on the phenomena of garbage patches have taken place in the North Pacific (although organisations such as 5 Gyres, to be written about next, are researching other gyres in the world). Right in the middle of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, as it is known, sits Hawaii, the southernmost and westernmost state of the US. It was here that the 5th International Marine Debris Conference took place, where LMV filmed in March 2011.
After the conference, LMV flew to the largest Hawaiian island, Big Island, to film what is commonly thought of as one of the world’s worst shorelines for plastic pollution, Kamilo Beach. We had met the Hawaii Wildlife Fund‘s Megan Lamson at the 5IMDC and she kindly organised for us to go to Kamilo with herself and another HWF member Stacey Breining. Kamilo is a stretch of coastline on the southeast corner of Big Island and its beaches receive a lot of plastic debris from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Prior to our trip down there, we interviewed Noni Sanford (pictured above), a beach cleanup volunteer who was among the first to start picking up the debris from the beach in the mid 80s. She said she was shocked about the amount of trash there was compared to the pristine coasts of when she first went down there in the 1950s. ‘It was 8-10ft deep in spots. We’d bring home some stuff but there was such a small amount of stuff we could pick up, it was really kind of defeating.’
When LMV went down to Kamilo with Megan and Stacey, thankfully, it wasn’t as bad, but that is solely down to the hard work of people like Noni and the HWF. What was shocking was the amount of micro-plastics in the sand. Megan explained that the average size of the plastic on the beach was decreasing over time, mostly due to frequent beach cleanups. But the smaller the pieces the harder they are to pick up. The HWF had devised a sieve-like flotation device that filtered the micro-plastics out of the sand. It was a long process though and it showed the dedication of the HWF team in protecting their shores. The problem was what to do with the plastic they took away with them. ‘We take the derelict fishing nets to the Waimea Transfer Station…until we have enough to fill up a 40ft maxi-container. They then ship it to Oahu, to H-Power plant where they burn it for electricity.’ Explained Stacey. ‘And then all the other trash goes to landfill. Unfortunately there isn’t any other option for us.’
The scale of the plastic pollution at Kamilo was vast and thanks to Megan and Stacey from the HWF we managed to collect some fascinating footage of just how extensive the problem of marine debris is in Hawaii. It is a pivotal sequence in Plastic Shores and the film would be lacking without it. We wish them every success in the future.
www.bbc.co.uk 23rd April 2012
A group of Russian scientists on a research expedition off the coast of Kamchatka have spotted a white killer whale, or orca, for the first time in the wild. The adult has a dorsal fin of over two metres, indicating he is a mature male of over 16, and seems to be living a normal life with his pod. Other white orcas have been known but they have all been juveniles. The expedition was led by a senior research fellow with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society , Erich Hoyt, who nicknamed the orca ‘Iceberg’. The researchers are reluctant to take a biopsy of Iceberg to find out the cause of the pigmentation, particularly as he seems to be fully socialised. “We know that these fish-eating orcas stay with their mothers for life, and as far as we can see he’s right behind his mother with presumably his brothers next to him,” said Dr Hoyt. Another white orca, a young captive called Chima that died in a Canadian aquarium in 1972, suffered from Chediak-Higashi syndrome, a genetic condition that causes partial albinism as well as a number of medical complications.
In the run up to the main launch of Plastic Shores in London on the 4th May, we wanted to write a little about the various organisations that have helped us out along the way. One group that doesn’t actually feature directly in the film but were instrumental in securing us most of our footage of landfill and recycling centres is the Carymoor Environmental Trust. LMV was put in touch with Juliet Lawn at the Trust through a mutual friend and we were introduced to representatives of Viridor, who own and run the nearby Dimmer landfill site. Carymoor are an environmental education and nature conservation charity who have established over 100 acres of diverse habitats over capped landfill in east Somerset. This gives schools and community groups a unique opportunity to study what happens to our waste and how we can manage it after it has been disposed of, particularly in relation to land restoration. In some of the habitat areas the Trust had set up, it was almost impossible to tell the bustling life of flora and fauna (see below) hid beneath them 26 metres of rubbish. Carymoor operates out of a beautiful sustainably built eco-centre (pictured above) that generates most of its energy through solar and wind. A grey water unit also ensures much of the water from the building is reused. It was through Juliet that LMV was given permission by Viridor to film the Dimmer Landfill Site, which features prominently in Plastic Shores. Viridor then went on to allow us to visit and film their recycling factory in Ford, West Sussex.
