A Plastic Ocean

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Last week I attended the Bournemouth screening of A Plastic Ocean, a new documentary focusing on the rise of plastic consumption over the last half a century & the huge impact that its having on the world’s marine environment. As oceans cover 71% of the earth’s surface and hold almost 97% of the planet’s water, this is a massive global problem effecting us all. Journalist & Director Craig Leeson travels the world investigating the grave plastic problems facing species, habitats & communities, while also shining a light on many inattentive solutions. You can watch the  Trailer & the full film is now available to download.

  • Packaging accounts for just over 40% of total plastic usage.
  • Annually approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide. More than one million bags are used every minute.
  • A plastic bag has an average “working life” of 15 minutes.
  • Over the last ten years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century.

All manner of polluting plastics were covered in the 100 minutes including 2012 nurdle spill in Hong Kong, when six containers carry 15 billion raw plastic pellets were washed overboard during a typhoon. Using social media, volunteers were soon coordinated to help with this impossible clean up operation, while manufacturer Sinotec assisted financial after being traced as the source of the nurdles

The social & health implications of colossal amounts plastic in oceans & coastal areas are highlighted by children in Manila scavenging through rubbish heaps for any plastic of value. Leeson interviewed a group of boys playing basketball by the water’s edge, they were cheeky & full of bravado as they spoke proudly of being able earn money to give to their mothers. While in Fiji crops are grown on top of decades worth of rubbish & waste is the form of make shift allotments & plastics are used as free alternatives to fuel for cooking, leading to cancer, fertility & respiratory issues.

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The impact of plastics in the marine environment in well documented, plastic bags along with mass balloon releases are dangerous to turtles, mammals & seabirds and micro plastics including micro beads found in cosmetics are now in the seafood we consume. Perhaps the most shocking findings came from Dr Jennifer Lavers work with Shearwaters on the Australian Coast. One 90 day old chick was found to have already ingested 275 pieces of plastic weighing 15g, the equivalent of an average human have almost 10 kg of plastic in their stomach!

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The documentary featured a short clip of Barack Obama & Sir David Attenborough  in conversation about environmental issues including marine conservation, watch the full interview HERE.

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The final 30 minutes of A Plastic Ocean focused on solutions to these wide ranging problems, including Plastic Bank fantastic #socialplastic  initiative which helps communities through recycling & enterprise.

Along with experts & campaigner’s calls for changes in policy & practices from industry & governments in order to reverse millions of tonnes of plastic that enter the oceans each year, behaviour change from individuals is essential too.

There are many campaigns & projects in addition to simple changes that will greatly reduce your plastic consumption. But plastic is all around us, in the film both Craig Leeson & record breaking free diver Tanya Streeter investigated plastics in food packaging, in supermarkets, cafes & take away.  Many establishments could not offer an alternative to a single use cup that would be used for a matter of minutes. But with refill schemes like Refill Bristol  & compostable cutlery like Vegware reducing your plastic is achievable.

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A Plastic Ocean is essential viewing, in a similar vein to the incredible Racing Extinction (which is also a must see documentary!) conbining stunning footage with a  accessable information from leading scientists & activists. The screening I attended was held in a school hall with a wide range of people attending on a cold January evening, people will’ve left like me with a scence of both urgency & hope that we all have to tackle this plastic problem.

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2016 Round Up

Reflecting on 2016, personally its been a very busy year. Work wise, its the first time since graduating that I’ve been in the same role, this has lead to some great professional achievements with successful events. Aside from work, volunteering, campaigning & travelling has been full on too.

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Late February saw me & my partner head off on our annual  city break, as usual it involved drinking lots of coffee, walking miles, eating local pastries, people watching & just relaxing. Highly recommend the city, great value, stunning views, lovely parks, friendly people, history, street art & culture.

Talks & Conferences

Throughout the 2016, I’ve attended a number of conferences, talks & events. In March I headed to Bristol for Birders Against Wildlife Crime‘s (BAWC) 2nd Eyes in the field conference, despite only being able to attend the one day I saw a superb range of guest speakers including Inglorious author Mark Avery & David Lindo – The Urban Birder .

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April saw Litter Free Coast & Sea’s first TOM Talk, Tomorrow’s Ocean’s Matter, held at Bournemouth University, the evening consisted of fine talks from #2minutebeachclean founder Martin Dorey  , Riz board shorts & Flotsam artist Jo Atherton

In August I ventured to Rutland for Birdfair, billed as “the Glastonbury for nature fanatics”, again due to work commitments I could only attend one day (work keeps getting in the way!), I caught up with friends,  volunteered  on the BAWC stand for a few hours, saw a few talks & debates.

And to round off the year I attend George Monbiot & Ewan McLennan’s lecture/concert on Loneliness and H is for Hawk author Helen McDonald in conversation.

Botswana

10 days in Botswana really was a trip of a life time, we had countless incredible wildlife encounters, such as an impala interrupting breakfast being chased by wild dog  into camp, watching 10 elephants cross the river holding each others tails,  watching fish eagles hunt and getting up close to vultures. These amazing experiences along with flying in light aircraft over the Okavango, spending time with family and the wonderful staff at the camps have given me lasting memories.

