Best of our wild blogs: 7 Jun 18

Waves of Change Poster Design Competition 2018 - closes 6 July
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

A 'citizen journalism' video on seagrasses in Singapore
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

80% of Singapore consumers ready to ditch plastic straws

Sea cucumbers = healthy shores!
wild shores of singapore

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In Singapore, where trash becomes ash, plastics are still a problem

John Geddie Reuters 6 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - As countries around Southeast Asia struggle to cope with growing piles of plastic and other waste on land and in their waters, Singapore is one country in the region that appears to have things figured out.

Singapore’s streets are glistening clean, its parks and beaches mostly free from the trash that plagues neighboring countries like Malaysia and Indonesia. Almost all of Singapore’s non-recyclable waste is incinerated, with the ash and some solid waste shipped to a man-made island nearby that doubles as a nature reserve.

But that solution looks as if it is running short on time.

The tip on Semakau island was supposed to meet Singapore’s dumping needs until as late as 2045, according to environment ministry documents. But with the use of disposable products growing at a rapid rate, the ministry’s most recent estimates show that Semakau could be full a decade earlier.

Plastics was the largest category of waste disposed of in Singapore last year - 763,400 tonnes - according to data from the National Environment Agency (NEA). Only 6 percent of the 815,200 of plastic waste generated was recycled.

Analysis of the NEA data by Reuters shows that plastic waste per capita has increased nearly 20 percent over the last 15 years.

A report by the local Straits Times newspaper in March said each person in Singapore threw away an average of 13 bags a day in 2016.

So far, the government has not adopted any bans or charges on plastic bags or single-use plastic items like straws and plates. It has also not disclosed any plans to replace the Semakau dump.

“More needs to be done to prolong the life of Semakau landfill beyond 2035,” the NEA said in an email when asked about plans for the dump.

The agency said that recycling initiatives had helped stabilize the amount of trash sent for incineration, despite increases in waste generation caused by population and economic growth.


Southeast Asia is home to four of the world’s top marine plastic polluters, a trend some think will be exacerbated by last year’s waste import ban in China, which used to be the world’s top destination for recyclable trash.

The recent death of a pilot whale in Thailand with 80 pieces of plastic rubbish in its stomach has also drawn global attention to the problem.

Singapore, which plays host to the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations this year, is planning a special ministerial meeting on climate action in July.

But climate groups have urged the government of the wealthy city-state, which enjoys broad support from its electorate, to spend more political capital on tackling waste in a convenience culture where deliveries and take-out meals are common.

Singapore says it aims to become a “zero waste” nation, meaning it will eventually not send any waste to landfill. However, it has yet to set a date for achieving that goal.

The NEA said it was implementing initiatives aimed at increasing recycling rates and reducing waste at the source. These have included increasing the number of recycling bins and awareness campaigns.

It said Singapore was offering research grants for companies and organizations to develop sustainable waste management technologies, and planned to make it mandatory for large generators of packaging waste to report the types and quantities they use and their reduction plans by 2021.

Slideshow (5 Images)
The local recycling industry has yet to feel the pinch of China’s waste ban, the NEA said, adding that for now it was still able to find overseas markets for recyclables.

Kim Stengert, chief communications officer for WWF Singapore, said the group would like to see Singapore adopt measures like mandatory charges for plastic bags or requiring firms to either pay for or participate in the collection and recycling of plastics.

Singapore’s senior minister of state for the environment and water resources, Amy Khor, said in March that unlike other countries with mandatory plastic bag charges, Singapore incinerates plastic waste before putting it in landfills.

“We do not face the land and water pollution issues that plague those countries,” she said. She added that plastic bags were “necessary for responsible and hygienic bagging of waste” in Singapore’s hot and humid climate.

Neighboring Malaysia has said it aims to introduce a nationwide ban on plastic bags within a year, while some local authorities in the Philippines already regulate their use.

“There is no rubbish piling up in the streets, so Singaporeans don’t perceive a waste problem or feel personally responsible to reduce waste,” said Sonny Ben Rosenthal, an academic who specializes in environmental issues at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.

