By: Georgia Carter
The latest environmental documentary, Seaspiracy, is hitting home. Highlighting the horrific effects of overfishing, the film directed and presented by British filmmaker and activist Ali Tabrizi sheds light on the corrupt fishing industry, shares the unimaginable devastation of bycatch, and unearths the implications of fishing as a whole.
Caption: Fishing nets and crates waiting to imprison marine life.
Credit: JP Valery, Pixabay
Packed with statistics and facts, Seaspiracy is a poignant reminder of the unjust and inhumane activities worldwide, on both land and in the ocean waters. However harsh it is to witness, sometimes a true shock is all we need to be jolted into action.
Here are the main points the film brought to the foreground:
- 46% of all ocean plastic is made up of discarded fishing nets.
- More than 300 000 dolphins and whales are killed every year due to bycatch, accidental catching when using mammoth fishing nets.
- More than 30 000 sharks are killed every hour as a result of bycatch. The illegal shark fin trade also fuels this devastation.
- Labels such as ‘Dolphin Safe’ that exist to ensure tuna products don’t contain any other marine animal species, were called out for being corrupt. Apparently, workers within the company accept bribes in return for their approved label. A former employee admitted that they cannot guarantee there are no dolphin parts within tuna products.
- It’s not only the by-products of fishing that harms the ocean. Bottom trawling - the use of extremely large nets the size of 13 jumbo jet planes dragged across the ocean floor - destroys natural ocean plant life, marine life habitats, and entire ecosystems. The foliage that flourishes on the sea bed sequesters 93% of the world’s carbon dioxide. By eliminating these vital plants, CO2 is released in huge quantities. Bottom trawling deforests around 3.9 billion acres of ocean floor every year, an area far greater than that of the entire Amazon Rainforest.
- Many plastic awareness environmental organisations are on par with the fishing industry, accepting business and money in return for not disclosing the destruction of the fishing industry and the real issues the ocean is facing. While plastic is still a major problem, the consumption of fish and ongoing overfishing causes greater harm but is not brought to the forefront due to corrupt officials.
- The labour found on fishing boats is often from a cycle of slavery. Many workers are held against their will and forced to work at gunpoint or threatened to be thrown overboard. Those who object are murdered.
- There is no such thing as sustainable fishing. The only real solution is to give the ocean a break and halt the consumption of fish altogether.
Caption: Fishing gear makes up 46% of all ocean plastic pollution and acts as the main cause of death to whales and dolphins.
Credit: Barry Savage, Pexels
This intense and incredibly raw documentary is not for the faint-hearted. It piles horror onto horror to create a jigsaw puzzle of human problems, each as shocking as the last. It shakes your beliefs, values, and morals and makes you question the very essence of society and the world we live in today. But that is where the true and long-lasting motivation for change comes from.
When it comes to protecting the ocean, the next step is crystal clear - stop eating fish, stop supporting the fishing trade, and start doing your part to preserve and protect our precious ocean and the marine life it harbours.
Green technology solutions are no longer new concepts. In fact, many companies and households already use green tech products. However, only a few per cent of the world uses these technologies, making its impact lower. People should start to use green tech solutions today to make a significant change in the future. Among these green tech solutions, here are some that more people worldwide should be using, from electric scooters to urban vertical farming.
Cars, buses, and other fuel-powered vehicles have long contributed to the issue of greenhouse gas and global warming. In fact, transportation accounts for a fifth of the world’s carbon emissions. However, electric vehicles aim to resolve this by reducing harmful emissions and slowly cleaning the air in the long run. An example of a popular electric vehicle is electric scooter technology which is gaining attention because of its convenience and accessibility. However, are electric scooters eco-friendly? How do electric vehicles help the environment?
Since electric vehicles don’t need fuel, it does not emit any harmful gases, reducing carbon emissions present in the air. Moreover, most electric vehicles are manufactured through eco-friendly processes and materials. This further reduces the product’s environmental impact for its lifecycle. For example, the electric car Nissan Leaf is partly made of old car parts, plastic bags, and water bottles. Owners with electric vehicles can also reduce their impact by charging their vehicles using renewable energy such as solar and wind power.
Adopting more electric vehicles, like eco electric scooters, will move global transportation into a more sustainable future.
Many companies, especially huge tech brands, are moving files and data from paper to cloud. Cloud-based storage solutions are an increasingly popular green tech solution because of its space and cost-saving benefits. It eliminates the need to use more equipment in the office, reducing energy consumption as well. In fact, a report says that using more cloud storage and processes could reduce electricity consumption by 25 to 45%.
Investing in cloud storage solutions and processes also make it easier for people to share information. It promotes the idea of paperless offices, reducing paper waste and the need to cut down trees. Moreover, it supports remote work, reducing the need to commute every day to work and carbon emissions from vehicles.
Lastly, eliminating hardware reduces the opportunity for computer parts to end up in landfills. In the US, only 27% of the 2 million tons of e-waste could be recycled. This leaves a significant amount of computer parts that could pollute the land and sea.
