And another post inspired by the amazing blue planet 2..
Apart from the amazing footage of the octopus using shells to hide from the shark (pretty impressive, uh?) , this week episode was mostly about the green forests..
Kelp and large seaweeds are very important habitat components, but being 'living habitats' are exposed and at risk the same threats which affect all the rest of marine life: climate change, pollution... you name it! Which means in some cases active protection measures and sometimes restoration are needed to retain these very important features...
Moreover, the presence of these living habitats can change species assemblages, and those changes can reflect back on the forest via feedback loops. Let me explain: if we lose some kelp, we may lose some some species of fish and they may be the same fish species that keep other algae from over-growing and occupy the space so that the kelp cannot come back the following year. Just an example. As David Attenborough showed us, the loss of one species can affect the whole of the system. He used the otter-urchin-kelp trophic cascade, a classic example of how losing the top player can change the game. When otters were hunted, and numbers dropped dramatically, then urchin proliferated and kelp was lost due to urchin overgrazing. This is just an example and similar things happen in other systems.
Did you see how those big spider crabs were afraid of the single ray? Do you know that fear in itself can also change trophic cascades?
When we think of top predators we often think about sharks, however their close relatives, skate and rays, are also at the top of the food chain - well before humans come into play, as we fished out skates from many of our oceans..but recent work , which I was lucky enough to be part of, showed that the presence of skate in itself could help maintainance of bivalve reefs by changing crabs behaviour! This means that if we want to restore bivalve reefs, we have to think more widely about the surrounding ecosystem and take a 'holistic' approach. Restoring reefs, or other systems in general, should include all the components,from top predators to microbes, thus a unification of the many disciplines, and collaborations between ecologists, microbiologists, modellers etc should be encouraged in order to see the full picture!
Autumn is over the long leaves that love us,
And over the mice in the barley sheaves;
Yellow the leaves of the rowan above us,
And yellow the wet wild-strawberry leaves.
The hour of the waning of love has beset us,
And weary and worn are our sad souls now;
Let us part, ere the season of passion forget us,
With a kiss and a tear on thy drooping brow.
After the beautiful autumnal colours, the leaves are now starting to fall. And this can mean only one thing: 'winter is coming' (or is already upon us..).
And as the landscape undergoes another change, shedding the old to leave space for the new, so should we embrace this new season to deeply look inside ourselves and see where we want to go, what we want to leave space for and what we should work on 'shedding'.
Visualise the new that you want, new you, new neighbourhood, new community hey even new planet! Write it down, draw it, or just imagine it! How will the new leaves look on the tree? How many old leaves should it let go of?
Whether is something spiritual or something material, I challenge all of you to think of some steps that you can take to kick-start those changes.
Rules of the game:
- It can be anything, from something entirely self-centered to something with an environmental end-goal
- These are NOT resolution. Let's leave those for the new year
- Changes have to be positive. No negativity,
- Keep it a secret or share it, up to you, but enjoy the process - don't feel it as an obligation in any way, but fill it with positivity and enjoyment.
Spoilers alert: if you have not seen the latest episode of blue planet and you are waiting for it then you may want to skip this. If, on the other hand, you have been touched by the ending then this is for you!
Plastic, it's everywhere. Anything we buy in stores has plastic one way or another, whether the product itself contains it (hey it's found in anything from your toothpaste to your clothes!) or is at least packaged with it. Moreover, it has multiple ways of ending into the environment: from the classic 'thrown on the ground', to more hidden 'windswept'. From transport (apparently 4 containers are lost every day at sea) to its end, plastic creates a problem.
Yes, we can do beach cleans, and yes we can pick up rubbish everytime we are out walking the dog but the problem is a lot bigger than that.
First of all, plastic and ocean plastic in particular is not just what we see washed out on beaches (which can already be a lot depending on where you are!) but it also is a great presence in the higher seas, being trapped in the conveyor belt of currents, and, as we have seen with the bath-ducks in yesterday's episode, can be transported in many directions as well as just remaining trapped in ocean gyres...
more than that, we have the visible plastic, but also invisible (unless you have a good microscope) one known as microplastic which can be as detrimental. And lastly all plastic degrades and leaves pollutants behind. These are persistent organic pollutants, which can act alone or in combination with other pollutants already present in the environment, with disastrous consequences..
These are in fact known to be endocrine disruptors, affecting reproduction and they are also fat soluble, which means they get passed up the food chain and can end up in mammalian milk thus affecting future generations of the ocean giants as we have seen in blue planet. And can you think of another fish-eating mammalian? One that inhabits land? Yes you are right: us! Our plastic will end up back to us...
This has the potential to affect our reproduction, not just causing infertility (in men as well as women!) but also affecting fetal development, and impacting their hormones which will have negative consequences for generations to come...
Surely, we shouldn't stop our good small everyday actions , including trying to go as zero waste as possible and reduce packaging. But we should ask for more from our governments and higher institutions, we should make demands, if not only to keep our planet healthy for the future generations, but to keep them healthy too!
