Plastics – our dirty addiction

Cofee, games, fitness, Netflix, or beer. It seems to be very human to have your own peculiar addiction. There is one product none of us can’t get enough of: plastic. Once hailed as a revolution, it is now quickly becoming one of mankind’s biggest health hazards. Last week I went to a screening of the documentary ‘A Plastic Ocean’ in Brussels. Preceded by a panel discussion between director Craig Leeson, marine biologist Richard Thompson, activists Hugo Tagholm and Maria Westerbos, and CEO of Klean Kanteen Jim Osgood. It was an eye-opening evening for me. This is what I take away.

The screening of the documentary was preceded by a panel discussion. From left to right: Leeson, Tagholm, Westerbos, Thompson, Oswood, Beck (own photo).

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5 megatrends that will beat global warming [infographic]

Let’s face it. The time window to avoid run-away climate change is getting smaller by the day. It is now generally recognized the world’s greenhouse gas emissions need to peak by 2020 if we want to have a reasonable chance of limiting global warming by 2 degrees Celsius at the end of this century (this is the promise of the Paris Agreement). For some, the urgency has not yet sunk in. To others, it seems we are already too late to avoid a global catastrophy. Although I think the scientific evidence is showing that we signed up for some pretty nasty stuff already, I remain hopeful that we can avert the worst. In the infographic below, I listed 5 megatrends that show we are moving in the right direction – we just should go even faster. It’s inspired by a great article that appeared in the Guardian at the start of COP23, you can find it here.

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COP23: what to expect

It’s again that time of the year when more than twenty thousand people ranging from singing activists to world leaders come together in one place on Earth: the yearly climate change summit, better known as ‘the COP’. Two years after the historical Paris Agreement was reached during COP21, you might wonder what negotiators have to talk about now that a global deal is reached. A lot, as it turns out. As policy issues are sometimes easier to explain face to face than in a dull article, I recorded a small video for you. Enjoy!

 

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SION, a power station on wheels

Over the last few years, people have asked me several times why electric car manufacturers aren’t putting solar panels on their cars to charge the battery. It sounds like a logical thing to do, isn’t it? I always argued there might be two good reasons for car builders to shy away from this idea. First of all the surface area for solar cells on a car is limited and their orientation not ideal, hence a low energy production could be expected. Secondly, solar panels are not cheap. Pardon me, they were not cheap. Nowadays they are. And hence… things have changed lately.

The Sion is a five-doors city car with a range of 250 kilometers and fully covered in solar cells (photo: Sono Motors)

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The Seabin: vacuum cleaner for the oceans

The ocean washes tonnes of plastic ashore every year (photo: Seabin project)

I am currently enjoying my holidays in Estepona in the South of Spain. Besides an appealing beach and promenade, this picturesque town on the Mediterranean coast is home to a sports and fishing port. It all looks Instagram-proof, but upon closer inspection, one cannot neglect the amounts of trash floating in the harbor. At the pier, a seagull on the hunt for food tries to crack open a beer can washed ashore. Spots of oil form a thin layer on the water here and there. Not a pretty sight.

Estepona is not alone, around the world marinas have to deal with litter for which humans are to blame. They are the symptom of a much larger problem that most of us never get to see: the pollution of our planet’s oceans on a massive scale. Luckily, two Australian surfers have come to rescue. The result is the Seabin, an invention that holds the middle between a waste bin and vacuum cleaner. But for the oceans, mind you.

The founders of Seabin, with the device before it is installed in the water (photo: Seabin project)

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A Great Green Wall for Africa

China has its Great Wall that used to guard off foreign raiders, Westeros has the Wall in the North to stop white walkers, and since a couple of years, a group of African countries is working on its very own Great Green Wall. Sounds impressive, isn’t it? Truth be told, it’s not a real wall. But one day, it will be great.

The Great Green Wall stretches 11 countries, from Senegal to Djibouti (graph: National Geographic)

 

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