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Environmental weeks on opposite sides of the world.

In writing this article from New Zealand I was pleased to see that Climate Week was getting a high profile launch again in March this year but have not had much reaction from the UK schools with which I have regular contact. Over here Sea Week has become a well-established favourite, hosted by the NZAEE (New Zealand Association for Environmental Education) and with additional funding from one of the major banks (another bank has a high profile funding of kiwi conservation work).

Most events are designed for families and advertised through the schools. I was able to have another chance to snorkel (equipment and tuition provided) and see how our local marine reserve had developed over the last five years-or-so when it was introduced. Further north there was a day course running for over-14s on "Marine Mammal First Aid", learning particularly the skills of moving stranded whales.

Beach clean-up events are just as popular and necessary as in other parts of the world. My wife and I spent one morning on Matakohe Island in our harbour. It is now a conservation zone for kiwi, sea petrels, skinks and several other species. We did a complete two hour circuit of the island and were amazed at how little litter we collected. Maybe it had as much to do with the currents around the island, for usually it only takes a short beach clean anywhere for the dominance of plastic waste in our seas to be obvious. Add the incredible number of years that certain forms of plastic take to disintegrate and their ability to stay in suspension in water gives clarity for our need to do more than just clean the beaches. 72% of waste collected on New Zealand beaches is of single-use disposable plastic with plastic bags and drink bottles being the major items.

Climate and the seas are interlinking elements in our ecological understanding of the world. This fact is vividly portrayed in two photographs that have circulated all over the world. One is of the stranded polar bear floating on a piece of ice that had broken away from the main, and presumably melting, ice cap. The other, is of one of the eleven floating islands of plastic waste that have been forming over the last five years. The largest of these, in the North West Pacific Ocean, covers an incredible 700,000 sq kms.

We often treat the oceans and land environments as though they were separate from us but these are increasingly being shown to be linked to our behaviours as our aspirational standards of living and the numbers of humans on the planet both increase. In New Zealand there is a strong political lobby against the theory of global warming yet, in the last four years, our area has seen three official summer-season-long droughts and in the north of the UK we have had six cool and wet, or very wet, summers since 2006. At both ends of the globe it is officially recognised that the jet stream, the major circulating atmospheric force, has shifted. This in turn has been attributed to the increased amount of water in the oceans from the melting polar ice caps.

If sea and climate weeks and the activities they generate do just a little to raise our awareness of the impact our human activity has they are worth having and supporting. Have any of our readers had activities they can share with us?

David Fellows

Hon. Treasurer

NAEE

David Fellows is an ex teacher and a school and conservation volunteer
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Title Annotation:The Water Issue: New Zealand
Publication:Environmental Education
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:8NEWZ
Date:Jun 22, 2013
Words:591
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