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BLUE’s first symposium on Marine Protected Areas



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.


Two Ancient Japanese Philosophies Are the Future of Eco-Living



Shutterstock Photos - By Syda Productions |

Our obsession with all things new has blighted the planet. We have a waste crisis, particularly when it comes to plastic. US scientists have calculated the total amount of plastic ever made – 8.3 billion tons! Unfortunately, only 9% of this is estimated to have been recycled. And current global trends point to there being 12 billion tons of plastic waste by 2050.

However, two ancient Japanese philosophies are providing an antidote to the excesses of modern life. By emphasizing the elimination of waste and the acceptance of the old and imperfect, the concepts of Mottainai and Wabi-Sabi have positively influenced Japanese life for centuries.

They are now making their way into the consciousness of the Western mainstream, with an increasing influence in the UK and US. By encouraging us to be frugal with our possessions, (i.e. using natural materials for interior design) these concepts can be the future of eco-living.

What is Wabi-Sabi and Mottainai??

Wabi-Sabi emphasizes an acceptance of transience and imperfection. Although Wabi had the original meaning of sad and lonely, it has come to describe those that are simple, unmaterialistic and at one with nature. The term Sabi is defined as the “the bloom of time”, and has evolved into a new meaning: taking pleasure and seeing beauty in things that are old and faded. 

Any flaws in objects, like cracks or marks, are cherished because they illustrate the passage of time. Wear and tear is seen as a representation of their loving use. This makes it intrinsically linked to Wabi, due to its emphasis on simplicity and rejection of materialism.

In the West, Wabi-Sabi has infiltrated many elements of daily life, from cuisine to interior design. Specialist Japanese homeware companies, like Sansho, source handmade products that embody the Wabi-Sabi philosophy. Their products, largely made from natural materials, are handcrafted by traditional Japanese artisans – meaning no two pieces are the same and no two pieces are “perfect” in size or shape.


Mottainai is a term expressing a feeling of regret concerning waste, translating roughly in English to either “what a waste!” or “Don’t waste!”. The philosophy emphasizes the intrinsic value of a resource or object, and is linked to hinto animism, the notion that all objects have a spirit, or ‘kami’. The idea that we are part of nature is a key part of Japanese psychology.

Mottainai also has origins in Buddhist philosophy. The Buddhist monastic tradition emphasizes a life of frugality, to allow us to concentrate on attaining enlightenment. It is from this move towards frugality that a link to Mottainai as a concept of waste can be made.

How have Wabi-Sabi and Mottainai promoted eco living?

Wabi-Sabi is still a prominent feature of Japanese life today, and has remained instrumental in the way people design their homes. The ideas of imperfection and frugality are hugely influential.

For example, instead of buying a brand-new kitchen table, many Japanese people instead retain a table that has been passed through the generations. Although its long use can be seen by various marks and scratches, Wabi-Sabi has taught people that they should value it because of its imperfect nature. Those scratches and marks are a story and signify the passage of time. This is a far cry from what we typically associate with the Western World.

Like Wabi Sabi, Mottainai is manifested throughout Japanese life, creating a great respect for Japanese resources. This has had a major impact on home design. For example, the Japanese prefer natural materials in their homes, such as using soil and dried grass as thermal insulation.

Their influence in the UK

The UK appears to be increasingly influenced by thes two concepts. Some new reports indicate that Wabi Sabi has been labelled as ‘the trend of 2018’. For example, Japanese ofuro baths inspired the project that won the New London Architecture’s 2017 Don’t Move, Improve award. Ofuro baths are smaller than typical baths, use less water, and are usually made out of natural materials, like hinoki wood.

Many other UK properties have also been influenced by these philosophies, such as natural Kebony wood being applied to the external cladding of a Victorian property in Hampstead; or a house in Lancaster Gate using rice paper partitions as sub-dividers. These examples embody the spirit of both philosophies. They are representative of Mottainai because of their use of natural resources to discourage waste. And they’re reflective of Wabi-Sabi because they accept imperfect materials that have not been engineered or modified.

