What does saving the environment mean to me? A collection of personal accounts from around the world.

What does saving the environment mean to me? A collection of personal accounts from around the world.

By May 22, 2016 Uncategorized No Comments

Harry Wright: Trainee lawyer and environmentalist

Harry

We are currently witnessing the largest mass extinction in 65 million years.[1]

Three quarters of all our fisheries are currently over-depleted, overfished and overused[2]. We have lost 50% of all our wildlife, in just 40 years.[3] Half of the earth’s trees have now disappeared.[4]

To witness the destruction of the natural world, in such a callous and destructive manner is simply heartrending. If the human species is to rise to the full height that is demanded by its dignity and its intelligence then we must act to save the planet now. What is clear is that once we have destroyed this planet, we do not simply get another. Simply man has the power to turn the earth back into the earth again; the future survival of the planet now rests with all of us.

To all those that continue to dedicate their lives to preserve our wonderful planet, I have not enough words here to express my gratitude and appreciation, your heroic actions have left me speechless in return.

Tamsin Young: Student Veterinary Nurse

Tamsin

After a day’s work as a student veterinary nurse I am able to unwind by walking my dog along the gorgeous Cornish coastline. This is my idea of heaven, and the thought this environment could be in jeopardy as a result of human negligence truly angers and upsets me.

The most detrimental in my view is the vast quantity of plastics that are washed ashore onto our beaches. It is harmful not only to the marine life that has to live amongst it, but also for the animals and people that choose to spend time along the coast. We sadly live in a world that is obsessed with plastic, a material which I believe is one of the most dangerous and damaging that is frustratingly so readily available in modern life. I am fully aware this is a huge issue across all of the world’s oceans and surrounding coastlines. By 2030, plastic is expected to leak into the ocean at the rate of two trucks per minute and by 2050 the United Nations has sadly stated that there will be more plastic in the sea then fish.[5]

I have been fortunate enough to live in such a beautiful place since childhood and I have always wanted to replicate this lifestyle for the family I plan to have in the future.

I try to remain hopeful that as a society we can change and wake up to the negative impacts we are having on our fragile home. This is crucial not only for our generation and future generations to come but also for the innocent animal kingdom whose fate is worryingly in our hands.

Tom Lyons: Green Party/Climate Change Emergency activist

tom

What do we have without a healthy world? Why are we poisoning it? Is it through greed, ignorance, apathy, industrial momentum? Probably all of these things. But can we sacrifice healthy eco-systems, clean air and water, living forests, abundant wildlife, and still come out on top? Of course we can’t. Why do we think we are separate from nature – superior, able to dominate, over-harvest, pollute? We are bound by nature, we alone, are nature. We have forgotten it, choked by a million tools and devices, we have lost sight of what life means, why it is precious.

We must preserve nature, only because we have taken away so much of its power. Polluted, damaged, destroyed, changed wilderness to city and agriculture, we are even changing its climate, faster and faster. But we must put on the breaks – without us the world was pristine, self-regulated and in balance. Through damaging it we must see that we will ultimately destroy ourselves. We must wake up and think long term, time is running out. We may be the last people able to rein in an unfolding catastrophe. If we all come together, there is hope that it can be mitigated, maybe even reversed. Divided we will fail, together we have a chance, we must take it, finally.

Dr Alexander Adamou: Fellow of the London Mathematical Society

alex

Ever since man fashioned his first tool from a fragment of flint, he has sought to shape the environment for his survival. This struggle required him to understand its workings, which evolved into one of his crowning cultural achievements – science. For most of this story, the finiteness of the world impinged not upon him, nor he upon it. His mastery was too weak and his number too small. His explorations were unfettered. No longer.

Today human civilisation is as large as the world it occupies. Our defining characteristic – curiosity – demands that we continue the arc of our early ancestors, but with new mastery comes new responsibility. Their interactions with the natural world gave us knowledge and culture. Now we must honour those gifts by using them to preserve that from which they came. Failure will be the repudiation not only of this blue planet, third from its star, but more shameful yet: of the long and storied road to intelligence which generations of us have travelled.

Sarah Ward: Environmental scientist

Sarah

We are interconnected with our environment in every aspect of our lives, whether we are farmers literally working the earth, or in a high rise glass office in the city surrounded by tech and tailoring. I see the environment as something interwoven with every human life, it is in the oxygen in the air we breathe, the materials in our homes, food from our local takeaway, and fuel in our cars. We are all a part of the same interlinked ecosystem that we take from and give back to, whether for the benefit of or to the detriment of ‘the environment’ that many of us may feel completely isolated from. The environment to me is not a separate entity that we might feel is an encumbrance to have to consider when we put out recycling bins, or something we have a right to continuously plunder so we can expand our ever growing population and supply our consumer desires. All of the fascinating species that are disappearing is a symptom of the pressure we humans put on our environment, as is a warming atmosphere and extreme weather events that occur ever more frequently around the world.

