Why Is Life On Earth Taking Second Place To Fossil Fuel Companies
Now, this week we spoke to Tim Silverwood. An environmental activist and entrepreneur. His company, Ocean Impact Organisation, is really making a difference. It’s encouraging industries to find solutions to the environmental problems that we have. I think it was a really important podcast, a really important subject. I mean, Tim raised some rather disturbing statistics that here in Australia we consume something like 100 kilos per person per year of plastics, which invariably find their way into the ocean.
Only 13% of the plastics that we consume are recycled. His organisation is certainly working hard to ensure that number goes up significantly and even more disturbingly, I guess, is the fact that 350 million tons of plastic are added to our environment each year. I would encourage you to have a listen to it.
I also thought I would share with you this article that came out almost in the same week that I spoke to Tim. This seemed like an excellent thing to draw your attention to as well and the article came out in The Weekly Guardian, and it was entitled The Plastisphere. If that’s the term you’re not familiar with, you will be in a moment. New life forms are born of garbage. The plastics we allow to pollute our oceans have given rise to a warped ecosystem of novel specialised organisms.
It makes a few rather sobering points. Plastic bottles dominate waste in the ocean, with an estimated one million of them reaching the sea every minute, one million every minute and the biggest culprit is polyethylene terephthalates. We may know them better than PET bottles.
When you go into a shop and ask for a bottle of water, then that is a PET bottle that you are using. It goes on to say, like the atmosphere, the magnetosphere, the hydrosphere, the plastics, the plastic sphere is a region, but it’s also an ecosystem. Like the Siberian steppe or coral reef, a plasticised marine environment. It’s a plasticised marine environment. The best-known concentration of seaborne plastic waste is The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a sort of plastic soup spread over an area roughly twice the size of France.
But really, plastic is everywhere and we actually did speak to Tim about his experience. He went on a 5000-kilometre journey to witness firsthand The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. I won’t spoil that for you. He gave a very interesting insight. I think the key here is the plastic is everywhere.
While we are encouraged to eat seafood as a healthy, healthy choice, I have always certainly over the last 5 or 10 years, had serious concerns about seafood as a choice for two reasons. One, the sustainability issue. We have literally raped and pillaged the sea. So now there are just dead patches within vast areas of the ocean. You only have to look at the way fishing is conducted, where two big trawlers will drop nets that might be actually kilometres apart and those nets just literally vacuum up the ocean floor, collecting fish large and small with commercial value and no commercial value. That is sorted perhaps stuff is thrown back.
Perhaps the stuff that doesn’t have commercial value is then ground up as what’s called buy kill and then served as part of the diet to farmed fish. Farmed fish you think is an alternative? You probably, we might have a podcast soon with people who have worked in that industry and I don’t think it’s a very pretty picture.
I certainly am not reassured by farmed fish as an alternative. In the same way that I don’t like industrial animal agriculture, you know, animals that are kept unnaturally in their pens and their waste, which is actually an amazing resource for nature, actually becomes a toxic problem, which needs chemical interventions to protect the species from infection as in antibiotic use, which is what is our biggest exposure is antibiotic use in our animal agricultural industry and also the use of other additives to provide necessary colour. So this is a problem. One of well, I digresses there.
The first problem with seafood is sustainability. We have literally stripped the ocean of life. The second problem is one of toxicity. I’ve always felt that large fish were a no-go area for me because I was for many years for the last 30 or so or 40 years, preoccupied with mercury toxicity, which I still am to this day. I would always avoid larger fish like tuna and kingfish, you know, those fish that are further up the food chain in the ocean because they concentrate the mercury into their bodies and therefore onto my plate.
It seems that seafood, large and small, are affected by plastic. The study Tim referred to is that we consume 5 grams of plastic a day in one form or another, whether we open a bag of chips, whether we are near a road where the brakes, the brake linings of cars, plastic and or rubber, and that is a derivative from the fossil fuel industry, and we inhale that.
That same study said something like, we consume a credit card of plastic, whether I think it was a week, a month or even if it was for a year, I don’t want to be consuming your credit card bit of plastic ever in my life, let alone over a year. But that is what the studies are showing. We are actually consuming and so this is a real problem.
Plastics, of course, are produced by the fossil fuel industry, which as fossil fuels are losing their flavour, they are the industry has over the last 30 or 40 years, pivoted very significantly to produce plastics, and they are literally everywhere. I digress for a moment. But I also would like to draw your attention to the fact that the International Monetary Fund has done a study and over the last five more years.