Reporting by John Geddie, additional reporting by Dewey Sim; Editing by Philip McClellan

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Malaysia: Help save the Tioman reefs

ZULKIFLY AB LATIF New Straits Times 7 Jun 18;

Find out how you can contribute towards Tioman island’s environmental sustainability efforts, writes Zulkifly Ab Latif

HERE I am again on one of Tioman island’s familiar blue and white ferries headed towards Kampung Tekek — its main hub and administrative area, from Mersing, the gateway to the island.

With its powdery beaches, framed by swaying palm trees and crystal clear waters of the South China Sea, the island located some 30km off the coast of Pahang truly warrants a visit, if not return visits. And, I have revisited the island many times. Over the course of these jaunts, I’ve begun to feel alarmed by the many changes on the island: a new jetty here, a new passenger waiting hall there or a new resort chalet somewhere along the beach that used to be pristine coastline.

Although change is perhaps the only constant in this world, over development and environmental impact from tourism are valid concerns to a fragile ecosystem that cannot be taken lightly.

Partly due to these concerns (and the fact that I get to visit the island again), I enrolled in a three-day programme that aims to effect a different and more positive change on the island.


The open aired shuttle mini-bus rolls through the main road of Kampung Tekek towards Berjaya Tioman Resort, the island’s largest hotel establishment. The minibus is a wonderful opportunity to take in the sights of the island’s largest town, where one can see stalls sporting colourful hand painted signs and restaurants as well as other choices of accommodations lining the roadside.

At the main lobby of the hotel, I meet Alvin Chelliah, a marine scientist who also acts as programme manager for Reef Check Malaysia, a non-profit organisation that strives to protect, restore and revive coral reefs in Malaysia by engaging the local communities. Since 2014, Alvin has been managing Reef Check’s long term programmes on Tioman.

“Thank you Abang for coming,” Alvin greets me as he shakes my hand. I half-heartedly expect him to ask about my journey when he abruptly adds: “There will be two activities today, transplanting of coral at the Coral Rehabilitation Garden near the Marine Park jetty for scuba divers and volunteering at a local community centre for non-divers.”

Feeling a little spent from the journey to Tioman, I choose the community centre volunteer task.

It is barely two hours since my arrival on the island, and I am already into my first task with 40 other participants of the Tioman Island Reef Rehabilitation Project, a conservation programme organised by Reef Check Malaysia in cooperation with the Royal Bank of Canada.

Well into its fourth year, the programme is part of the bank’s greater RBC Blue Water Project, which is a 10-year global charitable commitment to provide access to drinkable, swimmable, fishable water, now and for future generations. Launched in 2007, the project has pledged CAD 50 million (RM153.98 million) to 770 charitable organisations worldwide that works toward protecting water.

Converging at the aptly named Rumah Hijau which means Green House in Malay, I meet local islander Hisham Uyub, a passionate surfer and somewhat of a role model that many of the island’s youth look up to.

For the past eight years, Hisham has steadily got more involved with Tioman’s environmental issues, culminating in the setting up of the Rumah Hijau community centre which educates and promotes sustainable practices such as recycling and repurposing discarded items into commercially viable tourist souvenirs.

It is here that all the participants, all of whom are Royal Bank of Canada employees learn to make hand-crafted recycle bins as well as artificial reefs from crushed glass bottles mixed with cement. Thanks to the tropical sun and humidity, the work is tedious.

The glass bottles have to be soaked in order to remove its labels. They are then dried and finally, placed into a machine to be crushed. Spearheaded by the locals and situated within Kampung Tekek next to Tioman Cabana, a lively beachside accommodation and bistro, Rumah Hijau is worth a visit for those wanting to learn and contribute towards the island’s environmental sustainability efforts.


Together with the other scuba diver participants at Berjaya Tioman Resort’s dive centre, I listen to Alvin as he explains the tasks at hand. He holds up what looks like a water jet gun fixed with a long pointy steel rod.

It is actually a purpose designed injector, normally utilised in forestry and agricultural work. Interestingly, the injector is the ideal tool when culling Crown of Thorns, a type of starfish with poisonous spikes that eat healthy coral.