Why should we preserve it? Because our world is full of fascinating organisms, many of which we have not even discovered yet. Some are very similar to ourselves, with communication systems, with family groups, some even bury their dead. Others are completely different in every way, but those and everything in between have evolved for millions of years into specialist organisms that function as part of a healthy ecosystem. What they give back enriches future generations and other species in their ecosystem. Many humans do not have the same relationship, and what we give back unfortunately tends to be plastic and carbon dioxide which we know does not have a positive effect on other species or ourselves. I feel that these other species and ecosystems have as much right to be preserved as humans do, and that we all need to do our utmost to live more sustainably as individuals and hopefully as nations too. But even if it one cannot appreciate the environment for its own sake, it must be sustained for the sake of our own longevity as a species. Whether we like it or not, we are part of this environment and depend on it for our survival.

Abi Croker: Ecology and Wildlife Conservation student

abi

The environment means more to me than what it is now. It means what it has been for 4.6 billion years and what it could be in the future if we take action to preserve it.

The environment boasts a vast diversity of life which has evolved over geological time from microscopic unicellular organisms into the complex, iconic species we see today. Studying Ecology and Wildlife Conservation at university, I have come to realise that climatic changes have oscillated over time, resulting in new environments, ecosystems and species, but also major extinction events. Despite this, extinction rates are increasing at unprecedented rates with more than 23,000 known species currently being threatened with extinction. This is primarily due to human expansion and industrialisation as we are often quick to prioritise political and economic advancements before our environment.

However, we benefit greatly from the ecosystems around us. They supply, regulate, provide cultural traditions and support us in every way of life and have done so for hundreds of years. By preserving the ecosystems our environments offer us we can protect the vulnerable species on this earth and allow them to thrive and evolve for many years after us, as individuals have passed.

I am always amazed when I see life thrive in earth’s most inhospitable environments such as the boreal forest residents, the desert dwellers, those that roam the unimaginable hadopelagic zone, and simply the plants that still manage to grow between our expanding and busy railway tracks. We are testing the limits of earth’s environments and I believe that we need to preserve them for the past, present, and future populations.

Steve Pfaller: Zoologist, Conservationist and World Traveller

steve

Like many kids growing up in America my rural neighbourhood was bordered by a few acres of forest. The long days of youth were spent scrambling up and down it’s creek banks, building forts in the bows of its fallen trees, and searching out it’s hidden wonders; the frogs, the toads, the salamanders, the snakes.  The place was known to us simply as “The Woods”.

So much time was spent in the Woods that our home certainly did not stop at the wooden walls, but stretched further, out into the living trees.   Exposed to the gentleness of nature, the Woods cultivated an appreciation for the environment, and a deep seeded affection for its denizens that took hold and has never left.

As age and travel have taken me further from the Woods, I have made efforts at every stop to seek out and experience the wild places of the world.   Each time I feel that same warmth, the same comfort.  As I have travelled, the Woods have grown and expanded with me.

For many there are a myriad of practical reasons for saving the environment. For some, it may be the clear utility of preserving our resources for such hopes as those for potential cancer treatments pruned from the plants of the Amazon. For others the desire to protect, for future generations, the wonderful species that share our world is reason enough. So that their grandchildren may feel, as they felt, the rapture of locking eyes with a deer while walking through a forest or experiencing the unearthly sensation of gliding over a coral reef and its blizzard of colours and diversity.

For me the reason is less practical and more ethical. Too long have we have stood idly by, mute, while the wheels of industry, progress and greed have crushed the innocent.   We should protect nature because it is there and because right now it needs us. We should speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.

For me “The Woods” was the place I first connected with nature. And for me, that is reason enough to save it.

Susan Flegg: Conservationist and environmentalist

susan

The unmerciful killing of Cecil the Lion in my birth country of Zimbabwe highlighted to the world the distasteful business of trophy-hunting. Not too much had publicised about this “sport” before, or made such an impact.  The film Blood Lions, which exposes the exploitation of lions in South Africa, bred just to become easy prey for paying hunters, also provided the world with a further unpalatable side to man’s nature. Add these to the already enormous amount of knowledge we have about the terrible animal trade of horn, tusks and other body parts, as well as the enormous and increasingly deadly struggle to combat poaching, and we can see that the Africa (and the world) is poised on the brink of losing its magnificent wildlife heritage.

I believe that we are probably among the last generations that can try to do something about this before our lands and oceans are rid of so much of its natural wildlife. Social media has played a crucial role in promoting knowledge of these terrible practices and people are aware of what is happening now, more than ever before.  With the support of high-profile patrons, as well as the efforts of so many well-respected wildlife experts, even the “little man” can now have a voice.  And – to some extent – it has worked.  Outrage, petitions, calls for justice are being heard in governments and laws are slowly evolving to protect more of the creatures of land and air and ocean from the rampages of man.

But is it enough? Not, I believe, while there is still a cultural need to have rhino horn as dagger sheaths; not while misguided people believe rhino horn to be an aphrodisiac; not while certain Eastern Asian countries still insist on ornaments made from ivory.  More education is needed to persuade people that these practices should be stopped.  More legislation and regulation should be made to prevent people trophy hunting – in my mind it should be an international criminal offence.

