Isagani R. Serrano
President, Earth Day Network Philippines
President, Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement
Our theme for this year’s Earth Day celebration “Green the Cities, Green the Oceans” is a response to the urgent call of the UN to clean up our oceans. It is also about the interconnectedness of things on this planet, among other ecological principles.
We say ‘Green the cities’ first because cities are the source of wastes that eventually end up in the ocean. Unless action happens in the cities and communities where we live, work and enjoy our lives, efforts at cleaning the ocean sink, also read cesspool, may not count for much.
There’s about a trillion single-use plastic bags used annually across our home planet. That amounts to millions every minute of every day. And single-use plastic is just one among dozens of plastic products that we use and eventually throw away. Yet we know there’s really no away to throw to.
If you’re not worried yet, let’s consider this scenario: in not so distant future there would be more plastic than fish in our oceans. And today so much plastic has already ended up in the body of the fish we eat.
We could resign in the fact that nature, with or without us, can very well take care of itself. It can clean up any shit we throw at it. As for plastic which may live for a hundred years or more, we could rest in the hope that anyway everything dissolves in water sooner or later. What’s 150 million tons of accumulated plastics in the oceans and eight million tons more dumped there each year. We can even turn the entire land area of the planet into a garbage pit and all of it, including us, can be accommodated in the ocean, no sweat. So why worry over a few waste patches here and there floating on our mighty oceans.
We do have good reason to worry, and not only for later, but here and now. There’s enough to cause us sleepless nights about the way things are, even without invoking some doomsday scenario of malfunctioning ocean ecosystem.
We know that ocean pollution impacts our health. Health is first and foremost what we eat and we eat a lot of fish that eat the plastic we dispose into the oceans. We know all too well that when health is on the line, nothing else matters.
Oceans provide scope for our diminishing terrestrial space. The state of land degradation now threatens our long-term food security. Our supply of fresh water resources is likewise at risk.
Oceans moderate the weather that affects us all, regardless of where we live, along the shore or deep into the continents. Oceans are crucial to the stability of the climate system. Well-functioning oceans can help avert catastrophic climate change.
Happiness is a green blue ocean. Let’s help clean it up so it will stay that way.
A world without waste is possible. Let’s help build it. And let’s begin at home.