Left uncheck and due to a lack of natural predators, the COT as it is popularly known, can threaten coral reefs. Culling of the COT is done by injecting it with vinegar. As Alvin hands out the “ weapons” and bottles of vinegar, he quips, “Please be careful with these. Do not stab yourselves and do not stab the coral!

Our first hunting ground for the day is Batu Malang, a popular diving and snorkelling spot near the smaller uninhabited island of Tulai. The diving spot is a 40-minute boat ride from the beach of Tekek, and is identifiable from the surface as a mass of huge boulders rising up from the sea.

Descending to a depth of 15 metres, a magnificent stretch of fringing coral welcomes our hunting party. We circulate the reef counter-clockwise, making sure it is on our left side as we search for the Crown of Thorns.

Batu Malang means Unfortunate Rock in Malay, and I wonder how apt the name is as I ascend towards the ocean’s surface after a half hour of fruitless searching.

“Maybe the COTs didn’t get the memo that we’re coming today,” I joke with Abdul Manap, affectionately called Pak Manap, a certicfied scuba instructor and Reef Check Eco-Diver trainer as we wait for the dive boat to come near us.

“Maybe other dive groups already collected them. Or maybe it’s just a sign of a healthy reef,” Pak Manap shrugs.

Whichever the case, the lack of COTs is a good thing. The second culling attempt at Renggis Island, another popular snorkelling and diving spot that lies just off the pier of Berjaya Tioman Resort proves to be less disappointing.

In total, 43 COTs are culled. Back at the dive centre, I see an impressive sight: mounds and mounds of plastic trash bags being unloaded from the speed boats by the non-diver participants.

Concentrating on the mangrove area of Tulai Island and the beach of Kampung Tekek, the group collected 350kg of trash. According to Reef Check Malaysia, from the collected trash that included over 1700 bottles, the populated data will help identify the source of trash and its impact on the marine ecosystem.


It is the last night of the trip and all the participants have gathered at Berjaya Tioman Resort’s Sri Nelayan, an open-aired restaurant featuring Malaysian styled furnishing and intricate wood carvings. A small troop of Tioman’s children, garbed in various forms of traditional attire are on the brightly lit stage, performing Malay folk dance.

Our group and some of the resort guests begin clapping our hands rhythmically when the children performs the Joget accompanied by an upbeat music tempo. I find it thoroughly amusing as well as heartwarming, watching a form of Malaysia’s culture being kept alive and shared with others by such young children.

Alvin asks if I enjoyed the three-day programme on the island. My answer is a resounding Yes. He further adds that this three-day trip involving the 40 Royal Bank of Canada employees is only the kickstart to the rest of the year’s activities.

Through Reef Check Malaysia’s cooperation with the Royal Bank Of Canada, more projects will be carried out throughout the year. This includes Reef Check Surveys, recycling programmes, coral plantings, ghost net removals, installation of mooring lines and buoys to protect shallow water reefs, beach and underwater cleanups as well as rapid responses to environmentally effected areas.

Having met people such as Alvin and his Reef Check team, I begin to consider the possibility that despite whatever changes this island goes through, Tioman island’s grace and beauty will endure.


Founded in 1996, Reef Check’s mission is to protect and rehabilitate reefs worldwide. It is the world’s largest international coral reef monitoring programme involving volunteer recreational divers and marine scientists and is active in 82 countries and territories.

As a local chapter of the bigger Reef Check network, Reef Check Malaysia (RCM) is a non-profit organisation that was registered in 2007 to engage with the local community to raise awareness for the importance of, and threats to, coral reefs.

The Cintai Tioman Campaign is initiated by Reef Check Malaysia and EcoKnights, with the support of The GEF Small Grants Programme(GEF SGP), implemented by UNDP, Yayasan Sime Darby and HSBC Amanah Takaful.

From activities on coral reef rehabilitation to community-based engagements, Cintai Tioman aims to help reduce the impact of human activities on coral reefs around Tioman Island, and also empower the local communities to get involved in the management and conservation of the island’s resources.


