Environmental Think Space

The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing – Albert Einstein

People love technological solutions … but why?

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“The natural world is far better at generating the services ecosystems provide than we are at engineering them. Unlike real reefs, Florida’s and Alabama’s underwater scrapyards disintegrate within five or ten years of disposal to litter the bottom with old car parts and crumbling panels. Seawalls cost millions of dollars per kilometre to build and have to be regularly maintained at great expense, whereas saltmarshes, mangroves and coral reefs protect the coast far better and look after themselves. Fish ponds produce one or a few varieties of fish, usually with large subsidies from wild nature in the form of feed, clean water, land and waste disposal. The mangroves, saltmarshes and tidal flats they replace are nurseries to dozens to commercially important species that grow and disperse to sustain fisheries more widely. In New Zealand, tests with plastic seagrass showed that it attracted a considerable variety and abundance of fish. Many estuaries in New Zealand have lost nearly all their natural seagrass since the 1960s. But real seagrass is far better at the job, with the added benefits of oxygenating the water, filtering wastes, binding sediment, capturing carbon and providing food for a host of animals from turtles to snails. Natural habitats are solar powered and will continue to deliver their multiple benefits as long as the sun shines and we take care not to harm them. So why are we finding plastic and concrete solutions rather than preserving and protecting our natural resources?” — Callum Roberts Ocean of Life: How Our Seas Are Changing 


We should be working with nature rather than overexploiting resources and manipulating it to our liking. Finding this balance will be essential to our survival, not the planet’s. Robert’s goes on to describe the benefits of marine reserves or marine protected areas (MPAs) in strengthening the ocean’s variety and abundance and gives examples from the Philippines, Fiji, Belize, Egypt, the Bahamas, South Africa, Florida, New Zealand, Scotland among other places which have demonstrated the benefits of setting aside parks in the sea. These benefits have included:

increases in the abundance, biomass, diversity and productivity of many organisms;

reductions in the loss of threatened and vulnerable species;

helping ecosystems recover from natural and human impacts;

the provision of reference sites for the evaluation of threats to biodiversity;

‘Spill over’ of fish from sanctuaries into areas open to fishing;

building resilience to protect against damaging external impacts, such as climate change;

and helping to maintain local cultures, economies and livelihoods that are intricately linked to the marine environment.



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