Plastic not fantastic as climate change summit hears it’s in food and water
People eat about a credit card’s worth of plastic every week, it was revealed at a youth climate change summit yesterday.
The stomach-churning news was featured in a video presentation that showed that people ingested about five grams of microplastics from their food and water intake – which could cause major health problems.
Katherine Burns, of Natural Nutrition Bermuda, warned that plastics can cause fertility problems in men and women and lead to the development of diabetes and obesity.
She said: “A lot of these plastics are highly oestrogenic and that has an impact on male fertility and sperm counts.
“We’re seeing that fertility levels are dropping and women are having a harder time getting pregnant.”
The presentation added that about 147 million tonnes of plastic – about half of what is used a year – ends up in the sea and that the amount of plastic was expected to outweigh the fish population by 2025.
The video was shown on the second day of the Youth Climate Summit.
The live-streamed event, organised by the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute, examined how climate change affected the environment and risked the safety of people.
Sumnima Ghimire, a researcher at the Youth For Environment Education and Development Foundation in Nepal, highlighted that more than 80 per cent of natural disasters were climate-related.
She added that climate-linked disasters had doubled over the past 40 years and that Indigenous populations were harmed the most, despite making the smallest contribution to climate change.
Ms Ghimire, from the Himalayan mountain state of Nepal, said: “The people who used to live in these kinds of communities had their own style of growing crops or getting water.
“But with disasters taking place, these water systems have been split up, the rivers have been blocked and this has greatly impacted the lifestyles of people in Nepal.”
Ms Ghimire said that Indigenous groups had adapted to the environment for hundreds of years and knew how to build a sustainable relationship with the environment they lived in.
She added that it was important to turn to these groups for knowledge of the best way to create healthy agricultural systems and manage waste.
Ms Ghimire said: “This is not just for us but also for the future.
“Climate change is real and it is happening, so we need to act now.”
Isabel Rivera-Collazo, an environmental archaeologist with the University of California in San Diego added that some peoples had known how to weather natural disasters for thousands of years.
Dr Rivera-Collazo, who grew up in the mountains of Puerto Rico, explained that her family lived off the land for months after the island was struck by Hurricane Hugo in 1989 because of the knowledge passed down through the family.
She added: “Our ancestors have lived on these islands for hundreds or thousands of years, so we have to ask ourselves ‘what can we learn from the past?’”
Dr Rivera-Collazo said it would be useful for Bermudians to examine historical methods of land use.
She added that it was important to adapt because climate change could affect the environmental aspects central to Bermudian heritage.
Dr Rivera-Collazo said: “Climate change will not affect us directly – we can have something happen and we might have the skills to survive.
“The challenge of climate change is that it affects all the things that make us who we are.”
Jerome Foster, the youngest member of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, appealed to young people to use their energy and passion to demand change.
The 19-year-old said: “Every time you walk into a room you’re a young person representing the future and they know that.
“Every time you walk in, you shouldn’t be nervous – they should be nervous, because of the fact that you’re going in there with the moral high ground of saying, ‘I’m coming here not with an agenda, not with an overarching plan about money, but I’m talking about morals and a just transition’.”
Mr Foster said young people should use their votes and their buying power to push for better environmental policies.
He added that the young should sign up to environmental campaigns to learn how they can better protect the world from damage.