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Malaysia: The joys and benefits of observing nature

ROZANA SANI New Straits Times 6 Jun 18;

IMAGINE yourself as a child with low-speed Internet connection at home. You can’t play online games or watch videos. What do you do to keep yourself entertained?

For Universiti of Malaya (UM) undergraduate Tan Kai Ren, the answer was to join his neighbourhood friends explore their backyard every evening after school.

“I have always had an interest in nature and the environment since I was in primary school. My backyard truly opened my eyes to the endless possibilities of biodiversity as it is connected to the Ayer Hitam Forest Reserve, a 1,182.07ha forest under the management of Universiti Putra Malaysia.

“After taking my Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia exams, I became involved in several environmental non-governmental organisations, such as Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT), WWF-Malaysia and EcoKnights, which gave me a better understanding of environmental conservation and further fuelled my motivation to pursue this field,” said the third-year ecology and biodiversity student at UM.

Tan’s latest foray in biodiversity-related activities not only satisfied his love for nature but gave him global recognition in the world of urban biodiversity conservation.

At Malaysia’s maiden showing at City Nature Challenge 2018 — an international effort for people to find and document plants and wildlife in cities across the globe — Tan came out as top observer.

Besides Tan, three other Malaysians made the world Top 5 observers at City Nature Challenge 2018. Second place went to Thary Gazi, a PhD candidate and entomologist at UM, fourth place went to Affan Nasaruddin, founder and project officer of Water Warriors, a UM Living Lab; while Benjamin Ong of UM’s Rimba Project took fifth place.

“Observations basically means the number of observations that have been made throughout the four days of the challenge. I made 4,872 observations throughout the period,” he said.

The City Nature Challenge 2018 was carried out from April 27 to 30 in almost 70 cities around the world, all mobilising their residents and visitors to go out and document nature.

The Klang Valley was the first Malaysian and Southeast Asian urban metro area to participate in the challenge. Coorganised by the Rimba Project and UM’s Water Warriors, the Klang Valley City Nature Challenge (KVCNC) aimed to reconnect urban communities with nature and advocate for urban wildlife and biodiversity conservation.

A total of 685 Malaysians participated. At least 300 of these were school students. The event spanned the entire Klang Valley, defined as the sum of 10 municipalities: Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya, Shah Alam, Subang Jaya, Klang, Sepang, Putrajaya, Ampang, Selayang and Kajang.

To enter the challenge, participants had to download an app, snap a photo of flora or fauna and post it on a specified website.

There were three types of participants: observers, species finders and identifiers. Observers are those who have contributed images or records of flora or fauna. Species-finders are those who are able to find different types of species, while identifiers could identify or name observations made by not only themselves, but also others.

“When Rimba Project founder Benjamin Ong approached me to be part of the team to organise the Klang Valley City Nature Challenge 2018 in Malaysia, he said the goal of the event was to give us baseline data of urban biodiversity in the Klang Valley.

“The data we have collected can now serve as a complimentary checklist of species composition as it is collected by many amateur scientists, which might be useful for actual research work,” he said.

Recalling the effort he put in during the four-day challenge, Tan said despite juggling his final year project with the preparation, it was well worth it.

“During preparation, KVCNC team members were already aware of the goals we needed to achieve for this year, even though this will be our first year participating. Therefore, months before the event, I started to practice using the iNaturalist app to observe and record the flora and fauna around me. The practice gave me a certain advantage compared with other users as I am more familiar with the user interface.

“Nonetheless, the reason for my success is when our team realised that we can upload observations in bulk onto iNaturalist on the second day of the challenge. This allowed us to make more observations in the field by reducing the time needed to upload individual observations.

“Besides that, by minimising my travel on the last day of the event, I managed to do intensive observations around University of Malaya, and recorded almost 3,000 observations on that day alone. This is essentially aligned with the core idea behind the City Nature Challenge, which encourages citizens to map the flora and fauna surrounding them instead of entering the wilderness,” he said.

On whether the challenge had a significant impact in terms of biodiversity and conservation in Malaysia, Tan said it would be an overestimation to say so.

