When plastic is disposed of, it is hoped to be recycled for better purposes; most elementary classes teach their students how to be “eco-friendly” so their planet can thrive, and they watch films or listen to presentations about the benefits of recycling. Despite these truly noble efforts, according to findings from the BBC World Service, out of the approximate 288 million tons of plastic waste produced on the earth per year in the past 30 to 40 years, 10% of that goes through drains into the ocean. Eighty percent of worldwide plastic waste comes from land-based sources. If not all, most of that waste has been produced by humans.

According to Professor Richard Thompson of Plymouth University, the best solution to remove plastic waste (especially plastic waste in the oceans) is to simply prevent it from getting there.

Twenty-year-old Boyan Slat, Founder and CEO of Ocean Cleanup, thinks we can do one better. The idea came to him at age 16 while diving in Greece. He noticed that there was more plastic in the ocean than there were fish. He was right to a greater extent than he probably realized at the time. According to Nicholas Mallos of the Ocean Conservancy, “the amount of plastics is roughly one third the total biomass of fish–1 lb of plastic for every 2 lbs of fish.”

When Slat was 19-years-old, a first-year studying Aerospace Engineering at TU Delft University in the Netherlands, he came up with the idea of a solar powered floating boom with a processing platform. The device is comprised of an array of barriers that would catch and concentrate plastic, then would move it to areas where it could be extracted.

Currently, there is an estimated 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in the ocean, according to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Unfortunately, because so much of the debris can be found within the darkest depths of the ocean, this particular device wouldn’t be able to catch all of it. But, Slat and his associates have estimates that within 10 years of its development, almost half of it has a chance of being removed.

Boyan Slat was fortunately able to host a Ted Talk, and once his video explaining his cause and his abilities went viral, he was able to raise about $2 million with Crowdfunding campaigns and recruited several volunteers from around the globe to help him.

Now, announcing deployment in 2016 via the Seoul Digital Forum in South Korea, the solar powered boom will be the world’s largest floating structure at 2,000 meters. It will be deployed off Tsushima, an island between Japan and South Korea, and is expected to be operational for two years. If this endeavor is successful, progressively larger booms will be deployed in other locations. All associations involved hope to use the recovered plastic as an alternative energy source.

Anna Brailow

Sources: BBC, Good News Network, The Ocean Cleanup, TEDx Talks
Photo: The Ocean Cleanup

There’s more to climate change than warmer summers and winters.

In the Pacific Ocean, the entire nation of Kiribati is facing a threat that has become all too common among the inhabitants of islands, archipelagos, and the like across the globe. Although this common threat is to be feared greatly, it is not terrorism or a military coup. This great threat is sea level rise and it is but one of the many effects of climate change that have become all too familiar for the inhabitants of many of the Earth’s once beautiful and lush islands.

But sea level rise is just the beginning. According to an article by The Guardian, carbon emission is at its highest point in 300 million years. As a result of the increased emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs), the Earth’s climate has changed significantly – a change which has resulted in undesirable effects such as sea level rise and ocean acidification.

Many Americans think the effects of climate change (or global warming to many) will not be felt for many years and is a problem best left for future generations to handle. However, the effects of climate change can be felt right now, bringing more than just hot summers and warm winters. In fact, sea level rise and ocean acidification may be two of the biggest contributors to a problem that many agree is facing the world at present: global food security.

Ocean acidification and sea level rise dramatically affect the ability of the Earth’s many islanders to sustain the livelihood of the families who rely on the islands’ resources for survival. For instance, sea level rise has already caused significant damage to many island villages across the globe. A rise in sea level raises high water marks, and these increased high water marks have resulted in higher tides. These higher tides often destroy crops and contaminate drinking water, leaving many islanders with no choice but to seek refuge on the mainland once the sea level reaches a critical level.

While the effects of ocean acidification are less significant than that of sea level rise, there is strong evidence the current level of carbon emissions will likely soon begin to affect marine life. Currently, acidification damages coral reefs, which are vital to the health of fisheries, acting as a nursery to young fish and smaller species that provide food for bigger fish. Acidification also harms plankton, which fish rely on for development. Since further and more extensive acidification is inevitable at current emission rates, it is likely that those who rely on marine life as a significant source of food will be greatly affected in the coming years.

A rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide can also affect the availability of food on the mainland of several continents, not just on islands. For instance, a study by Rosenzweig and Parry suggests that crop yields in Africa and South America may decrease as concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere become greater.

Although reducing emissions will not have an immediate impact on climate change, if the process does not begin now, the livelihood of many islanders is almost guaranteed to worsen. Due to the significant effects the changing climate can have on feeding the world’s hungry, it is important to ensure that climate change legislation is pursued with as equal vigor as foreign aid legislation. Advocates of global food security should support climate change legislation by indicating so when calling their Congressional leaders to support international aid. Addressing climate change is a very slow and complicated process, but supporting climate change legislation can help protect the food security of many of the Earth’s inhabitants in the long term.

Cavarrio Carter

Sources: Pew Research Center, Huffington Post,, The Guardian, Mongabay ,The Telegraph, Washington Post, Climate Change and Food Security
Photo: Travel Brochures


Our most valuable resources on this globe are our oceans. Our lives depend upon the ocean and the food we fish from it. Never before have we had to worry about harming this resource to such an extent that it limits our food production. However, we have begun to “fish out” our world’s oceans, which cause great problems since our population is only growing and our demand for resources is also growing. Some major corporations such as McDonald’s and Wal-Mart have begun to take steps towards sustainable fishing.

McDonalds has announced that the packaging for their fish items on the menu will carry a blue eco-label provided by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). This label guarantees that 99% of all McDonald’s fish will come from MSC approved sources. Wal-Mart has created a Sustainability Index to measure 70% of its suppliers by 2017. While these corporations are leading the way for businesses to practice sustainability, it is just the beginning for better awareness of our oceans.

On June 8, the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Oceans agreed upon two new initiatives that will guide the management of our oceans in the future: the Ocean Health Index and “Seafood Traceability.”

Until now, we have never had a way to measure the health of our oceans. With the Ocean Health Index, we can rate the sustainability of our oceans on a scale of 0-100. It measures the oceans against 10 goals including coastal protection, clean tourism and recreation, and food provision. Not only can the Ocean Health Index be used on a global scale, but it can be used on a regional scale as well. It gives policymakers the ability to make informed decisions about the productivity of the water.

The second initiative, seafood traceability, will provide necessary information to manage seafood resources worldwide. This initiative will help businesses trace back fish products from the fisheries where they were caught and learn essential information about how the fish were caught. Without this, it would be impossible to regulate and control illegal fishing habits.

The ocean is our largest asset that generated almost $72 trillion GDP in 2012. By taking steps like McDonald’s is taking or learning how to monitor our oceans better we are keeping them healthy and productive.

– Catherine Ulrich
Source: WE Blog,Ocean Health Index
Photo: Robin Jones Gunn