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BLUE’s first symposium on Marine Protected Areas

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Wielding a large meat cleaver and red cashmere scarf, Clare Brook, CEO of the Blue Marine Foundation called for order in the packed Natural History Museum’s Darwin Centre last Monday. People had come together for an update on BLUE’s highly disruptive and results-oriented strategy to bring hope (and fish) back to the world’s oceans.

Speakers Charles Clover, Professor Callum Roberts, Dr. Tom Appleby and Dr. Simon Harding expounded theories, evidenced practice and shed light on the latest thinking on Marine Protected Areas.

“BLUE has the most extraordinary expertise amongst its trustees and its employees, but it has been a bit shy about airing that expertise,” Clare began. “This symposium is designed to give you a chance to hear some of their views and also to understand how the creation of Marine Protected Areas combats overfishing, how Marine Protected Areas actually work and how quickly fish can regenerate within them.”

To summarise the speeches:
The first speaker, Professor Callum Roberts of the University of York, was applauded onto the stage. Callum, a conservation thought leader, illuminated the scale of the problem and what has gone wrong in our seas. His remit was to introduce Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), explain why we need them, how many we need and what sort of protection they require to effectively restore depleted marine ecosystems.

– Callum revealed an astonishing fact, that the total protected area of the UK’s oceans is not 10%, not 1%, but 1/100,000th of a percent.
– He highlighted the paradox about modern fisheries in that the most sustainable fisheries that we have are also the most destructive. He compared scallops and prawns to rats and cockroaches, due to their strong resistance to environmental pressure and the fact that they thrive in habitats disturbed by destructive fishing methods. “Less resistant, commercially important species of fish cannot persist in an environment that is subject to widespread, industrial scale extraction.”
– Callum made clear that establishing MPAs is the solution to rebalancing the seas. “The then,” said Callum, “was full of large animals and architecturally diverse ecosystems… this was a place that had an extraordinary abundance of sea life.” There is hope. We can get back there, with MPAs the route.
– Callum’s latest research at the University of York has been to examine how much of the sea we need to protect in order to bring about genuine recovery of marine species. By taking the average of all scientific studies, the mean figure is 36% and the median 35%. BLUE’s short-term goal is to protect 10% of the world’s oceans by 2020, but we are clear that we need to aim much higher than this in the longer term.

Dr. Tom Appleby, legal advisor to BLUE and for years a commercial lawyer, helped to create the first no-take zone in Scotland (rewriting the rulebook in the process). Tom spoke about the legal challenges surrounding MPAs (both here and in the UK Overseas Territories) and the fact that we all collectively own nearshore waters.
– “The fisheries,” Tom said, “actually belong to all of us in some way, shape or form. We’ve got to take control, as the public, of our own resource. We need to take an active interest in the management of this space.”
– Clare’s cleaver came in handy (metaphorically). Tom likened the situation regarding scientific proof of the need to protect our oceans with a story a doctor friend told him. A patient walked into A+E with a meat cleaver sticking out of his head. Doctors recommended an x-ray which revealed that the man had a meat cleaver sticking into his head. The conclusion: we don’t need precise scientific measurements to understand that overfishing is pillaging our oceans. The writing is on the wall. IN GIGANTIC LETTERS.

Dr. Simon Harding, BLUE’s head of conservation has twenty years experience in Marine Protected Area planning and monitoring. Simon spoke about the importance of community and local management and the need to work with local stakeholders at every step of the way.

Simon made a key point about what an MPA actually means and how it affects local populations:
– He made clear that designating an MPA doesn’t mean a ban on all fishing for the local people. MPAs should be designated in close consultation with all stakeholders and the viewpoint of the local people is of paramount importance.
– An MPA can only work if it has the support of local people. By creating mixed use MPAs where there are some zones for rotational closure (according to breeding patterns), some zones for total closure and some zones with certain gear restrictions, the locals are much more likely to support and enforce the area.
– Simon cited examples such as Lamlash Bay in Scotland and BLUE’s project in Lyme Bay, Dorset, where local buy-in has made for better conservation and improved livelihoods for fishermen.