As long as there is a price for animal parts, there will continue to be poaching.  As long as we turn a blind eye to trophy hunting, it will continue. As long as we ignore what influence population growth and development does to land use, we will tacitly give voice to the death-knell of the magnificent creatures of Africa.  We must stop this and stop it now.  We must give voice to our thoughts and make our governments and our people know that enough is enough.  We must educate and inform and get involved. We have the means; we must act and we must act now in whatever ways we can.

Colin Burke: High school teacher in Australia

Colin

In the world media Coral Bleaching has been highlighted in recent months as endangering the Great Barrier Reef. Of course this is a significant issue and is causing significant damage to the corals. However, what is less known around the world is the politics of denial taking place in Australia in respect to the whole reef system.

UNESCO has expressed ‘concern’ about the GBR and contemplated changing the status of the GBR from World Heritage listed as Endangered. Australia successfully lobbied against a change of status with actions identified and promises made.   And yes actions to protect the Reef are taking place. One significant issue is dredging with bans in place over dredging proposals and the disposal of port relating dredging material into the preventing capital related dredging materials entering the entire World Heritage Area.

But in this highly sensitive environment capital dredging in the long term established priority ports shall continue – these are the ports of Gladstone, Hay Point/Mackay, Abbot Point and Townsville.[6] Fair enough? Well let’s look a little closer at one of those Ports – Abbot Point. Expansion of the coal ports is fine and presently plans are afoot for the building of Australia’s largest coal mine (Carmichael Mine Project) in the Galilee Basin with coal exported using a new terminal at Abbot pint Port.

We are informed by the Federal and State Governments that the dumping of 5 million tonnes of dredge spoil won’t affect the reef and neither will the thousands of additional coals ships in play. [7] Adani have been granted a 99 year lease and given all the assurances ‘under the sun’ but of course the company has a checked history. Adani began operating a similar port at Mundri, India built on a mangrove forest. By 2012 following many alleged breaches and illegal activities the government established a committee to investigate among other things theft, bribery. Among the environment breaches alleged was the building of airstrips and aerodromes and the building of water intake facilities on other people’s land without bothering to ask the landowners. In seeking permission to expand the port Adani were accused of ‘deliberately concealing and falsifying facts’ – 75 hectares of mangroves were destroyed despite promises to the contrary.

The present chief of ‘Adani Australia’s chief executive officer, was in charge of an African copper mine which allowed a flood of dangerous pollutants to pour into a Zambian river’. [8] There were significant discharges of ‘sulphuric acid and other toxic chemicals into waterways over a decade’ commencing in 2004.   The environmental impacts have naturally enough affected villages who have identified serious illness including respiratory and eye problems. In one of a number of High Court cases the High Court ruled KCM “was reckless and had no regard for human, animal and plant life”. [9]

The Ministry for the Environment was not aware of findings in relation to Mr Janakaraj. It seems they were never informed despite a requirement to do so. The Environment Minister, Mr Hunt seems reliant on the strict provisions in the deal, touting “36 of the strictest conditions in Australian history”.   But given Adani’s history how confident can we be?

Dredging for port expansion affect the crystal clear waters of the Great Barrier Reef. Dredging can cause can cause ‘fine sediments are thrown up into the water and can drift for over 100 kilometres, ruining water quality and smothering seagrass beds and coral.’ A study in 2014 found ‘dredging can more than double the level of coral disease, in particular white syndrome which causes coral tissues to fall off.” [10] Moreover, ‘a major dredging and dumping operation in Gladstone Harbour in 2010-11 has been blamed for serious environmental problems after dead dugongs, turtles and diseased fish were found. Fishing was banned for weeks and the local fishing industry collapsed.” [11]

Additional coal ships shall add to the risks. There are presently over ‘4,000 bulk carriers passing through the Great Barrier Reef each year. Just one collision, one mistake or one spill could result in an environmental catastrophe in the Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. When the massive coal carrier Shen Neng 1 crashed into the Reef in 2010 it left a 3 km scar and the coral has yet to grow back.” [12]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/15921/20150802/without-doubt-sixth-mass-extinction-event-occurring.htm

[2] http://www.un.org/events/tenstories/06/story.asp?storyID=800

[3] http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/sep/29/earth-lost-50-wildlife-in-40-years-wwf

[4] https://news.mongabay.com/2015/09/how-many-trees-are-cut-down-every-year/

[5] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/environment/12108522/More-plastic-than-fish-in-the-oceans-by-2050-report-warns.html

[6] Australian Government, Department of The Environment,

https://www.environment.gov.au/marine/gbr/publications/what-australia-is-doing

[7] Get up https://www.getup.org.au/campaigns/great-barrier-reef–3/adani-video-report/help-stop-adani-from-destroying-the-great-barrier-reef

[8] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-11-12/adani-boss-oversaw-mine-guilty-of-polluting-african-river/6920576

[9] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-11-12/adani-boss-oversaw-mine-guilty-of-polluting-african-river/6920576

[10] Fight For The Reef, https://fightforthereef.org.au/risks/dredging/

[11] Fight For The Reef, https://fightforthereef.org.au/risks/dredging/

[12] Fight For The Reef, https://fightforthereef.org.au/risks/dredging/

 

 

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