If most businesses move their data and processes to the cloud, small to large businesses can reduce their energy consumption and carbon emissions. Altogether, this leaves a huge positive impact on the environment.
Green energy sources
Although many countries are shifting toward renewable sources of energy, 84% of the world still primarily use fossil fuels according to a 2019 study. People have used fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution. Unfortunately, it has caused large amounts of greenhouse gases and air pollution. These byproducts not only harm the environment but also pose health problems for people.
To reduce harmful emissions and impacts on the environment, renewable energy will be a key player. These energies include:
People should rapidly change into these energy sources before it’s too late.
Vertical farming promotes the idea of growing plants or produce in layers stacked vertically. It offers farmers and city dwellers sustainable farming in limited space. One of its greatest benefits is that it uses 90% less water because of its hydroponic growing process. As a result, it also needs fewer nutrients and fertilisers. Moreover, the used water can be recycled or reused since it’s clean. This further minimises waste and reduces the cost of farming.
Aside from this, it reduces the need for tractors or farming equipment, which likely use fossil fuels to run. As a result, it helps reduce harmful emissions that come from traditional farming methods. Moreover, it helps conserve biodiversity since there’s no need to convert acres of land for farming.
For city dwellers, vertical farming enables people living in apartments to grow their own produce indoors or on balconies. Having more plants in cities can help convert carbon emissions from vehicles into clean air. In fact, some biomimicry designs include vertical gardens into its design such as Singapores Gardens by the Bay.
Shift to a green future
While these green tech solutions help reduce waste and pollution, this is not enough. People also need to reduce plastic use and lessen their energy consumption from fossil fuels to reduce our environmental impact. Although green solutions are generally expensive, people should realise that these technologies are an investment in their own life and the future generations’. From recycling to using eco-friendly electric scooters, let’s do our part to save the environment.
Exotic and invasive plant species are, unfortunately, very popular in home gardens and decorative gardens around public spaces. Studies have shown that between 50% and 70% of invasive and non-native plant species were purposefully taken to their new homes by the horticultural trade.
The impact of invasive plant species is often overlooked as many are prized for their beauty, food production and ability to create a certain ‘feel’ in a space. However, native plant species are just as, if not more, beneficial and don’t come with the negative environmental impact as a side effect.
Invasive and non-native plants species out-compete and, therefore, reduce the population of indigenous and endemic species – reducing food and habitat availability for insects, birds and animals that rely on those plants for survival. This is causing a huge decline in insect species across the planet with Germany reporting a 76% decline in the biomass of flying insects over the past 27 years.
The mass insect decline has a myriad of knock-on effects in the ecosystem, including a collateral insect-eating bird population decline which will further exacerbate the food-chain domino effect.
Invasive species alter natural environments by affecting light and temperature, as well as altering risk and frequency of fires, the water table, and nutrient cycling. Non-native species change the micro-organisms in soils around them, in turn affecting the ability of native species to access soil nutrients.
Unimaginable amounts of non-native species have been introduced to new areas by colonisation, agriculture, forestry and for various reasons by home gardeners.
Tree plantations of non-native species almost always spread into the surrounding natural spaces - altering the ecosystem, using up available water, and creating fire risk. This example was clearly illustrated in Knysna, South Africa, where pine plantations have leaked into the natural fynbos vegetation. This caused massive, extremely hot fires to decimate the area in 2017 – burning down hundreds of houses, killing countless animals and taking out 5000 hectares of plantations. Pine trees and dry conditions caused the fire to burn hotter and faster than indigenous trees ever could. Residents noted that when the fires reached the indigenous forest, they very quickly fizzled out.
The introduction of invasive and non-native plant species often brings along potentially invasive insects as eggs or live specimens. These insects often die out due to the change in climate or lack of food, however, they are just as likely to become a problem. An example of this is the Chinese Harlequin ladybug that is considered an invasive species in Europe, North America and South Africa. It is more aggressive than most native ladybirds and, therefore, out-competes them by consuming all available food resources and by sheer numbers. Native ladybirds and all the necessary food-chain effects linked to them are then reduced or eradicated.
With biodiversity receiving a well-deserved spotlight for its importance in maintaining the health of animals and humans, keeping wild species alive, and combating climate change, we must acknowledge the effects of our home gardens. Spaces with the potential to become diverse sanctuaries for struggling plant, insect and small animal species are instead filled with common, non-native flowers and lawn grass – creating ‘food deserts’ for insects, birds and animals alike.
American entomologist, Douglas Tallamy, has stated that American homeowners could create a “Homegrown National Park” larger than Yellowstone, Yosemite and 11 other famous national parks combined just by converting half of their lawns into diverse, indigenous plant sanctuaries.
The power lies with us, in numerous small actions. Planting up verges, lawns, garden edges, park edges, street divisions and public space gardens with diverse, native plant species can and will have a massive impact on our biodiversity crisis and the global insect decline.
Written By: Kelly Steenhuisen