A conversation with Bertrand Piccard, the scientist-adventurer currently on the American leg of his global solar flight on the Solar Impulse 2, on the view from 28,000 feet, how we nearly turned our ocean into a dump for nuclear waste and win-win solutions for a healthy planet. We spoke on the eve of World Oceans Day.
The following has been edited for clarity and length.
• The potential of innovation
• A critique of the environmental movement
• People have put plastics into our ocean
• An almost radioactive ocean
Andreas Merkl: I’m curious. When you’re up there flying, is it a perfectly quiet experience? Or is it the rumble that you get in a typical soaring airplane?
Bertrand Piccard: You have a little whistle of the electrical motors. The carbon fiber makes a little bit of cracks here and there. You feel a little bit of vibrations. But compared to a normal airplane, it’s really quiet. When I fly this plane, I have the impression to be in a story of science fiction. I look at the sun and I know it’s my only source of power, and it’s coming down to leave me energy to continue the flight. Each time I look outside and I say, “It’s really magical.” And I look the propellers turning, I see these huge wings on my left and my right, and I think, “I’m crossing oceans.” It’s reality, actually. It’s not science fiction. It’s magical. It’s like a fairy tale.
Read the entire blog at NationalGeographic.com
This has been a good year for the ocean. The hard work of ocean advocates — like you —has resulted in a series of victories moving us towards a cleaner, healthier ocean for the communities and animals that depend on it.
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Today, Ocean Conservancy released a major report: Stemming the Tide: Land-based strategies for a plastic-free ocean. We think it’s a big deal. It squarely addresses one of our biggest worries: the avalanche of plastic that cascades into the ocean every year.
It’s getting really bad. Practically every kind of animal, from plankton to whales, is now contaminated by plastic. It’s in the birds, in the turtles, in the fish. At the current rate, we could have 1 ton of plastics for every 3 tons of fish by 2025.
This is nobody’s plan. It’s not the plan of the plastics industry, it’s not the plan of the consumer goods industry and it’s certainly not the plan for those of us who love and need the ocean. Nobody wants this.
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Charlie Enright, a Rhode Island native, is skipper of Team Alvimedica, the youngest of the seven international teams in the 2014-2015 Volvo Ocean Race which began last October and recently completed Leg 7 (out of nine) in Lisbon, Portugal. The Volvo Ocean Race is the world’s premier offshore race, an exceptional test of sailing prowess and human endeavor, which began over 40 years ago. At 30, Enright has already accumulated thousands of offshore miles and inshore racing results—including a Transatlantic and Rolex Fastnet Race in 2011. Before dedicating himself full time to the Volvo Race campaign, he worked at North Sails Rhode Island and managed multiple sailing campaigns for All American Ocean Racing. Charlie is an Ambassador for 11th Hour Racing, a program of The Schmidt Family Foundation, which establishes strategic partnerships within the sailing and marine communities to promote collaborative systemic change for the health of our coastal, offshore, and freshwater environments.
You can follow Charlie on Twitter @enright_charlie or Instagram @cte02809.
Andreas Merkl is in his third year as CEO of Ocean Conservancy, a D.C.-based nonprofit dedicated to the health and productivity of the ocean that covers over 70 percent of the planet. Merkl is an experienced strategist with a lifelong commitment to environmental causes. Prior to taking the helm at Ocean Conservancy, Merkl served as a principal at California Environmental Associates, a San Francisco-based think tank and consultancy focused on the management of the natural resource commons. Earlier in his career, he was a founding member of McKinsey & Company’s Environmental Practice and vice president and co-founder of the CH2M HILL Strategy Group, a leading provider of environmental management consulting worldwide. Andreas is on Twitter as @andreasmerkl.
Enright and Merkl: While one of us is a native of Rhode Island and part of the Millennial Generation and the other hails from Germany and came of age in the 1970s, we share one thing in common – a great passion for the ocean.
Enright: As a sailor, I race through the ocean’s surface on some of the fastest sailboats in the world. The ocean is my home, and it is everyone’s backyard. When I’m not sailing, I try to get home to the Ocean State, Rhode Island, where I’m from and where my family – including my wife and soon-to-be-born son – make our home. Having grown up here, the sailing and the sea are in my DNA.
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How much plastic do you think is in the ocean? Just last week, a paper was published that estimates 5.25 trillion plastic particles, weighing about 269,000 tons, are floating in the ocean. This news helps confirm what many scientists have been saying for years: that plastic pollution in the ocean isn’t just in the famous “garbage patches” – it’s everywhere.
This is very bad news for our ocean. Once in the water, plastic breaks into tiny pieces that collect harmful industrial pollutants. While this paper looks only at the plastic floating in the water, there is much more plastic in other parts of the ocean. Some of the plastic ends up the famous garbage patches – the rest is dispersed throughout the water, resting on the ocean floor and trapped in Arctic ice. This highly-polluted plastic is also ingested by animals.
Read more at Forbes.com >>
Photo: Kanyarat Kosavisutte
Ocean Conservancy is turning 42 today – that makes us one of the oldest conservation organizations in the US. But 42 is the new 17, and we’re feeling anything but settled these days. Sure, we are delighted at our successes (none more so than the complete turnaround of US fisheries). There are definitely a few things that really frost our cookies – and none more so than that disgusting and dangerous mess that is clinically known as “marine debris.”
Let’s call it what it is: trash in the ocean. The ocean contains a staggering amount of it. There’s enough to fill more than 200 professional football stadiums. In ten years or so, there will be one ton of trash for every 2-3 tons of fish. If you love the ocean, that’s just completely unacceptable.
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Photo: Thomas Jones
Plastic in our ocean — I think we can all agree this isn’t a good combination. The question is what do we do about it? This year, Ocean Conservancy and our partners collected the largest amount of trash in the 28-year history of our International Coastal Cleanup. In that time, volunteers have removed more than 175 million pounds of trash, much of it plastic, from beaches and waterways around the world. From this first-hand experience, we know the problem is getting worse, and it goes deeper than you might think. The good news is this is a problem we can fix. It will require a new approach to how we deal with plastic pollution, but it is a global issue we can and must solve. Let’s consider the facts. In the next 25 years, ocean plastics could grow to 300-500 million tons, or about one pound of plastics for every two pounds of fish in the sea. So where does it all go? We can’t yet say for sure, but when plastic fragments into smaller, bite-sized pieces, we do know that it is being ingested by fish, sea turtles, marine mammals, and a host of other ocean creatures. Because plastic particles adsorb pollutants in concentrations that can be 100,000 to 1 million times greater than that found in surrounding seawater, the implications to the health of marine life are profound and deeply troubling.
Read more at the Huffington Post