“However, with the help of the Association of Science, Technology and Innovation (ASTI), we managed to organise an interschool competition as a pilot project to encourage students’ involvement in biological science, with an endorsement from the Education Ministry. We envision that the partnership between ASTI and the Rimba Project will have larger influence towards more schools from cities all over the country in the upcoming year.

“Only then can we evaluate the impact of citizen science towards the conservation of biodiversity and determine its pros and cons,” he said.

On future plans, Tan said he would like to be involved in sustainable living and educating people on possible sustainable lifestyles.

“I believe that when people are better informed about the harm we can do towards the environment in our daily lives, we can indirectly save many vulnerable habitats that are prone to pollution and destruction.

“I really hope that I could one day contribute to changing certain policies to strengthen enforcement against wildlife trafficking. Championing urban farming and sustainable food sources will also be in my plans, as it will reduce farm land needed in the future, which will reduce deforestation and wildlife habitat loss,” he said.

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Indonesia’s latest weapon to cut plastic bag use: devout Muslims

Moses Ompusunggu The Jakarta Post 6 Jun 18;

Indonesia, one of the planet’s major plastic polluters, is now banking on one of its biggest resources to entice people to take a plastic bag diet: Muslim clerics.

On Tuesday, the government declared a cooperation with clerics from the country’s largest Muslim groups, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, to change consumer behavior pertaining to the use of plastic shopping bags.

In the partnership, NU and Muhammadiyah now have a mission to promote the use of reusable bags to cut plastic bag use in Indonesia.

“NU and Muhammadiyah have a large number of followers. The most forceful way is for their clerics to tell the masses in a simple way to change their mind sets,” Rosa Vivien Ratnawati, the Environment and Forestry Ministry’s director general for waste management, told reporters on Tuesday.

Indonesia is desperately trying to end the dependency of its people on plastic shopping bags, having pledged to reduce its waste volume to 30 percent by 2025.

The use of plastic bags in Indonesia has increased over the past 10 years to approximately 9.8 billion plastic bags per year---95 percent of which end up unprocessed, according to the Environment and Forestry Ministry.

NU and Muhammadiyah said in a joint statement that they were committed to “carrying out a plastic bag use reduction movement, which is part of an Islamic culture, by implementing it in numerous activities from childhood to adult level.”

The two organizations, which boast more than 100 million followers combined, said they would also conduct a “reusable bag movement” that would be introduced gradually within their organizations and at their regional branches.

“The declaration shows that the NU does not only care about politics or religion, as many people think,” Fitria Aryani, the waste bank director of the NU’s Disaster Mitigation and Climate Change Agency (LPBI NU), told the media on Tuesday.

Fitria said the declaration followed an NU initiative launched in May, “Ngaji Sampah”, which translates to “sermons on waste”. In the program, broadcast online by NU’s central office in Jakarta once a month, clerics connect waste management with religious norms in their sermons.

“The next session of ngaji sampah, to be held after the Idul Fitri holiday, will discuss the reduction of plastic shopping bags,” said Fitria. (swd)

Preaching against plastic: Indonesia's religious leaders join fight to cut waste
Nation’s two largest Islamic organisations will call on network of 100 million followers to reduce plastic waste and reuse bags
Kate Lamb The Guardian 7 Jun 18;

Indonesia, one of the world’s biggest marine polluters, has decided to get religious – literally – about reducing plastic waste.

The government has announced it will join forces with the country’s two largest Islamic organisations, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, using their extensive networks across the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation to encourage consumers to reduce plastic waste and reuse their plastic bags.

Together the two Islamic institutions have more than 100 million followers.

As part of the initiative, religious leaders will visit prayer groups across the country to preach about the importance of reducing plastic waste, explain how plastic waste can worsen the severity of natural disasters such as floods and landslides, and encourage consumers to switch to traditional bags, made from materials such as rattan and bamboo.

“We have local wisdom about these things in Indonesia,” Fitri Aryani, from NU’s disaster mitigation and climate change agency, told the Guardian, “In the past we had more environmentally friendly practices and used traditional bags. We want people to return to that, to the times of their grandmothers when people would go out and not use so much plastic.”

