World oceans day 2019
Dating back to 1992, World Oceans Day is an annual United Nations backed event to honour our oceans, our connections to them and take personal and community action to preserve them for generations to come.
Around 1400 visitors attended the 2019 Bangkok celebrations, many of them arriving in style on the French cultural centre’s fume-free electric tuk-tuk.
Adults and children alike enjoyed art exhibitions and activities, music and dance performances, tasty meals and snacks with not a plastic straw or single-use food container in sight. Sustainable local businesses set up stalls to promote their wares.
“We aimed to provide something for everyone and wanted a programme which people could dip in and out of throughout the day, allowing time and space for participants to connect and engage with the issues affecting our oceans,” enthused program designer Katy Waring.
The educational experience centred on three ocean conservation themes: marine plastic, the ocean as our climate regulator and protecting marine biodiversity.
Each theme contained: presentations to educate; linked with workshops to inspire personal change; and a community action zone to empower visitors to act more widely.
“The community action zone detailed how to take further action and provided an opportunity for participants to add thoughts, ideas and questions to a visual display, encouraging discussion. We wanted people to network and create a sense of community around the issues,” said Waring.
Theme One: Marine Plastic:
Thailand now ranks in the top ten producers of marine waste in the world, creating 1.3 million tonnes a year. The country’s plastic usage has grown by 12% annually. The average Thai uses 8 plastic bags per day. Weak waste disposal systems increase the risk of discarded plastic ending up in the sea.
In line with this, 11-year old Lilly Smittipatana, representing ‘Bye Bye Plastic Bags,’ the anti-plastic youth campaign group started in Bali by Melati and Isabel Wijsen, spoke about the environmental impact of single-use carrier bags and her current campaign aimed at Bangkok’s shopping malls to curb their use.
Participants wishing to take things further were invited to workshops on Castile soap making. Learning how to make your own multi-purpose soap helps reduce the need to buy a whole range of cleaning and bath products sold in plastic bottles. A further workshop taught children to make ecobricks by stuffing plastic into discarded plastic bottles. Run by the Ecobeast team: the idea was to create bricks strong enough for the construction of buildings.
The community action display included an interactive map of Bangkok’s zero waste shops, contact details for clean-up group Trash Heroes, and a call for people to collect plastic bottle caps for recycling organisation Precious Plastic, who also demonstrated their plastic recycling machines.
Theme Two: The Ocean as Climate Regulator:
‘It’s estimated that phytoplankton in the oceans produce 50-70% of the world’s oxygen through photosynthesis. The tiny creatures use the energy of the Sun to turn carbon dioxide into oxygen. But increased carbon dioxide emissions are disrupting this process,’ explained Waring.
As our oceans are overloaded with greenhouse gases; temperature changes, acidification and deoxygenation occur. An informative presentation by Yannick Mazy from boat builders Diva Marine in collaboration with the science, design and learning enterprise EARTH Co Lab highlighted, and gave greater depth to this theme.
“Ecobeasts wanted to link the marine ecosystems’ role in climate regulation to the actions of people in Bangkok, and this inspired two workshops to encourage people to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases, thus lessening our impact on the oceans” said Waring.
“There was an animal agriculture workshop run by vegan activist Vallary Lokre, which highlighted the impact of meat production. Attendees tasted delicious meat alternatives like the beetroot burger donated by Barefood Bangkok,” she continued. Switching to a meat and dairy free diet is said to dramatically reduces personal emissions footprints.
The Ecobeasts team ran a workshop on the fast-fashion industry and its significant role in CO2 production. Participants discussed the issues involved, while upcycling their unwanted T-shirts into shopping bags.
The final element for this theme was found in the community action zone, which included information about Bangkok’s plethora of Japanese second-hand shops, and listings of the city’s growing number of restaurants on the vegetarian food scene.
Theme Three: Protecting Marine Biodiversity:
Today, 60% of the world’s major marine ecosystems underpining livelihoods have been degraded or are being used unsustainably. Without significant changes more than half marine species may stand on the brink of extinction by the end of the century.
The keynote speech on this theme was provided by Shark Guardian who focussed on shark conservation and why the top predators are crucially important for the marine eco-system and how all life exists in a fine balance of interdependence. The speaker, Kerry Dyke, also explained the impacts of the shark fin soup industry and other problems associated with unregulated fishing.
Shark Guardian’s junior ambassador Ashwina Kantapura ran a workshop, giving further information on the effects of shark fin soup consumption through child friendly activities and quizzes. Kantapura is looking to recruit young people in Thai and International Schools to become junior ambassadors who will raise community awareness of these issues.
A further workshop was provided by ‘Save our Seas,’ a community of marine biology students who taught participants how to repurpose discarded fishing nets into large bags to be filled during ocean clean-ups.
The community action zone highlighted how divers could get involved in citizen science by uploading photos of any manta rays they’ve spotted for research by the Manta trust. A Phuket produced brand of coral-reef friendly sun cream by Reef Repair was also advertised.
Ecobeasts hope that participants found the World Oceans Day educational programme engaging and inspiring.
And that the informative presentations, workshops and the raft of ideas for action presented in the community action zones will encourage people to make long lasting lifestyle changes to help ensure a sustainable future for our oceans.