The environment sector’s mantra ‘think global, act local’ came to mind when reading about the research of Erik van Sebille, an Oceanographer at Imperial College London. Van Sebille’s work has shown that, in the space of just two years, most of the plastic dumped in seas around the UK travels to the Arctic.
With the region’s fish and wildlife already in danger from the effects of climate change and the melting of the polar ice cap, the climate scientist reckons it “is probably the worst place for plastic to be at this moment”.
Some try to downplay the UK’s role in the pollution of the world’s oceans, pointing out that other regions (notably Southeast Asia) dump a far greater volume of plastics into the seas. However, ocean currents around the UK mean that plastic can be swept north very quickly, making pollution in this area particularly significant. Van Sebille’s assessment is that the UK’s waste “has a very big impact on one of the most vulnerable ecosystems in the world”.
That actions close to home can have such a disastrous impact globally is undeniably shocking. However, ‘think global, act local’ works both ways- small, personal actions can have a positive impact on the rest of the world, as well as a negative one. Everyone can take simple steps to contribute towards protecting and improving the global environment.
Take a look at PECT’s tips on how to be greener at home, school and work for some great ways to get started. If recycling a single plastic bottle or tin can feels insignificant, remember that respectively, these steps would save enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb or a TV for 3 hours. All of these materials can hold great value.
As one of people credited with first using the phrase ‘think global, act local’, the American philosopher Buckminster Fuller, said: “Pollution is nothing but resources we’re not harvesting.”
Emma Taylor is the Healthy Homes Project Support Officer at Peterborough Environment City Trust.