Environmental awareness and recycling programs, including teaching students how to make “eco-bricks” from discarded plastic, which have been run in several NU Islamic boarding schools in East Java for the past two years, will now be rolled out to the organisation’s wider networks.

Globally, Indonesia is the second-largest contributor to marine plastic waste after China.

Indonesia currently uses a whopping 9.8bn plastic bags per year, many of which end up in the country’s rivers and oceans, according to data from the Indonesian environment and forestry ministry.

Indonesia has committed to cut its plastic waste by 70% by 2025.

NU last month introduced “Ngaji Sampah,” or “Sermons on Waste.”

The religious sermons are broadcast online once a month and use Islamic principles to promote sustainable consumption and environmental awareness.

Levels of awareness about recycling and the environmental damage wreaked by plastic are low in Indonesia, where plastic packaging is ubiquitous, and the practice of burning plastic waste is common.

A shocking video filmed earlier this year that showed a diver off Bali swimming through a deluge of rubbish caught the attention of the government, and has since been cited by the environment minister.

Rosa Vivien Ratnawati, director general for waste management at Indonesia’s environment ministry said the government believes the declaration signed this week will have a widespread positive impact.

“These are the two biggest Islamic organisations in Indonesia, and they have structures that go down to the village level so this initiative to reduce plastic bag waste will impact all their members,” said Ratnawati, “That is tens of millions of people throughout Indonesia.”

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Antarctica: plastic contamination reaches Earth's last wilderness

Traces of microplastics and hazardous chemicals found in majority of snow and ice samples taken earlier this year
Matthew Taylor The Guardian 6 Jun 18;

Plastic and traces of hazardous chemicals have been found in Antarctica, one of the world’s last great wildernesses, according to a new study.

Researchers spent three months taking water and snow samples from remote areas of the continent earlier this year.

These have now been analysed and researchers have confirmed the majority contained “persistent hazardous chemicals” or microplastics.

The findings come amid growing concern about the extent of the plastic pollution crisis which scientists have warned risks “permanent contamination” of the planet.

Earlier this week, the UN warned it is one of the world’s biggest environmental threats and said although 60 countries were taking urgent action more needed to be done.

The new report by researchers at Greenpeace is part of global campaign to create the world’s biggest ocean sanctuary in the seas around Antarctica to protect the fragile ecosystem from industrial fishing and climate change.

Frida Bengtsson, of Greenpeace’s Protect the Antarctic campaign, said the findings proved that even the most remote areas of the planet were not immune from the impact of manmade pollution.

“We need action at source, to stop these pollutants ending up in the Antarctic in the first place, and we need an Antarctic ocean sanctuary to give space for penguins, whales and the entire ecosystem to recover from the pressures they’re facing,” she said.

Seven of the eight sea-surface water samples tested contained microplastics such as microfibres. Seven of the nine snow samples tested contained detectable concentrations of the persistent hazardous chemicals – polyfluorinated alkylated substances, or PFAS.

Researchers said the chemicals are widely used in many industrial processes and consumer products and have been linked to reproductive and developmental issues in wildlife. They said the snow samples gathered included freshly fallen snow, suggesting the hazardous chemicals had come from contaminated rain or snowfall.

Prof Alex Rogers, a specialist in sustainable oceans at the Oxford Martin school, Oxford University, said the discovery of plastics and chemicals in Antarctica confirmed that manmade pollutants were now affecting ecosystems in every corner of the world.

And he warned the consequences of this pervasive contamination remained largely unknown.

“The big question now is what are the actual consequences of finding this stuff here? Many of these chemicals are pretty nasty and as they move up the food chain they may be having serious consequences for the health of wildlife, and ultimately humans. The effects of microplastics on marine life, likewise, are largely not understood,” he said.

There is relatively little data on the extent of microplastics in Antarctic waters, and researchers said they hoped this new study would lead to a greater understanding of the global extent of plastic and chemical pollutants.

