On today’s episode of Ocean Talk Friday, Andrew brings back frequent contributor and patron saint of sea turtles Nathan Robinson to discuss plastic pollution, methane leaks, and the best scientific contribution of 2015.
You may remember Nathan from episode XX, when he and Andrew spoke about a video Nathan’s team put out of a sea turtle with a plastic straw lodged in its nostril. Just a warning, the video has strong language and blood. Well, this time he’s come to us with a video of him removing a plastic fork from the exact same spot on another sea turtle. Nathan hypothesizes that these plastic items, which are all too common in marine environments, are in the process of being regurgitated by these turtles when they get stuck in the nasal passage. While it’s not clear how long these items remained in the sea turtle, it’s very clear from the videos that they are causing the sea turtles a significant amount of pain.
Though it would certainly help to understand the oceanographic processes that may affect plastic distribution in the ocean, we can’t expect to see less of these encounters if we don’t address plastic consumption. Disposing of single-use plastics after a single use, while admittedly logical given their name, is actually extremely wasteful, lazy, and harmful to marine organisms. By practicing more responsible consumption, we can reduce the flood of plastic items ending up in our oceans and killing its residents.
Next up, Andrew and Nathan discuss the role that methane plays in climate change and the potential impacts of methane leaks on our climate. An article published in Business Insider earlier this week claimed that a methane leak at one of the largest natural gas storage facilities in the United States is currently releasing 50,000 kilograms per hour of methane gas into the atmosphere. While officials state that the gas will not have any harmful health effects to nearby residents, it’s alarming that we’re emitting this much methane into the atmosphere. Methane is 25 times better at trapping atmospheric heat than carbon dioxide, meaning it could potentially have devastating effects for a planet that is already facing a heat surplus. And while the COP21 Paris talks show the world is paying more attention to the harmful impacts of carbon emissions, stories like this touch on the potential impacts of emissions we’re not counting on and may not even be aware of. There are plenty of ways to prevent similar leaks and emissions; carbon taxes that hold financial penalties for not only carbon emissions but also leaks, more federal enforcement on oil or gas leaks, or stricter regulations on the maintenance and monitoring of chemical plants and oil rigs are just a few possible ideas. In the end though, it all comes down to accountability. If we don’t hold people financially accountable for these types of leaks, everything that was agreed upon in Paris will just be talk.
And as we prepare to enter 2016 with a united, global effort to combat climate change, it’s important to reflect on what we’ve accomplished this past year. An article published on Quartz claims that citizen science is perhaps the best thing to happen to our oceans in 2015. Citizen science, or open science, is a term for projects that allow people without scientific background to contribute to the scientific process. Nathan’s organization, Leatherback Trust, utilized this open science process to collect data on sea turtles across the globe. According to Nathan, “citizen scientists are the workhorse of the scientific community. That’s what lets it happen. That’s what gets it going.” Without citizen scientists, many valuable scientific data would not exist. Therefore, it’s crucial that the scientific community continues to provide these opportunities for people who may already be passionate about topics like marine conservation to actually get involved. For those members of the SUFB community who aren’t professional scientists, volunteer for citizen science projects in your community or through the online community. There are plenty of ways to get involved and help marine conservation efforts, make 2016 the year you take the first step!
Enjoy the Podcast!