Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Ocean Cleanup project: the best intention of the century!

By Angelina Cecchetto on 17th April 2013

There are many good and bad news every day when it comes to nature and ocean conservation and one of the best news of the year for me is the newly added species of sharks and manta rays on the CITES list of endangered species but I must say that the “Ocean Cleanup” project is by far the one which gives me the biggest thrill of all of them simply because I am aware of the huge problem we are facing with omnipresent plastic and garbage pollution and should this project materialize it could make a well needed difference to worldwide plastic pollution.

Some of you may or not have heard of the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” also called “Pacific Trash Vortex”. It is a gyre of marine debris mainly made of pelagic plastic floating in the seawater; its size is estimated between 700,000 square kilometers (270,000 sq mi) to 15,000,000 square kilometers (5,800,000 sq mi). The source of the debris is mainly land-based but also ocean based (from ships). There are 5 gyres in the world.

The result is dramatic for the marine life, plastic ending up in the digestive system of many birds, turtles (turtles mistake floating plastic bags for jelly fish and end up eating whole plastic bags) and other sea organisms but also on us as floating debris absorb organic pollutants that end up in fish and therefore in our alimentation.

The “Ocean Cleanup” project is led by Boyan Slat an Aerospace Engineering student at the Delft University of Technology who also happens to be a very inspired diver. As the name clearly states, his project is to clean up the ocean garbage patch.  In 2012, The Ocean Cleanup Array has been awarded Best Technical Design at the Delft University of Technology, and came second at the iSea Clash of the Concepts sustainable innovation award by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. The project which is still in study and testing phase is quite promising. The idea is to use huge floating booms like telescopic arms instead of nets to funnel all the plastic debris floating in the ocean. One of the great points of the project is to use the surface currents to help funnel the debris avoiding the by-catches as the booms would divert the debris and not catch them. Beyond the sustainability aspect of the project, from a business perspective what is interesting is that it could potentially be financially profitable.

A very good example of plastic recycling has been made by “Method” a producer of cleaning products who marketed a dish soap whose container is made partly of recycled ocean plastic[1].

According to Boyan Slats calculations the cleanup method he is working on could potentially clean up the garbage patches in 5 years which would be a miracle considering the situation. For the moment, we cannot be sure of the results as Boyan Slats mentions on his website, they are at about 1/4th of completing their feasibility study so the whole study is far from over.

I truly hope that Boyan Slats project will materialize and will successfully help overcome the garbage patches in the ocean however, should the project not materialize yet, I must say that it is great to see that the young generations are aware of the current global situation and are actively involved in finding solutions. Without mentioning the fact that once more, divers help and contribute to valuable ocean conservation projects maybe because diving makes them ever so aware of the underwater invaluable beauty and biodiversity but also of the daunting presence of plastic and garbage in the oceans.

Cleaning the ocean would be a virtually miraculous step forward and would put us back onto the planet’s sustainability path; not just for us humans but for all the others forms of life on this planet, however, this will not tackle the source of the problem. For this we need a deep structural change to our consumption habits and work to implement more biodegradable solutions again. This will require global cooperation going from industrialists to consumers and passing by political and legal authorities. Every one of us is concerned directly or indirectly by nature and ocean pollution, either as a food toxicity issue or as a simple financial or health issue so every one of us has or will have to act or contribute to conservation initiatives.

Last but not least, I will add a petition that pleads to ban non-biodegradable packaging for food, should you want to contribute in a couple of clicks:

http://signon.org/sign/ban-non-biodegradable.fb23?source=c.fb&r_by=1333790

 

Petitions: do they really work and how?

By Angelina Cecchetto on 7th April 2013

Photography: ©2013 Angelina Cecchetto. All Rights Reserved.

Photography: ©2013 Angelina Cecchetto. All Rights Reserved.

The straight answer to this question is yes, petitions do work!

Successful petitions put pressure on corporations, governments and other local authorities.

How? By helping information circulate in an unbiased way, petitions keep people informed of what is going on and help spread the word on particular aspects of information that may not be covered by the mainstream medias. The great thing about petitions and particularly about online petitioning or e-petitioning is that it makes it very easy for people to do something about a cause they may have at heart to defend and to force groups or institutions who may not want to hear to actually listen to people’s opinion.

How does the petition process work exactly? To create an e-petition it’s very simple; you can go on different online petition websites such as www.avaaz.org , www.care2.com , www.change.org  and many others. Should you want to find a petition site in your country, you just need to search for the petition in your own language in Google and you find many in your own language or related to your country. Before creating a petition, make sure that there is not one already existing which defends the same cause.

Some people think that signing e-petitions will not make any difference in the great scheme of things, well, they are simply wrong and I am going to give you some examples showing that in a couple of clicks and less than a minute people can make a positive difference in society. Of course, I am not talking about “all heroic happy-ending” unrealistic scenarios like “petitions-will-save-the-world” type of scenarios, I am saying that thanks to e-petitions, people can easily gather as a powerful group of individuals whose voices and opinions cannot be ignored by institutions.

In the UK for instance, when an e-petition reaches 100 000 signatures, the House of Commons Backbench Business Committee receives a notification from the Leader of the House of Commons (Parliament) about the petition which is then taken into consideration and discussed during the weekly hearing of MPs representations. MP’s have to make the case for the e-petition consideration.

Here are a few examples of successful outcomes thanks to e-petitions:

In December last year, thanks to a WWF[1] “I Will If You Will” campaign for Earth Hour 2012 which gathered the voices of 120,000 Russians and presented it to the government, the Russian Parliament voted a long-awaited law to protect the country’s seas from oil pollution.

On March 8th 2013 the California Coastal Commission (CCC)[2] who heard people’s outcry and petitions voted unanimously to reject the US Navy’s request to maintain military testing, sonar and bomb deployments throughout Southern California, Hawaii, Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic Coast. Many dolphins and whales have been killed already but should the CCC have approved the maintenance of the Navy’s project, millions of cetaceans would have been killed in the next 5 years so this is a prime example of how efficient petitioning helped towards life preservation of numerable cetaceans.

In his very comprehensive article “Slacktivism: Why Snopes got it Wrong About Internet Petitions”[3] Randy Paynter gives a few good examples of how petitions can make a positive difference like the striking story of independent journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee who were imprisoned in North Korea, charged with grave crimes against the state, and sentenced to 12 years of hard labor. As Randy Paynter relates, “Their friends and family created petitions on “Care2” to raise awareness and call on North Korea to free the women. Close to 90,000 people signed these petitions, helping to keep the story in the national spotlight for months and eventually former President Bill Clinton traveled to North Korea and negotiated Laura and Euna’s release”.

Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/slacktivism-why-snopes-got-it-wrong-about-internet-petitions.html#ixzz2PagpvGwg

I personally sign about 2 to 3 petitions a day on average because this is a great way to help causes and raise awareness about things that are happening in the world and that people may not know about, because people don’t necessarily have the time to get informed or simply because some issues receive very low mainstream media coverage. So, if like me, you care about justice and want to get involved, then, think about petitioning as a first easy step to make a positive difference!

To conclude, I will cite Margaret Mead’s famous words:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

I will finish with a petition working towards Nature and Ocean Conservation which mainly pleads to ban non-biodegradable packaging for food which would help reducing the dramatic impact of plastic on nature and a whole array of animals and especially aquatic life:

http://signon.org/sign/ban-non-biodegradable.fb23?source=c.fb&r_by=1333790

Many thanks.

Angelina Cecchetto