In a world that is plagued by mass over-consumption and an incessant need for novelty, the ancient concepts of Mottainai and Wabi-Sabi provide a blueprint for living a more sustainable life. They help us to reduce consumption and put less of a strain on the planet. This refreshing mindset can help us transform the way we go about our day to day lives.

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How to be More eco-Responsible in 2018



Shutterstock / By KENG MERRY Paper Art |

Nowadays, more and more people are talking about being more eco-responsible. There is a constant growth of information regarding the importance of being aware of ecological issues and the methods of using eco-friendly necessities on daily basis.

Have you been considering becoming more eco-responsible after the New Year? If so, here are some useful tips that could help you make the difference in the following year:

1. Energy – produce it, save it

If you’re building a house or planning to expand your living space, think before deciding on the final square footage. Maybe you don’t really need that much space. Unnecessary square footage will force you to spend more building materials, but it will also result in having to use extra heating, air-conditioning, and electricity in it.

It’s even better if you seek professional help to reduce energy consumption. An energy audit can provide you some great piece of advice on how to save on your energy bills.

While buying appliances such as a refrigerator or a dishwasher, make sure they have “Energy Star” label on, as it means they are energy-efficient.

energy efficient

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By My Life Graphic

Regarding the production of energy, you can power your home with renewable energy. The most common way is to install rooftop solar panels. They can be used for producing electricity, as well as heat for the house. If powering the whole home is a big step for you, try with solar oven then – they trap the sunlight in order to heat food! Solar air conditioning is another interesting thing to try out – instead of providing you with heat, it cools your house!

2. Don’t be just another tourist

Think about the environment, as well your own enjoyment – try not to travel too far, as most forms of transport contribute to the climate change. Choose the most environmentally friendly means of transport that you can, as well as environmentally friendly accommodation. If you can go to a destination that is being recommended as an eco-travel destination – even better! Interesting countries such as Zambia, Vietnam or Nicaragua are among these destinations that are famous for its sustainability efforts.

3. Let your beauty be also eco-friendly


Shutterstock / By Khakimullin Aleksandr

We all want to look beautiful. Unfortunately, sometimes (or very often) it comes with a price. Cruelty-free cosmetics are making its way on the world market but be careful with the labels – just because it says a product hasn’t been tested on animals, it doesn’t  mean that some of the product’s ingredients haven’t been tested on some poor animal.

To be sure which companies definitely stay away from the cruel testing on animals, check PETA Bunny list of cosmetic companies just to make sure which ones are truly and completely cruelty-free.

It’s also important if a brand uses toxic ingredients. Brands such as Tata Harper Skincare or Dr Bronner’s use only organic ingredients and biodegradable packaging, as well as being cruelty-free. Of course, this list is longer, so you’ll have to do some online research.

4. Know thy recycling

People often make mistakes while wanting to do something good for the environment. For example, plastic grocery bags, take-out containers, paper coffee cups and shredded paper cannot be recycled in your curb for many reasons, so don’t throw them into recycling bins. The same applies to pizza boxes, household glass, ceramics, and pottery – whether they are contaminated by grease or difficult to recycle, they just can’t go through the usual recycling process.

People usually forget to do is to rinse plastic and metal containers – they always have some residue, so be thorough. Also, bottle caps are allowed, too, so don’t separate them from the bottles. However, yard waste isn’t recyclable, so any yard waste or junk you are unsure of – just contact rubbish removal services instead of piling it up in public containers or in your own yard.

5. Fashion can be both eco-friendly and cool

Believe it or not, there are actually places where you can buy clothes that are eco-friendly, sustainable, as well as ethical. And they look cool, too! Companies like Everlane are very transparent about where their clothes are manufactured and how the price is set. PACT is another great company that uses non-GMO, organic cotton and non-toxic dyes for their clothing, while simultaneously using renewable energy factories. Soko is a company that uses natural and recycled materials in making their clothes and jewelry.

All in all

The truth is – being eco-responsible can be done in many ways. There are tons of small things we could change when it comes to our habits that would make a positive influence on the environment. The point is to start doing research on things that can be done by every person and it can start with the only thing that person has the control of – their own household.

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