Volunteering

Litter Free Coast & Sea- manning the stand at Purbeck School’s science fair in April, engaging with lots of families about micro beads in cosmetics such as face scrubs & toothpaste and promoting the Beat the Bead app . I once again helped at Dorset Food & Drinks Christmas Fair at Athlehampton House, talking to people about all aspects of Litter Free’s campaign including single use plastics, bathing water quality & beach cleans.

New Forest Smooth Snake Project- After under going a day’s training & being issued with the correct licences & a km survey square I carried out 10 surveys as part of  smooth snake project , sadly I didn’t record any smooth snakes, Britain’s rarest reptile, at my heathland site near Sway , but did note many adders, slow worm & common lizards.

Raptor Camp-  In late September I spent a week in Malta volunteering with Birdlife Malta, monitoring bird migration over the island & combating illegal hunting of protected species. This is my 6th time attending these migration camps that also take place during the spring. Sighting highlights include watching around 60 kestrels coming into roost, honey buzzards & osprey.

Hen Harrier Day 2016

August saw the 3rd Hen Harrier Day, a series of fundraising & awareness events across the country coordinated by BAWC and a number of regional volunteers. Around 10 events happened over the weekend, including in Mull, Yorkshire & London, leading up to the so called “glorious 12th”, which signals the start of the grouse shooting season. The links between grouse shooting & the breeding “success” of hen harriers & other birds of prey are well documented!  Raptor Persecution UK is an excellent blog  for further information. As with the 2015’s event at RSPB Arne, my role was to deliver  the social  media campaign, promote the event, liaise with local bird groups, answer general enquires & source raffle prizes, which this year signed books, magazine subscriptions & nest boxes.

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This year Hen Harrier Day South had a very special guest speaker, renowned naturalist& presenter Iolo Williams . As the event fell during our trip to Botswana we had to celebrate from thousands of miles away!

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Attending a League Against Cruel Sports reception at Parliament in September

Blogging-

I started South Coastal back in June for daily blogging for The Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild , writing each day about our wild activities , everything from den building, visiting reserves, wild art & going tech free for the day.

I’ve also guest blogged for Green Hampshire a regional environmental network , firstly in June for #2minutebeachclean Day and more recently about the huge waste issue of take away coffee cups.

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Aside from all the cultural, political & social chaos, bad news & uncertainty, its been a busy year & productive 12 months for me personally. I’m now in the process of making plans for this year with further volunteering, campaigning, travelling & possibly a new role!

Last Day!

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30 Days Wild has come to an end, a month packed with random acts of wilderness. We’ve carried out acts in 4 counties, Hampshire, Dorset, Devon & Sussex. We’ve visited reserves & sites superbly managed by Dorset, Devon, & Hampshire & IOW Wildlife Trust, the RSPB and National Trust. I’ve enjoyed the beauty of my daily commute through one of our National Parks, grabbed 10 minutes away from my desk & appreciated sitting under a tree. I asked Max what his highlights were, he replied rock pooling, rolling in the wet grass, den building & getting blasted by the wind.

Being wild hasn’t been a challenge really, we’re very lucky to live in the New forest & very close to the coast, but writing about it every daily has been harder than I imagined. Next year I’d probably blog every 3 to 5 days.

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Day 30, a muddy walk around the reedbeds at Lymington Undershore

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Now the question is will be #Staywild ? will our lives be #365DaysWild ?? Well most likely nature & the outdoors will continue to be an important part of out day. Today, July the 1st, I still managed to buy birdseed & top up feeders, survey for reptiles for ARC Trust, walk a few miles on the beach & collect loads of litter as part of a  2minutebeachclean.

 

Thanks to everyone who read, liked, retweeted during June, and massive thanks to the 30DaysWild Team at the Wildlife Trusts!

Safari Preparations!

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We can’t believe the end of June & our 30 Days wild Challenge is in sight, I have to say connecting with nature &  taking time out of the day to be wild has been the easy part. The month has flown by, but looking forward its now just a month until we travel to Botswana for 10 days safari, this will be Max’s first trip out of the UK! This adventure has been in the planning for nearly 2 years, to mark the 1 month to go date our 30 days wild was a bit of preparation with a bit of reading.

 

 

And a few videos National Geographic & aerial views.

Max is most looking forward to seeing rhinos, leopards & crocodiles, while I’m most excited to the river boat safaris and of course the birding!!

 

A bit Blowy!

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After raining ALL afternoon we thought today’s 30 Days Wild would be a wet one, but as we headed out the door at 7.30 the sky was blue & the evening sun shone bright.

We decided on Hurst Spit, a long bank of shingle that jots out into the Solent, as we got out of the car we realised how windy it was, so decided on just tearing round the bank & beach, blowing away the cobwebs of school & the office.

With the windy there was very little wildlife around, we did spot a few black headed gulls & common terns, but the windy & waves certainly made our evening wild!

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Keeping it Local

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During June we done some 30 Days Wild activities in Devon, Dorset, Sussex & of course Hampshire. A few times we’ve explored places we’ve passed a thousand times Here, so last night be aimed for a small area of woodland that’s right under our nose! Golden Hill.

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Someone had helpfully put some Woodland Trust posters up to help visitors with IDing

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The canopy was filmed with calls of blackbirds, chaffinch wood pigeon & green finch and various insects buzzed round the streams. The parish council who manage the 4 acres have made a number of clearings & left log piles for insect & small mammal habitat.

Heading out of the dark woodland we wandered the country lanes on our way home in the evening sun.