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Riled Up is a journal of science, the environment, exploration, new technology, and related commentary.  Contributors include scientists, explorers, engineers, and others who provide perspectives and context not typically offered in general news circulation.  For interested readers, additional resources are included.

The Conservation Alliance

World Environment Day

World Environment Day

 

The "Bag It Man" attends MountainFilm in Telluride, Colorado (credit: SWP Medial)

 

You can be forgiven if you didn't remember World Environment Day (WED). Coverage of this annual event is largely ignored almost everywhere.

Sponsored by the UN Environment Program (UNEP), the theme is 'ocean plastic' and the consequences of all this discarded waste has on water pollution, wildlife, and public health. Australia's CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Resource Organization) has estimated:

1 million plastic bottles are purchased worldwide every minute and that we use up to 5 trillion plastic bags each year.

Most of the discarded plastic ends up in landfills or in the oceans where it creates huge marine gyres. The UK's Guardian newspaper is now calling this discarded plastic a global calamity and the Tibetan spiritual leader the dalai lama has said:

The environment is telling us we have to work together as one community, which is the only way we’ll meet such crises as the increasing shortage of water. It requires a new approach to education that takes account of scientific findings and human values encouraging us all to do things differently.

Since its first event in 1974, World Environment Day has helped raise awareness of environmental concerns including the depletion of the ozone layer, toxic chemicals, desertification, deforestation, and climate change. Since then, the event has evolved into a platform for individuals and groups to take direct action to address local environmental problems. Millions of people have participated with many being from some of the world's poorest nations. Results from their efforts have included wider appreciation of the environment, changes in consumption patterns, expanded education, and improvements in national environmental policies. The organizers have often used quirky ads to address a serious issue.

Environmental issues are complicated but that shouldn't stop attempts at trying to find practical solutions. WED helps as a reminder of what is required but it will take more than a single day to address a huge issue like ocean plastic pollution. One recent development is hopeful. It involves the use of a bacteria that produces enzymes which can convert plastic into its natural carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen elements. The newly discovered bacteria basically eats plastic. When modern biotechnology has been applied to improve strains, the bacteria greatly increases its plastic conversion efficiency. If they can be economically produced the enzyme offer hope to begin addressing this plastics problem.

However, maybe someone attending a WED event will conceive of an even better solution and offer an alternative so we don't consume so much plastic in the first place.

WHB

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