Updated: Apr 13
The 4th Asia Pacific Coral Symposium is currently underway in Cebu, Philippines. The conference brings together world leading experts in the field of corals and marine biology, including in policy and conservation.
Myself and Lee are attending, after our first week on Malapascua. A time so far, dominated by a lot of plastic. We knew it was a problem and have dealt with plastics before. But there is a certain scale and on going everyday issue with plastics here in The Philippines.
It’s certainly easy to feel disheartened, overwhelmed by the scale of the issue and solutions here and worldwide for plastics. Not only is it the well known plastics that are an issue- but the lesser known. Polyester and nylon primarily. We’ve seen research here describing the absorption of nylon into corals, the micro plastics problem amongst talks describing the extent of the plastics problem. But. There is hope. There were messages of encouragement within the despair here at the conference. But there’s also messages of positivity, especially towards behaviour and working together. Especially to remove the idea that this is a problem for The Philippines or individual countries alone and more of an issue for us all together. Senator Loren Legarda spoke about accountability, that everyone has a duty and a responsibly to look towards zero waste. To look into circular economies, ban the use of single use plastics and micro beads. Create awareness, education. A multifaceted approach to our global plastic problem that includes ground roots change and policy- we all have an important part to play.
For me, this is very much coming back to the idea that we must not judge, condemn or tut upon the plastics and marine debris washing upon tropical and or developing nations beaches. Whilst yes, this may be largely local- developed nations have a huge amount of work to do to reduce their own dependence on plastics, before condemning lesser educated regions. Especially countries in which clean drinking water and excellent sanitation make it easy to avoid single use plastic. Avoidance becomes more of habit reforming less than survival, as it can be in developing nations.
Also positive thoughts arising from the first day is the reminder that through conservation we must ensure sustainable practices are engrained in management and action plans. And that the conservation space is not one for only scientists but for economists, engineers and all those with ability to further sustainable management.