First, I’d better help you wade through the morass of bureaucratic structure here: the oddly named Global Environment Facility (GEF) is a partnership between non-governmental organizations (including several United Nations programs), private sector participants, and 182 member governments from around the globe. The GEF’s substantial budget funds projects focusing on “biodiversity, climate change, international waters, land degradation, the ozone layer, and persistent organic pollutants” in developing and transitional economies. The GEF is advised by six experts on their Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP), which is essentially the objective science behind the GEF’s money.
The STAP has just released two publications on what they deem the most relevant challenges currently facing our global environment. Both topics have been featured here on this blog with some frequency: 1) hypoxic “dead zones” resulting from nutrient run-off into the oceans, and 2) Marine plastic pollution. The first issue was selected in light of the increasing number of these zones, now estimated at over 500 worldwide. The report is encouraging in its findings that this problem has a clear solution: reduce the amount of agricultural wastes, human sewage and livestock manure entering the oceans. As such, the GEF is advised to target funding at projects seeking to slow or stop these streams of excessive nutrients.The report on marine plastics is a bit more holistic, recognizing that we have been focused on the end result of plastics in the oceans and have not adequately addressed the matter of why we generate so much single use, designed-for-disposal plastic. The STAP advocates that the GEF apply itself to plastic pollution throughout that material’s lifetime, adopting a “5 Rs approach: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Redesign and Recover.”
On a personal note, your blogger points out the report’s specific mention of all the single use plastic used simply to package other items. As the mother of two small boys at Christmastime, I have found myself often demoralized by the shelves and shelves of plastic toys, which are themselves encased in plastic. As a result, my boys receive a great many second-hand, thrift store action figures as gifts due to my inability to fully finance this disposable culture. Still, none of us can avoid it entirely. Everything comes wrapped in plastic, much of which cannot be recycled either. As the STAP report points out, we have to stem this land based runoff of plastic if we want less of this stuff to end up in the oceans.
So as Hanukah begins, and Christmas closes in, I wish a minimally packaged holiday to all who celebrate, and to everyone, a reduced runoff of fecal material into our oceans!