When I first became aware of the study in 2015 or 16, and it hasn’t changed to any appreciable degree, they estimated that the fossil fuel industry receives, in government and other subsidies, something like 5 trillion US dollars a year. Now, that’s a hard figure to get your head around. Let me put it into a more realistic perspective. That is 10 million US dollars a minute. This Healthy Bite may go for five or 10 minutes and during that time, the fossil fuel industry globally has received something like 50 to 100 trillion, a million dollars, 50 to 100 million dollars of subsidies.
Now, that five trillion US dollars a year subsidy is more than all the health budgets of all the countries combined. Just get your head around that one and and and realise that this isn’t just about carbon dioxide in the environment from fossil fuels being burned, but the fossil fuel industry also is responsible for the plastics.
One can only imagine why we don’t nationalise them all and closed more of them. But I’m not in charge of the government or governments for that matter. Anyway, if we take the definition of an ecosystem as a biological community interacting with organisms and their physical environment, then this is almost certainly true of The Plastisphere.
Another unique feature of the plastisphere is that it is humans that invented it, unlike the other ecosystems that have evolved literally over millions of years. The meaning of that is not clear. I can only assume that it’s not going to be a very positive thing that we have developed this wonderful or this not wonderful, but this ecosystem called The Plastisphere. One thing is for sure, the earth will definitely survive irrespective of the environmental challenges we as a species put to it, and perhaps our time on this earth is just a short blip. I’m an optimist and I believe in human ingenuity and our ability to turn these things around.
Article: Why Is Life on Earth Still Taking Second Place to Fossil Fuel Companies
However, there is another article in this same journal that I thought I would share with you. Now, this article entitled Why Is Life on Earth Still Taking Second Place to Fossil Fuel Companies? it is written by one of my favourite journalists, George Monbiot. Whatever he writes seems to resonate with me. Let me just share with you some of the highlights here of this article, this is George Monbiot saying, “The human tragedy is that there is no connection between what we know and what we do.
Almost everyone is now at least vaguely aware that we face the greatest catastrophe our species has ever confronted. Yet scarcely anyone alters their behaviour in response to it. I mentioned to you about fossil fuel subsidies. Let me give you another perspective. An analysis by the conservation charity. The World Wildlife Fund suggests that while the last UK budget allocated 198 million dollars, this is The Australian Guardian.
They’ve converted it into dollars for environmental measures. It dedicated 55 billion dollars, 55 billion dollars to policies that will increase emissions. Unless we leave fossil fuels in the ground, any commitment to stop climate breakdown is merely a gesture. That commitment of 198 million dollars to environmental measures while dedicating 55 billion dollars to policies which will increase emissions is a good example of that.”.
Actually goes even further. This is how insidious or how powerful one might say the fossil fuel industry is. I would have to add to this, apart from this journal and maybe others, too, but the media are complicit in not bringing this to our attention each and every day. Another example he draws on. “A UK oil company is currently suing the Italian government for the loss of its future anticipated profits after Italy banned new oil drilling in coastal waters. Italy used to be a signatory of the Energy Charter treaty, which allows companies to demand compensation if it stops future projects.” So how’s that for something that is built-in? “Government still fears lobby groups more than they fear the collapse of our living systems.
We need a global programme that places the survival of humanity and the rest of life on Earth
No government, even the most progressive, is yet prepared to contemplate the transformation. We need a global programme that places the survival of humanity and the rest of life on Earth above all other images. We don’t just need new policies, but new ethics. We need to close the gap between knowing and doing. But this conversation has scarcely begun.”.
Well, that’s partly what this podcast is all about. And wouldn’t it be great if this message got out to a few million people every week? But I refer now to one of my favourite episodes with Allan Savory, which I refer back to you often, and he is a world leader in holistic management. He says all things need to, every decision made by governments, companies, local authorities, organisations, individuals need to have a holistic context, something over the top of every decision that is made which drives and informs their decision.
The holistic context perhaps could be why is life on Earth still taking second place to fossil fuel companies? Why not make the holistic context that life on earth is the health of the individual and the health of the planet? Because they are inseparable are the major driver, the major ethic that everything is all future policies are made from that point on.
I thought I would just share with you some of those thoughts and some of those really great articles that came out in the same week that I had the pleasure of talking to Tim Silverwood. I think he and the organisation that he’s doing is doing a terrific job. In that same week, I also had the pleasure, which I always enjoy, of talking to another environmental activist and a wonderful author, Sarah Wilson. That episode will be out as well. She talks a lot about this existential threat, which we all face and all need to do something about. I hope this finds you well. Until next time.
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