I have been to this festival twice while I was living in Northern Ireland, where they came to Newtownabbey as part of their UK tour - however, the tour this year was in September and I already moved out of the country. I must say I was a bit upset about missing it... although after a quick search online, finding out that there definitely wasn't a Dutch version of it, I found the Belgian equivalent...and... I live right on the border!!!
Quickly I booked a ticket for their Antwerp show, with the intention of making a little weekend out of it... and here is where the story starts!
So what is this 'film festival'?
The festival is a tour of some of the films from the 'Ocean film festival Australia', which shows in March.
According to their 'about' website:
'At the Ocean Film Festival World Tour our vision is to inspire you to explore, respect, enjoy, and protect our oceans. Film is at the heart of the Ocean Film Festival World Tour and we aim to share the best films from around the globe with our audiences'.
How does it work?
An abstract from the site:
'Our vision is to inspire more people to explore, respect, enjoy, and protect our oceans. We are looking for a broad selection of films to fill a 2+ hour program that will tour Australia, Belgium, New Zealand, Italy, China the UK and more in 2018. We are searching for one long film (45mins to 60mins) and a number of short films (40 minutes and shorter) to make up our program.'
You can submit your own film
(... maybe for next year as the deadline for this year is approaching very soon)
At the Ocean Film Festival World Tour we are actively searching for films covering topics including ocean exploration, ocean related adventures, marine creatures, ocean related sports, ocean racing, coastal cultures, sailing, diving, rowing, free diving, surfing, oceanic environment, and ocean lovers.
The 2018 Ocean Film Festival tour will kick off in Australia in March 2018. The deadline for submissions is November 2017.'
Okay, so what did I watch and what did I enjoy most?
Firstly I have to say that I think that while most films seemed to be the same between the UK and Belgian tour, some are different. For example, I am a bit upset that the film 'Fishpeople' by Patagonia was not there! And I cannot seem to find it on the European ITunes (not yet anyway...) :(
This was replaced by '4 mums on a boat' , which I have already seen as part of the Banff film festival (a close relative...). Anyway, despite having already seen it, was not bad to watch again as it is a very interesting, motivating film where four 'mums' win the record for being the older team completing the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge , the toughest rowing event. Inspiring, showing you can do anything if you put your mind to it...
My favourites, however, in order were:
'Sea Gypsies' : as a sailing-loving girl, this film about sailing from New Zealand through to Patagonia via Antarctica was great! Not just adventure-filled but also about community of people that can form on board a vessel, and importance of being human and getting through some tough and scary times. Some funny parts, and they even attempt to help Sea Shepard! Recommend it 100%!
'Ocean rubbish' : in this film, David Day, an artist from Queensland picks up rubbish they found washed up on the shore and makes colourful yet surprisingly life-like models of all sorts of marine life, turning worthless junk into objects of beauty, and raising awareness of the ever-growing problem of plastic in our oceans. 3 Minutes of pure cool art made out of plastic - i'd be happy to have some of his models as art in my house :D
Haven : of course, a free-diving video could not miss Guillame Néry. Great shots of the largest wreck in the mediterranean down at 40-50 meters, all filmed by free divers.. pretty cool if you ask me! I wish I could free-dive to those depths, but I am content with my 8-10 m
Other films shown included 'the Legacy', with which I have some issues. A film about conservation of the oceans, which is great, and as a marine biologist I agree we should push for conservation. But, why only the conservation of the giant charismatic megafauna? Manta ray, sharks, turtle, dolphins, whales. Yes they have to be protected, but there is more to the ocean than them, and we should start pushing for conservation of the whole ecosystem...
Running.. 'what sport could be more environmentally friendly that something powered solely by your legs (and mind) ?' you may be thinking
Well.. you are right!
Yet there are still some impacts involved that could be reduced by being aware of them to try and reduce them as much as possible.
Running clothes are often made of technical fabrics promising to maintain optimal temperatures, keeping you dry and being breathable. This comes at the cost of being made of plastic and artificial fabrics, which will leach microfibres into the environment.
Solutions: buy natural clothes whenever possible, switch technical for cotton, bamboo, wool - they are very breathable and better for your skin as well!
If you are not ready to make the switch or are in real need of the 'technical' clothes then consider changing the way you are washing them! Read here for some great advice.
As a general rule of thumbs shoes should be changed every 300-500 miles, which may sound like a lot, but serious runners may get to this mileage quite quickly... which means a lot of shoes in the bin! Also - one should think about all of the process of running shoes making and shipping, and one can see that the impacts can be... huge! Listen more about it and learn about some actions you can take on the Running Realized podcast!
Solutions: (1) recycle them!; (2) choose brands that put sustainability on the forefront! (Your choice matters!) - for example oncloud cycleon (more on the runpod podcast)
some impacts associated with racing events:
racing packs = often a lot of waste of plastic/papers in race intro packs, goodie bags (often full of 'junk' items that end up in bins)
water points = water served in plastic cups that end up on the ground shortly after being used
driving to races
Solutions: Try and choose wisely what events to attend, take everything home with you and sort it in various recycling bins, see if there are things worth keeping or giving away to a friend, try not to throw your empties on the floor, actually try not to leave any traces of you ever being there. Try and car share whenever possible, or maybe take public transport? See if they need volunteers to clean up after, I know, it may be the last thing you want to do but hey - you are doing something for the greater goods!
