Drowning in Plastic trailer – Liz Bonnin reveals the full scale of the world’s plastic problem and its impact on wildlife, exploring ways in which science can offer a solution.
Our blue planet is facing one its biggest threats in human history.
Trillions of pieces of plastic are choking the very lifeblood of our earth, and every marine animal, from the smallest plankton to the largest mammals, is being affected.
But can we turn back this growing plastic tide before it is too late?
In this 90-minute special, wildlife biologist Liz Bonnin visits scientists working at the cutting edge of plastics research.
She works with some of the world’s leading marine biologists and campaigners to discover the true dangers of plastic in our oceans and what it means for the future of all life on our planet, including us.
Liz travels 10,000 miles to a remote island off the coast of Australia that is the nesting site for a population of seabirds called flesh-footed shearwaters.
Newly hatched chicks are unable to regurgitate effectively, so they are filling up on deadly plastic.
Then, in America, she joins an emergency mission to save an entangled grey seal pup found in some of the world’s busiest fishing areas, and visits the Coral Triangle that stretches from Papua New Guinea to the Solomon Islands to find out more from top coral scientists trying to work out why plastic is so lethal to the reefs, fragile ecosystems that contain 25 per cent of all marine life.
Liz learns that the world’s biggest rivers have been turned into huge plastic arteries, transporting 50 per cent of all the plastic that arrives in the ocean.
She travels to Indonesia, where she watches a horrifying raft of plastic rubbish travel down one of the main rivers, the Citarum. Here, 60 per cent of fish species have died, so fishermen are now forced to collect plastic to sell instead of fish.
With the world only now waking up to this emerging crisis, Liz also looks at whether scientists have found any solutions.
She meets the 24-year-old inventor of a monumental 600-metre construction that will travel across the ocean’s ‘garbage patches’ collecting millions of pieces of plastic pollution. She also meets a local environmental campaigner who is working with volunteers and the Indonesian army to clean up the worst affected areas, and a young entrepreneur who has invented an alternative to plastic packaging that is made from seaweed.
Plastic in our oceans is one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time, and this film hopes to add to the urgent and vitally important debate about how to solve this global crisis.
But is it too late to reverse the damaging effects of plastics.
The worst polluters in the world are generally assumed to be the oil, mining and manufacturing industries.
Industrial wastes are one of the top sources of environmental pollution.
Across the world, untreated or improperly treated industrial waste pollutes the air, water, and soil in and around the industrial sites. The pollution caused by an industry often depends on its nature with some industries generating more toxic wastes than others. Pure Earth, an international non-profit organization, has compiled a list of the 10 worst polluting industries in the world.
Pure Earth, formerly known as the Blacksmith Institute until on 10 March 2015, is a New York City-based international not-for-profit organization founded in 1999 that aims to identify and clean up pollution, focusing primarily on contaminated sites and soil in developing countries.
Over the last decade it has cleaned up 84 sites in 20 countries,focusing on communities where children are most at risk. These communities suffer disproportionately from pollution-related diseases.
Blacksmith changed to a new name – Pure Earth – with the aim of broadening awareness of global toxic pollution issues to the general public.
The clothing industry is the second largest polluter in the world…second only to oil, although this is often disputed.
Criticisms of fast fashion include its negative environmental impact, water pollution, the use of toxic chemicals and increasing levels of textile waste.
Vibrant colours, prints and fabric finishes are appealing features of fashion garments, but many of these are achieved with toxic chemicals. Textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of clean water globally, after agriculture.
Greenpeace’s recent Detox campaign has been instrumental in pressuring fashion brands to take action to remove toxic chemicals from their supply chains, after it tested a number of brands’ products and confirmed the presence of hazardous chemicals.
Many of these are banned or strictly regulated in various countries because they are toxic, bio-accumulative (meaning the substance builds up in an organism faster than the organism can excrete or metabolise it), disruptive to hormones and carcinogenic.
Please don’t be put off by the quality of the podcast, as I was interviewing Susan on a boat. 😁
What is the ‘conference of parties’, and why you will hear more about it as the year-end approaches?
Understanding The COP 21
It was COP-3, in Kyoto, Japan, that gave rise to the Kyoto Protocol, that placed international obligations on the set of rich and industrialised countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by assigned amounts.
The twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) and the eleventh session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP) takes place from 30 November to 11 December 2015, in Paris, France.
The COP is an annual meeting, this year it is expected to deliver a major agreement on the action plan for saving the planet from the disastrous consequences of rising average global temperatures.
The term ‘COP’ stands for Conference of Parties. ‘Parties’ is a reference to the (now) 196 signatories of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC, as it is called.
The Framework Convention came into force in 1994, two years after its text was finalised at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
Every year since 1994, the ‘parties’ to the UNFCCC have met at different venues at the end of the year to discuss a global agreement to cut emissions of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the main reason why average global temperatures have been rising.
Understanding The COP 21 in context.
The Paris meeting is the 21st in that series, hence the name ‘COP-21’.
The Kyoto Protocol, which came into effect only in 2005, has since run into trouble, with some countries, which were obliged to take emission cuts, having walked out of it.
Though the Protocol continues on paper for the time being, the current negotiations at the COPs are about bringing in an agreement that will demand some kind of action from all countries, not just the rich and industrialised.
The actions expected from the countries are supposed to be in accordance with their capabilities.
An earlier attempt to forge such an agreement was made at COP-15 in Copenhagen in Denmark in 2009, but it failed spectacularly.
After two years of further negotiations, the countries had decided that a global agreement on climate change must be delivered at the COP-21 in Paris in 2015. However, with fewer than 200 days to go for the Paris conference, deep differences persist on several issues, and the frantic pursuit of a compromise continues.
Adaptation to Climate Change, means anticipating the adverse effects of climate change and taking appropriate action to prevent or minimise the damage they can cause, or taking advantage of opportunities that may arise. It has been shown that well planned, early adaptation action saves money and lives later.
Examples of adaptation to climate change measures include: using scarce water resources more efficiently; adapting building codes to future climate conditions and extreme weather events; building flood defences and raising the levels of dykes; developing drought-tolerant crops; choosing tree species and forestry practices less vulnerable to storms and fires; and setting aside land corridors to help species migrate.
Adaptation strategies are needed at all levels of administration: at the local, regional, national, EU and also the international level. Due to the varying severity and nature of climate impacts between regions in Europe, most adaptation initiatives will be taken at the regional or local levels.
The ability to cope and adapt also differs across populations, economic sectors and regions within Europe.
The Commission adopted an EU adaptation strategy in April 2013 which has been welcomed by the Member States. Complementing the activities of Member States, the strategy supports action by promoting greater coordination and information-sharing between Member States, and by ensuring that adaptation considerations are addressed in all relevant EU policies.
The EU’s role can be particularly appropriate when climate change impacts transcend borders of individual states – such as with river basins – and when impacts vary considerably across regions. The role of the EU can be especially useful to enhance solidarity among Member States and ensure that disadvantaged regions and those most affected by climate change are capable of taking the necessary measures to adapt.
Listen to Guillaume, a French environmental researcher on adaptation to climate change, talk about his job, the subject of adaptation to climate change and his background.