The climate emergency has revealed yet another serious environmental problem, the decrease in oxygen in the oceans which is happening at an unprecedented rate. There are now “dead zones” and hundreds more areas showing oxygen dangerously depleted.
Large fish species are particularly at risk, with many ecosystems in danger of collapse. Dead zones have quadrupled in extent over the 50 years, and there are also at least 700 areas where oxygen is at dangerously low levels, up from only 45 in the 1960s.
These findings were presented by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature at the UN climate conference in Madrid. Protecting marine life could help the oceans to function better, soaking up more carbon and providing barriers against sea level rises and storm surges, in the form of coral reefs and mangrove swamps.
The Cherish the Earth cards highlight environmental issues around the world, with quotations specially written by His Holiness Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th Karmapa and head of the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism (https://kagyuoffice.org/). Half of the profits from card sales are donated to environmental projects chosen by the Karmapa, a passionate advocate for environmental protection. This year we were able to make a donation of £1000 to Trees for Life, a registered charity working to restore the Caledonian Forest and its unique wildlife to the Scottish Highlands (https://treesforlife.org.uk/). My wife and I volunteered for Trees for Life back in the 1990s, planting trees in Glen Affric. In view of the climate emergency and public concern about environmental issues, it is great to be able to make a contribution to Trees for Life this year and to support their fantastic work in the northern highlands.
After last year’s very mild winter, it was good to see sparkling sunshine and frost again this week. Last winter, frosts were few and far between, and there was hardly any snowfall here in Northumberland. Given the climate change data reported everyday in the mainstream media, this is no surprise, and there should be no doubt that we are in a climate emergency. So it was with some pleasure that I was able to enjoy a winter walk and to take some new photos, this time not with a camera, but a new mobile phone. In the five and a half years that I have used a so called ‘smartphone’, the technology has certainly moved on and the new phone is very easy to use, very responsive and has a very good camera. This gave me some glimmer of optimism that with our knowledge of the world’s processes and our rapid technological progress, there is hope. It must be possible to respond to what is happening, apply our minds to the climate emergency and start to really make a progress towards an ecological age, a new era of looking after our planet and its life forms. Time for change…and fast.
This year we are rapidly shifting to plastic free packaging for all our greeting cards. Two of my main customers in Cornwall, the Eden Project, and the Tate St Ives, have plastic free shops. All the Light on the Sea cards are now supplied in biodegradable, compostable packaging made from corn starch, with envelopes made from recycled paper. The cellophane (oil based) sleeves which we used for greeting card packaging are being discontinued, and soon all our greeting cards will be in plastic free sleeves.
In 1950 the world produced only 2 million tonnes of plastic per year. By 2015, annual production had increased nearly 200-fold, reaching 381 million tonnes, roughly equivalent to the mass of two-thirds of the world population. From 1950 to 2015 a total 7.8 billion tonnes of plastic had been produced, more than one tonne of plastic for every person alive today. Clearly this is completely unsustainable and at last we are starting to wake up to the problem.
Packaging is the dominant sectoral use of plastics globally accounting for 42 percent (146 million tonnes) in 2016. This was followed by construction with 19 percent (65 million tonnes). Since packaging tends to have a much lower product lifetime than other products (such as construction or textiles), it is also dominant in terms of annual waste generation. It is responsible for almost half of global plastic waste. The production of so-called ‘bioplastics’ or biodegradable plastics is currently very low: estimated at around 4 million tonnes per year (which would be just over one percent of global plastics production).
On 20 September, thousands of people of all ages gathered in the centre of Newcastle upon Tyne. They demanded urgent action to combat the climate emergency. It was truly inspirational to see so many young people marching through the heart of the city. Having photographed environmental subjects around the world during the last 30 years, it was wonderful to feel the passion and focus of young people.
At long last the citizens of the world are really waking up to the situation and demanding action from our leaders. Many young people stood up with the microphone and voiced their concerns at the state of the planet. They are angered by the ineffectiveness of governments in addressing the environmental problems facing the world. They spoke with conviction, with passion, and with great clarity.
Yesterday I attended another very helpful half-day course in Hexham, run by Business Northumberland (https://www.businessnorthumberland.co.uk/). This time the subject was selling with social media such as instagram and facebook, and the tutor was Katherine Briggs. There were 16 businesses attending, some of whom were even newer to the social media world than I am, so for the first time, I felt as if I have moved slightly up the ladder of digital marketing knowledge! So in the months ahead there will be some more changes and development to this website, with new products becoming available – mainly new greeting card and designs, and prints.