4) Wild running
Trail and nature - what could be best? I love my dose of trail running. However some risks include disturbing nature.
So: be mindful of where you are running, what are you likely to encounter? Stick to the paths to avoid stepping on potentially important plant species, be quiet (steps aside), be generally aware, read any signs at the trail entrance that may warn you of what and what not to do and most important: leave no traces!
Food - a topic loved by mostly all of us, featuring not only in our kitchen but taking over our bookshelves, televisions, social media feeds, even newspapers..
This weekend read wants to be a discussion-springing one, so please feel free to leave comments with your thoughts an ideas.
Theme: how can perception and perspectives of foods can be manipulated in order to introduce sustainable, but perhaps quirky, produces into the market?
This came to my mind after lunch discussions with my examiners after passing my viva.. after 3 hours of discussions on my thesis we proceeded to discuss about introducing green crabs in the market and generally getting people to eat more quirky seafood than the usual cod or haddock or salmon fillets..
One of the professors (thanks Mark!) gave the great example of how companies got us to eat long stem broccoli compared to the typical round form. Why ? Because harvest is easier. How? We are still not quite sure, yet shelves in local supermarkets are booming with them. Appealed to our laziness? Made them look fancy by packing them in a box? Showed us some fancy recipes? If people know and remember of a time pre long stem - how did you started buying the long stem and why?
Another example is avocados - they quickly became a symbol, an obligate component for the perfect hipster brunch.. how did it start? Can we harvest the same power to promote sustainable foods?
One possible idea would be the exploitation of social media - let's flood instagram with creations using unusual foods..
Or get a TV presenter to launch green crab, for example, as the next 'cool and fashionable' food
Or encourage supermarkets to launch new lines, (e.g. the 'invasive' species )
As absurd as it sounds, maybe we will all be eating some seaweed and crab lasagna in some fancy hipster restaurant in the near future...
I have personally not been much of a chewer, the occasional time here and there and perhaps in school to be like the cool kids.
At the same time, not caring that much for chewing, I have not payed that much attention to gums.. until recently, where a Facebook post prompted me to comment with what I thought were environmental and societal impacts of chewing-gum in order to win some sustainable chewing gum...
"Wait, one moment, what did you just ask me?! Environmental impacts of gum??"
So, having a curious scientist mind, I went on to read.
Here are some impacts I found out about:
If you want to know more, here is a great article on the Ecologist
And a great infographic by Custom Made
Sustainable, environmentally friendly gum does exist - if you really can't resist chewing!
Check online or in your local eco shops, and make sure it is made from sustainable sources.. natural does not automatically mean environmentally friendly!
Or, some actually natural alternatives to chewing gum (healthier as well!)
Books.. to me they are like magical creatures.
I have always been an avid reader, and since I had been a child if I book catches me it doesn't let me go - not even to break for dinner! (I remember my mother having to literally take the books off me when it was time to eat).
Even now, when I enter into a bookshop I am fascinated, attracted by the graphics of the cover, catchy titles, that smell, that so-important font size, and aspect ratio of the book. Sometimes with books it's love at first sight - even before reading the little summary, you just know that's the one for you.
Whether is entering a good bookshop selling new books, or even better some used book fair, old old bookshop, or why not that quirky independent bookshop in the corner, there are some great feelings that come with it.
The best thing that happened to me this past weekend was getting to do yoga in a bookshop, a very nice, independent bookshop with cool displays, great colours, hanging old typewriters...
Yet, these places are at danger.
If they were not already endangered enough from the large library companies (thinking of La Feltrinelli and Mondadori in Italy, or WHS smith and Waterstones in the UK and other parts of Europe and similar), or from the fact that people don't read as much anymore (with other activities such as watching TV and playing videogames taking over their spare time), the internet and the buy-now-with-one-click-and-receive-tomorrow society that we have become is further burying these sacred places.
I admit, I am one of those people who owns an e-reader. I have to say, it is pretty handy for travelling (no longer having to drag with me a whole extra suitcase of books for the summer holidays abroad is a big advantage!) and for the time being living abroad and not speaking much Dutch it does make it easier. But it is a different feeling, choosing a book to read is no more a question of love at first sight, but an endless search through the recommendation based on previous buys from Goodreads or Amazon, which often result in half read books, which has never happened with a shop-bought book before! It is perhaps the fact that an ebook comes from so cheap that buying gets easier and 'throwing away (/archiving)' half-way also gets easier? Perhaps!
But as soon as I have a chance, I try to sponsor these small libraries, or anyway try to get in and find their (unfortunately somewhat limited) English section to see if my next love is sitting there waiting for me. And I try to smile at the owner, maybe have a silly chat, make them feel worth it. And breathe it in, with the nose, with the eyes, the books, the colours, the arrangement of the place, get inspirations, find ideas, look through that art book and discover something new.
I encourage you all to take a step away from your next amazon order and find your quirky corner bookshop!
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