The world needs to do more to protect its oceans

The world needs to do more to protect its oceans
The world needs to do more to protect its oceans

Africa-Press – Cape verde. A United Nations Conference that could result in progress towards a treaty to protect the world’s ocean is starting in Portugal this week. Oceans cover more than 70% of our planet. They provide around half of the world’s oxygen and absorb more CO2 than the Earth’s atmosphere.

At the same time, they are facing threats from global warming, overfishing and plastic pollution. It’s argued that large expanses of the ocean should be protected from human activity to allow them to regenerate. The big question is: why are oceans under threats? According to research released at the beginning of 2020, oceans across the world have reached record temperatures.

Seas are now warmer than any other time in recorded human history and the increase in temperature has been directly linked to global warming. Scientists believe that human activities – such as the burning of fossil fuels and emissions from factories – are having a bad effect on global temperatures, causing harmful gases to be released into the atmosphere.

These gases end up in the Earth’s atmosphere and trap more of the sun’s heat which increase temperatures. Rising sea temperatures have a massive effect on the creatures living in them, causing lots of them to struggle to adapt. The other question is: why is plastic a problem for oceans? In 2019, the WWF – which is the world’s largest wildlife and conversation charity – said plastic pollution is causing an environment disaster.

Over 75% of all plastic ever produced is already waste. Plastic pollution kills wildlife, damages natural ecosystems, and contributes to climate change. The problem with plastic is that most of it isn’t biodegradable. It doesn’t rot, like paper or food, so instead it can hang around in the environment and take hundreds of years for it to break down. More than eight million tonnes of plastic enter the world’s oceans each year and most of those escape from land. It’s thought more than five trillion pieces of plastic are currently in oceans around the world. The number of plastics leaking into our oceans must be stopped, or there will be an environmental disaster. That’s the new warning from the world’s largest wildlife and conversation charity, the WWF. In a report, they’ve called for countries around the world to sign an agreement to end plastics leaking into the world’s oceans by 2030. The WWF’s head of marine policy Lyndsey Dodds said: “This is a global problem that requires a global solution.” We want to know what you’re doing at your school to help in the fight against plastic pollution. The WWF believe that the United Nations need to act in order to stop there being major issues with the food we eat and the air we breathe. “Plastic is choking the planet, from emissions caused in its production to the animals harmed when it leaks into our oceans. Nature is not disposable, it is essential – we need it for our health, wealth and security. This is a global problem that requires a global solution.”

The question is: how do you clean up the ocean’s biggest rubbish dump? Plastic rubbish dumped in the sea causes big problems for sea life, and can pollute the water we drink. But a new invention could provide the answer to cleaning up the ocean – by sifting off all the rubbish. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a massive area of ocean in America between California and Hawaii, where loads of plastic waste gathers. Now a Dutch company hopes its idea will make cleaning up the rubbish a much quicker and easier job. The main idea behind the ocean cleaning is to let the ocean’s currents do the work.

U-shaped floating barriers are attached to the ocean floor by anchors, but fish and animals can still swim underneath it without getting trapped. The barriers will move more slowly than the plastic and act as ‘’artificial coastlines’’, picking up rubbish as they go. Then floating plastic is forced to a collection point, where it can be taken out and shipped to shore for recycling, into things like sunglasses and car bumpers. More than 17 million tonnes of waste are generated by Sub-Sahara Africa every year but only 12% of plastic waste is recycled. It is estimated that the plastic entering our oceans could triple to 29 million tonnes by 2040. To help communities throughout Sub-Sahara Africa prevent plastic waste from entering the marine environment, the Afri-Plastics Challenge has been set up by innovation foundation Nesta Challenges. It is funded by the government of Canada.

What about plastic pollution in Namibia? When the 5 Gyres South Atlantic expedition crew arrived safely in Namibia where they would set sail for the second leg of the South Atlantic gyre expedition, they were in a beach town of Swakopmund. The Skeleton Coast is surrounded by breathtaking dunes, the oldest desert on Earth, and imagery reminiscent of both Road Warrior and Sebastiao Salgado’s timeless landscapes in his Genesis project. The beaches are beautiful, but a walk along the shoreline and a quick beach clean-up showed that like coastal areas all over the world, Namibia has a problem with plastic trash accumulating on its otherwise relatively pristine beaches.

*Dr Moses Amweelo is a former minister of works. He earned a doctorate in Technical Science, Industrial Engineering and Management from the International Transport Academy (St Petersburg, Russia).

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