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Current Hot Topic for February 2018

Our Oceans are Under Threat


Our Oceans are Under Threat

Background Story

Sir David Attenborough has called for the world to cut back on its use of plastic in order to protect oceans. He has explained that action on plastics should be taken immediately and that humanity held the future of the planet “in the palm of its hands”. His comments come amid growing global calls for cutbacks in the use of plastic.

Each year more than 300 million tons of plastic is produced globally, and 10% will end up in the sea. In the worst affected ocean areas, there are over one million pieces of plastic for every square mile and it is estimated that there is now a 1:2 ratio of plastic to plankton and, left unchecked, plastic will outweigh fish by 2050. Also worryingly, plastic production is set to double in the next 20 years.

Attenborough claims that everyone’s actions had an impact on the ocean. “We have a responsibility, every one of us,” he said. “We may think we live a long way from the oceans, but we don’t. What we actually do here, and in the middle of Asia and wherever, has a direct effect on the oceans – and what the oceans do then reflects back on us. We could actually do something about plastic right now.”

Almost 7,000 people took part in the Great British Beach Clean in September 2017, a project that removed 255,209 pieces of litter from 339 beaches. One of the biggest contributors to plastic pollution is drinks bottles. Some 480bn plastic bottles were sold globally in 2016 – more than one million per minute.

Sir David added: “For years we thought that the oceans were so vast and the inhabitants so infinitely numerous that nothing we could do could have an effect upon them but now we know that was wrong. The oceans are under threat now as never before in human history.”

Blue Planet II raised awareness of plastic pollution in the oceans during their final episode, winning a special Impact Award for their work at the National Television Awards. Accepting the award, Attenborough stated, “If our television programmes have helped stir the consciences of people around the world and that we are going to do something to protect our beautiful world, then all of us (production crew) will be very pleased.” Viewers responded emotionally and this response was clear on Twitter with people vowing never to use plastic bags again and demanding a need for change, in their own actions and that by the Government.

The UK Government is currently considering ways to manage this consumption to make it more sustainable. Some proposals include deposit-return schemes and better free-drinking supplies in cities. Cutting back on plastic packaging and plastic bags in supermarkets would also be a major step in decreasing the amount of plastic produced.

Cyberbullying - Plastic pollution is one priority alongside a range of environmental issues, such as climate change. Social Media acts as a platform for individuals to post their thoughts and opinions on such matters. However, some come under fire for their opinions, being harassed and bullied. It is important to be aware that each individual has their own opinion and shouldn’t be a subject of cyberbullying because of this. It could be a matter of presenting the facts to this person politely and respectfully, for them to make their own judgement.

What is cyberbullying? Why might someone believe or not believe in issues such as global warming?

United Nations Environment - UN Environment launched #CleanSeas in February 2017, with the aim of engaging governments, the general public, civil society and the private sector in the fight against marine plastic litter. Nearly forty countries have signed up to the campaign, including the UK. Many countries have legislated to force shops to charge for plastic bags or even banning them altogether, such as Rwanda and Bangladesh. Canada has added microbead to its list of toxic substances, with the US and UK banning microbeads in cosmetics.

Research into the #CleanSeas campaign and find out what they are doing to fight against marine plastic litter. What are other countries doing to tackle these pollution issues?

Contamination from Micro Plastics - Some plastic is toxic and it can disrupt hormones crucial for a healthy existence. Even when it is not dangerous itself – or not known to be – plastic acts like a magnet for a range of other poisons and pollutants we have spilled into the natural world. Once in the ocean, plastic breaks down into tiny fragments, micro plastics; along with all industrial chemicals which have drained into the ocean these form a potentially toxic soup. When predators eat the smaller prey, the plastic bioaccumulates up the food chain, eventually reaching humans. A recent study found that billions of people globally are drinking water contaminated by plastic.

What can be done by individuals to prevent plastic pollution in the oceans?

25 Year Environmental Plan - Theresa May is launching the Government’s environmental plan for the next 25-years which will commit the UK to eliminating all avoidable plastic waste, such as carrier bags, food packaging and disposable plastic straws, by 2042. This plan will urge supermarkets to set up ‘plastic-free aisles’ for goods with no packaging. However, environmental groups have raised concerns that this plan lacks urgency, detail and bite. Friend of the Earth CEO said “a 25 year plan is clearly needed – but with the nation facing an accelerating environmental crisis we can’t afford to wait a quarter of a century for urgent action to tackle the issues that already threaten our lives, health and planet.”

What are your opinions on the 25 year environmental plan? What are your opinions on the concerns of the environmental groups? What ideas can you think of to reduce the number of plastics being produced?

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