Interestingly, a recent BBC article in March of this year states that since introducing entry fees, Somerset landfill sites have experienced half a million fewer visits since April 2011 than normal. However, there has appeared to be a rise in the number of reported cases of fly-tipping in the same period.
www.lemonde.fr 19th April 2012
Yesterday (18th April), French Prime Minister Francois Fillon officially signed into being the country’s tenth national park near Marseille. Covering an area of 150,000 hectares (of which 43,500 are at sea), ‘le parc national des Calanques’ (roughly translated: Creeks National Park) even covers some suburb areas of Marseille, the second largest city in France with a population of 800,000. The mayor of the city, Jean-Claude Gaudin, was a supporter of the project because, he says, the great beauty of the area had brought in people who didn’t care for the preservation of the local environment. However, there are those who fear the creation of the new ‘parc national’ will bring in too many restrictions on local activities, more development, and the alienation of the local community. Semeriva Francis, a 66 year old represented a community of cabanoniers (people who own small holiday sheds) in the Sormiou Marie valley, was particularly worried: ”There is no one more environmentally friendly than we are. The creeks, they were always protected, while the creation of the park will attract millions more people and with them new regulations. Cabanoniers will be treated like tourists.” Others worry about increased pollution brought about by new development. Not so long ago, the infamous Marseille ‘Red Mud’ blighted the park from sewage outflows within the area that is now the park.
The first French national park, La Vanoise, was set up in 1963 and covers 53,500 hectares in the Savoie region.
www.bbc.co.uk 17th April 2012
A government appointed panel has stated that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking as it is more commonly known, should resume in the UK. The technique, used to extract gas trapped in underground rock, was put on hold following two earthquakes felt in the area of Blackpool due to fracking operations by a company called Cuadrilla. The panel was put together by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and their report on the process now goes out for a six-week consultation period before the DECC makes any final decisions. Although similar to a report put together by Cuadrilla that admits the company was responsible for the Blackpool earthquakes, the DECC appointed panel’s report claims other earthquakes could well happen, something Cuadrilla denies. However, these earthquakes are not likely to be larger than 3 on the Richter Scale (the previous two were 2.3 and 1.5 in April and May last year respectively). A decision to re-allow fracking in the country has angered environmentalists and conservationists who believe the coalition government (David Cameron’s self-described ‘greenest government ever’) should be doing more to reduce the UK’s reliance on fossil fuels. Fracking uses a combination of water and industrial chemicals that are sprayed at high-power into underground rock formations to loosen gas reserves trapped within them. In the US, there have been reports of contamination of the local water supply as a result, which in worst case scenarios causes tap water to become flammable.
e360.yale.edu 11th April 2012
Quoted from source:
‘NASA has developed a system capable of growing large amounts of algae for biofuel production within a network of floating plastic bags, an innovation its developers say could ultimately produce a new fuel source. By pumping wastewater and carbon dioxide into four nine-meter plastic bags at a demonstration plant in California, researchers have shown that the system can grow enough algae to produce nearly 2,000 gallons of fuel per year under ideal conditions, according to a report in MIT’s Technology Review. If built near wastewater plants, the technology would overcome two of the challenges associated with large-scale algae biofarms — access to huge amounts of fertilizer and large areas of land. One significant challenge, however, is that the technology currently would require an enormous amount of plastic. For instance, a scenario capable of producing 2.4 million gallons of algae per year would also require five square kilometers of plastic bags, which would likely have to be replaced annually.’