Due to the unforgiving Covid-19 pandemic crisis lockdown regle globally locking humanity inwards in exchange for our planet’s chance to thrive and survive out there, biodiversity negatively influenced by habitat loss and degradation due to human activity, climate change, and pollution, among other elements have resulted in numerous impacts on our climate and environment .
Business is certainly not as usual but the good news is that with travel bans based on global travel trends and factory shutdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns have led to an increase in air quality with a huge drop on air pollution all around the world. In China, lockdowns and other measures resulted in a 25% reduction in carbon emissions and 50% reduction in nitrogen oxides emissions, which one Earth systems scientist estimated may have saved at least 77,000 lives over two months. As long as our quality of life is enhanced, we still have an opportunity to rebuild what we lost and even more.
Because common sense is not so common anymore, we tend to complain about a lot of things and wonder why everyone’s not moving on the same vibration at the same pace. ‘People are not doing enough to save the environment,’ is a phrase I hear quite often, but the bigger question here is, ”who are these people?” And what if “these people” in question genuinely want to save their environment but just don’t know where to start or what to do? In response to managing expectations around the environment and how each of us could play a role, I would like to share 5 tips on this 3-part series around what we can do to save our planet; it is our responsibility afterall. And if you are still asking why, here’s why.
Do you remember when the Covid-19 virus hit the globe and the world changed right in front of our eyes? And then we were asked to stay in lockdown, wash our hands, sanitize, wear masks and stay in?
Did you stay in? Of course you did, if you are reading this right now, you stayed in and did everything you were asked to do diligently so you could still save your life while you could. The reason behind those guidelines were and are still intended to help those who are able and willing to do something and everything they can to reduce their risk of getting affected by the virus.
On the same note, just because CNN or BBC may not be reporting on how many lives could be saved by saving the planet on their headline news does not mean you should do nothing about it.
Here are some simple practices we can put to play to reduce the effects of climate change on the ocean.
1.Get yourself a breathable re-usable mask
With covid-19’s pandemic crisis having created a new wardrobe staple, masks are everywhere; on your faces, on the beach, on the streets, and then everywhere else. However, if we do not change the way we consume and dispose of masks, we will no longer be complaining about plastics in the ocean because masks will have taken over once again.
The COVID-19 detritus has meant that discarded face masks floating like jelly fish and latex gloves lining the seafloor are adding to the world’s plastic waste crisis. “With a lifespan of 450 years, these masks are an ecological time-bomb given their lasting environmental consequences for our planet,”
When you can use your 2/3 ply mask and wash it after use to reuse it again like you do with your clothes, chances of it landing as ocean waste is less likely and helps reduce the waste currently competing with the marine life in the ocean.
“Take responsibility and do better so we can enjoy this planet in its best.”
Photo Credit: Weather.com
2. Reduce plastic usage
With 127 countries worldwide having instituted legislation that bans single-use plastic bags including manufacturing, importing and distribution, 34 of these countries are from Africa, followed by Europe with 29. Where are you?
Kenya introduced one of the toughest bans on single-use plastic bags in August 2017 with penalties of jail time for up to four years or fines of $40,000 for Kenyans producing, selling or using plastic bags. In my country of origin that used about 100 million plastic bags a year, this ban has been a great achievement in protecting our environment resulting into a cleaner Kenya.
While neighbouring Rwanda’s capital city on the East of Africa has been named Africa’s cleanest city by the UN Habitat as it works towards becoming the world’s first plastic-free country, Rwanda’s mission is to maintain a clean and healthy environment. Since 2008, the country banned the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags and packaging materials transitioning to bags made from paper, cloth, banana leaves and papyrus, among other biodegradable materials while opening up local packaging production opportunities.
To further simplify this to your individual responsibility if you care, when you go out shopping, use recyclable bags for shopping because these plastics that end up as ocean debris contribute to habitat destruction while killing marine life.
If these nations can do it on large scale, surely you too can do it individually. Your individual little-big stride can change the world one stride at a time; make your stride count.
3. Clean up your beach mess. I know you are probably thinking, “….can we just leave the beach for now?”
But, no! We can’t because if we need to experience that beach in its finest state, you and I will have to take a little responsibility more than just showing up and leaving your trash behind. Neither you nor myself would like to go on holiday to a dirty beach because a beach is not just a beach! To maintain the beauty in our favourite beaches, here’s something to do about it…..
“In whatever element of your beaching, diving, snorkelling, surfing, or sun-bathing, clean up after yourself.” 4. Respect sea marine
One afternoon while I was soaked up in one of my favourite seas right in the middle of the Indian Ocean sorrounded by all sorts of exotic marine, I got an awakening. I had just posted a video on my instagram page of me playing with the prettiest colourful starfish in the sea when somebody took responsibility and schooled me on how this affects their chances for survival.
How can we experience, appreciate and still have fun in the midst of this breathtaking marine life without interfering with their chance to thrive and survive in their natural habitat?
Starfish are born with intricate and fragile arms and tiny body structures. In spite of their regeneration capabilities, even the slightest poke may hurt or damage them. Besides hurting or damaging them while pulling them in and out of the water, our human hands are naturally dangerous to all sea creatures due to billions of bacteria which may lead to death for these creatures. Based on my learnings, I would like to encourage you too to respect the marine environment.
“Knowledge is power. Do the right thing.” 5. Education & Advocacy
If you don’t know, now you know.
Based on your knowledge and my knowledge, we can influence our tribe. Educating yourself about the oceans and marine life may not earn you a promotion at your job or a position at your dream job but it is value. If you have time, get involved through any form of advocacy within your sphere of influence because the environment is ours and our relationship with the planet is dependent on our survival in the planet.
“All life on earth is connected to the ocean and its inhabitants. If you don’t value the environment, you have no self-value”
Liz Ogumbo – Regisford