Finally, Charles Clover, BLUE’s chairman spoke about the reality of negotiating, cajoling and occasionally naming and shaming to actually make things happen. “Arm-twisting,” Charles said, “is an incredibly important skill in this area of conservation.” As is daring to dream. Charles gave further tangible examples of BLUE’s successes so far: the Lyme Bay Conservation Reserve, vast swathes of territory protected in Chagos and Pitcairn, not to mention cross-party political commitments to create Blue Belts around all fourteen UK Overseas Territories.

Proceeding from the hall, further debate ensued, with the overwhelming conclusion being thus: re-establishing the health and biodiversity of marine ecosystems is entirely within our grasp. BLUE’s work is facilitating the creation and management of Marine Protected Areas, at home and abroad. The environmental and social impacts of MPAs must be carefully considered and the complex legal and emotional challenges faced must be overcome. This is vital to ensure a thriving ocean for future generations.

BLUE would like to thank everyone that attended our first symposium, everyone in our network who made it possible, our panel of expert speakers and the Natural History Museum who so kindly hosted the event.

BLUE is a UK registered charity set up in 2010 by some of the team behind the award-winning documentary film The End of the Line. There mission is the active and effective protection of 10% of the world’s oceans by 2020, delivered through a network of marine reserves and private sector led solutions in the sea.

Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

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self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/zapp2photo

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.

Deadheading

Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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Environment

Road Trip! How to Choose the Greenest Vehicle for Your Growing Family

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Greenest Vehicle
Licensed Image by Shutterstock - By Mascha Tace -- https://www.shutterstock.com/g/maschatace

When you have a growing family, it often feels like you’re in this weird bubble that exists outside of mainstream society. Whereas everyone else seemingly has stability, your family dynamic is continuously in flux. Having said that, is it even possible to buy an eco-friendly vehicle that’s also practical?

What to Look for in a Green, Family-Friendly Vehicle?

As a single person or young couple without kids, it’s pretty easy to buy a green vehicle. Almost every leading car brand has eco-friendly options these days and you can pick from any number of options. The only problem is that most of these models don’t work if you have kids.

Whether it’s a Prius or Smart car, most green vehicles are impractical for large families. You need to look for options that are spacious, reliable, and comfortable – both for passengers and the driver.

5 Good Options

As you do your research and look for different opportunities, it’s good to have an open mind. Here are some of the greenest options for growing families:

1. 2014 Chrysler Town and Country

Vans are not only popular for the room and comfort they offer growing families, but they’re also becoming known for their fuel efficiency. For example, the 2014 Chrysler Town and Country – which was one of CarMax’s most popular minivans of 2017 – has Flex Fuel compatibility and front wheel drive. With standard features like these, you can’t do much better at this price point.

2. 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

If you’re looking for a newer van and are willing to spend a bit more, you can go with Chrysler’s other model, the Pacifica. One of the coolest features of the 2017 model is the hybrid drivetrain. It allows you to go up to 30 miles on electric, before the vehicle automatically switches over to the V6 gasoline engine. For short trips and errands, there’s nothing more eco-friendly in the minivan category.

3. 2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Who says you have to buy a minivan when you have a family? Sure, the sliding doors are nice, but there are plenty of other options that are both green and spacious. The new Volkswagen Atlas is a great choice. It’s one of the most fuel-efficient third-row vehicles on the market. The four-cylinder model gets an estimated 26 mpg highway.

4. 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

While a minivan or SUV is ideal – and necessary if you have more than two kids – you can get away with a roomy sedan when you still have a small family. And while there are plenty of eco-friendly options in this category, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is arguably the biggest bang for your buck. It gets 38 mpg on the highway and is incredibly affordable.

5. 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel

If money isn’t an object and you’re able to spend any amount to get a good vehicle that’s both comfortable and eco-friendly, the 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel is your car. Not only does it get 28 mpg highway, but it can also be equipped with a third row of seats and a diesel engine. And did we mention that this car looks sleek?

Putting it All Together

You have a variety of options. Whether you want something new or used, would prefer an SUV or minivan, or want something cheap or luxurious, there are plenty of choices on the market. The key is to do your research, remain patient, and take your time. Don’t get too married to a particular transaction, or you’ll lose your leverage.

You’ll know when the right deal comes along, and you can make a smart choice that’s functional, cost-effective, and eco-friendly.

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