Bengtsson said: “Plastic has now been found in all corners of our oceans, from the Antarctic to the Arctic and at the deepest point of the ocean, the Mariana trench. We need urgent action to reduce the flow of plastic into our seas and we need large-scale marine reserves – like a huge Antarctic ocean sanctuary which over 1.6m people are calling for – to protect marine life and our oceans for future generations.”

The samples were gathered during a three-month Greenpeace expedition to the Antarctic from January to March 2018. The Guardian joined the trip for two weeks in February.

A decision on the sanctuary proposal, which is being put forward by the EU and supported by environmental campaign groups around the world, will be taken at the forthcoming meeting of the Antarctic Ocean Commission in Tasmania in October.

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Flooding from high tides has doubled in the US in just 30 years

Shoreline communities may be inundated in the next two years as ocean levels rise amid serious climate change concerns
Oliver Milman The Guardian 6 Jun 18;

The frequency of coastal flooding from high tides has doubled in the US in just 30 years, with communities near shorelines warned that the next two years are set to be punctuated by particularly severe inundations, as ocean levels continue to rise amid serious global climate change concerns.

Last year there was an average of six flooding days per area across 98 coastal areas monitored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) – an all-time record. More than a quarter of these locations tied or broke their records for high tide flood days, the federal agency states in a new report.

Known as “sunny day flooding”, these events swamp streets and homes with water simply from the incoming tide, without the aid of a storm. Noaa said that in 2017 areas across the US north-east and Gulf of Mexico were worst hit, with Boston, Massachusetts, and Atlantic City, New Jersey, both experiencing 22 days of flooding, while Galveston, in Texas, was soaked on 18 different days.

Noaa warned that cyclical climatic conditions during 2018 and 2019 “may result in higher than expected flood frequencies” in around half of the coastal sites it measures.

The longer-term trend is even more certain, Noaa said, with melting glaciers, thermal expansion of sea water and altered ocean currents pushing the sea level steadily higher and causing further floods.

“Breaking of annual flood records is to be expected next year and for decades to come as sea levels rise, and likely at an accelerated rate,” the report states. “Though year-to-year and regional variability exists, the underlying trend is quite clear: due to sea level rise, the national average frequency of high tide flooding is double what it was 30 years ago.”

The Noaa report is “comprehensive” and “clearly illustrates the increasing problems along our coastlines”, said Ben Horton, a sea level rise expert at Rutgers University. “There is flooding on all our coastlines, places where people live and work. There needs to be a national response to that.”

Last year was marked by three high-profile hurricanes that pummelled the US, triggering flooding that resulted in dozens of deaths and billions of dollars in damage. Scientists have found that warming temperatures, driven by human activity, is making hurricanes stronger, but it is also exacerbating more chronic nuisance flooding events by pushing up the level of the ocean.

“There’s a clear upwards trend of this type of flooding,” said Andrea Dutton, a geologist at the University of Florida. “Extreme events like hurricanes may be the breaking point but this sort of frequent flooding is the taste of what is coming in the future on a permanent basis. We need to rethink our relationship with the coastline because it’s going to be retreating for the foreseeable future.”

Dutton said that south Florida, where weather forecasts in some places now come with tidal warnings, and fish are a regular sight on flooded roads, is particularly vulnerable. The low-lying region sits on porous limestone, which pushes up floodwater from underground, and many communities are unable to easily retreat because they back on to the Everglades wetlands.

“They used to get just one day a year of tidal flooding, now it’s two months of it in the fall,” she said. “Engineering can help delay things but ultimately the oceans will win. We are going to have to live with the water.”

Globally, the seas have risen by an average of nearly three inches since 1992. Parts of the US coastline are unusually prone, with Noaa that the oceans could swell by more than eight feet by 2100.

Despite the risk posed to the US by sea level rise and flooding events, there is no national plan to deal with the issue, with much of the adaption work left to states and counties. The Trump administration has rescinded previous rules to build federally funded infrastructure with climate change in mind and has sought to reverse various measures aimed at taming global warming.

“We need to take this report as a warning to prepare ourselves, or we will just sit around and wait for disaster to happen,” Dutton said.

