On World Water Day we may at last after two decades of talks have cause to hope for the future of our oceans. “On the 6th March the world came together and signed a historic United Nations treaty that would protect ocean biodiversity for the benefit of our children and grandchildren,” said Monica Medina, an assistant secretary of state. “We leave here with the ability to create protected areas in the high seas and achieve the ambitious goal of conserving 30 percent of the ocean by 2030.”

As marine life faces threats from climate change, overfishing, the possibility of seabed mining and other dangers, the treaty would make it possible to create marine-protected areas and enact other conservation measures on the “high seas,” the immense expanse of ocean covering almost half the world.

The open oceans of the world have no international body or agreement with a primary focus of protecting marine biodiversity. If enacted, this treaty would change that.

Nations generally control the waters and sea floor that extend 200 nautical miles from their shores. Beyond that, you hit the high seas, which aren’t subject to any individual nation’s laws or control. They span almost half the entire planet.

The high seas have “probably the largest reserve of undiscovered biodiversity left on Earth,” said Lisa Speer, director of the international oceans program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Every time scientists go out there, they find species new to science.”

Human well-being is at stake, too, scientists say, because the health of the high seas is critical to the health of the overall ocean. Billions of people around the world rely on the ocean for food and jobs, according to the World Bank.

There are still a few sticking points how to enforce the new treaty is the main one but at least with the treaty in place it will be easier to punish those who break the rules.

Information for this blog is from an article in the New York Times by Catrin Einhorn: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/04/climate/united-nations-treaty-oceans-biodiversity.html

Good news in paradise!

 In Bali, Creatives are coming up with cool solutions to the island’s tidal wave of rubbish.

A rainbow of plastic bags tangled in the roots of mangrove trees. Beaches littered with confetti of instant-coffee sachets and noodle wrappers. Everywhere, the crunch of discarded plastic cups half-embedded in the sand. For Kelly Bencheghib and her brothers Gary and Sam, often found knee-deep in garbage-clogged rivers, a typical day on Bali looks a lot different to what most visitors see through their Eat, Pray, Love-tinted glasses.

Make A Change World. Kelly Bencheghib co-founded with her brothers Sungai Watch (sungai means “river” in Bahasa Indonesia) – which organizes community clean-ups of the island’s rivers and has installed floating trash barriers to prevent waste from reaching the ocean. Some of the group’s events attracted more than 300 volunteers, while social media posts documenting the process have racked up millions of views. “Stranded in lockdowns, a lot of people around the world realized how important it is to cherish your environment,” Bencheghib says.

With the help of creative director Michael Russek, Sungai Watch’s soon‑to-launch social-enterprise arm upcycles these plastics into durable furniture and artwork. Marble- and terrazzo-effect plastic sheets are produced using a heat-compressing machine not unlike a waffle iron; it’s a widely adopted technique pioneered by another recycling collective.

Precious Plastic. “Being able to turn plastic bags into upcycled homeware is evidence of waste’s hidden value,” Bencheghib says.

Since its launch in 2019, Desa Beach Club has turned into a springboard and gathering spot for Bali’s plastic-centric people. “We wanted to invite artists, grassroots communities and engineers to share their voices,” Akili says, hoping to make “a place to create solutions to help regenerate Bali.” Among the collaborators is Liina Klauss, a German artist whose piece 5,000 Lost Soles is at the entrance to the beach club. Made from more than 5,000 plastic flip-flops collected over just six beach clean-ups around Bali’s western coast, it’s both beautiful and disquieting. “In contrast to western countries, Bali’s plastic problem is very visible,” Klauss says. “Plastic is a global issue, and its symptoms show up in paradise. It’s this contrast that intrigues me: the intersection where pristine nature meets western consumer culture”.

But no amount of recycled-plastic home decor is enough to eradicate Bali’s tidal wave of rubbish. For the island to really clean up its act, change needs to happen at the source. Sungai Watch uses its collected data to lobby Indonesia’s largest polluters (Danone, Unilever and Indonesian FMCG conglomerate Wings Surya among them) for more accountability and alternative materials that will encourage a circular economy. “The idea is not to blame and shame, but to engage in proper conversation to hold these companies accountable,” says Bencheghib. At Space Available, meanwhile, Mitchell is experimenting with biomaterials such as mycelium as a plastic substitute.

“We can see the incremental process,” says Akili, who managed to reduce the trash-to-landfill ratio down from 50 to just five per cent over the past four years. Like the rest of the island’s creative recycling community, he’s hopeful for Bali’s future. “Look at the demand for organic food: you can really notice its progress from a decade ago until now,” he says. “We’re still at the beginning of our rubbish revolution, but the ripple effect is starting to show.”

The information for this blog is from an article in the FT Magazine by Chris Shalkx: https://www.ft.com/content/be07595a-2fda-4a2b-9ef8-c320112b6d3c