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A manifesto to save Planet Earth (and ourselves)

Simon Lewis and Mark Maslin, University College London BBC 7 Jun 18;

The impacts of human actions on our home planet are now so large that many scientists are declaring a new phase of Earth’s history. The old forces of nature that transformed Earth many millions of years ago, including meteorites and mega-volcanoes are joined by another: us. We have entered a new geological epoch, called the Anthropocene.

As scientists we agree that society has entered a dangerous new time. But what is to be done?

In our new book, The Human Planet, published on Thursday, we present a new view of how humans climbed down from the trees of Africa to become a geological superpower.

We argue that to avoid ever-larger environmental changes causing a societal collapse, we need to acknowledge the incredible power that modern society possesses and direct it towards a shift to a new type of society in the 21st Century.

Our influence is more profound than many of us realize.

Globally, human activities move more soil, rock and sediment each year than is transported by all other natural processes combined.

The total amount of concrete produced by humans is enough to cover the entire Earth’s surface with a layer two millimetres thick. Micro-plastics are found in every ocean.

We have cut down half of Earth's trees, losing three trillion, with extinctions becoming commonplace.

Factories and farming remove as much nitrogen from the atmosphere as all of Earth's natural processes, and the climate is changing fast because of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel use.

Beyond these grim statistics, the critical question is: will today’s interconnected mega-civilisation that allows 7.5 billion people to lead physically healthier and longer lives than at any time in our history continue from strength to strength? Or will we keep using more and more resources until human civilisation collapses?

To answer this, we re-interpret human history using the tools of modern science, to provide a clearer view of the future.

Tracing the ever-greater environmental impacts of different human societies since our march out of Africa, we found that there are just five broad types that have spread worldwide.

Our original hunter-gatherer societies were followed by the agricultural revolution and new types of society beginning some 10,500 years ago.

The next shift resulted from the formation of the first global economy, after Europeans arrived in the Americas in 1492, which was followed in the late 1700s by the new societies following the Industrial Revolution.

The final type is today’s high-production consumer capitalist mode of living that emerged after WWII.

A careful analysis shows that each successive mode of living is reliant on greater energy use, greater information and knowledge availability, and an increase in the human population, which together increase our collective agency.

These insights help us think about avoiding the coming crash as our massive global economy doubles in size every 25 years, and on to the possibilities of a new and more sustainable sixth mode of living to replace consumer capitalism.

Seen in this way, renewable energy for all takes on an importance beyond stopping climate breakdown; likewise free education and the internet for all has a significance beyond access to social media – as they empower women, which helps stabilise the population.

More energy and greater information availability appear to be the necessities for any new kind of society - although these changes alone could increase our environmental problems, as in the past. To usher in a new way of living today’s core dynamic of ever-greater production and consumption of goods and resources must also be broken, coupled with a societal focus on environmental repair.

Two increasingly discussed ideas do just this.

Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a policy whereby a financial payment is made to every citizen, unconditionally, without any obligation to work, at a level above their subsistence needs.

Most people would still work, but UBI could break the link between paid work and consumption.

We all do it – saying, I work so hard, I deserve that fancy over-packaged sandwich, new gizmo, or long-haul holiday.

Consumption is the pay-back for being ever-more productive at work. With UBI we could think long-term, well beyond the next pay cheque, as living in the Anthropocene demands.

Small-scale trials of UBI suggest we would educate ourselves, do useful work, while caring for others and the wider environment.

Environmental repair could come from the simple but profound idea that we allocate half the Earth's surface primarily for the benefit of other species.

This is less utopian than it first appears. As we increasingly recognise that humans are part of nature, new ideas of "re-wilding" (large areas managed to allow natural processes to run) and "restoration" (bringing back forests) are taking hold.

Recent commitments across 43 countries to restore 292 million hectares of degraded land to forest, ten times the area of the UK, show that repair is on the agenda.

Universal Basic Income and Half-Earth are, of course, not the remedies for all of society's ills. But, if acknowledging that we live in the Anthropocene does anything, it shows us that our actions will have major impacts on the only planet in the Universe known to harbour life.

It would be wise to use this immense power to give the best chance for people, and the rest of life, all to flourish.

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