By Bruce Dudley, GLOBE Series, Senior Vice President, Strategy and Innovation
The cleanest city in the world has a plastic problem.
Singapore’s streets are spotless, chewing gum is banned and the garbage cans are solar powered and smart-monitored. However, if you go for a quick dive in the nearby ocean, it becomes immediately clear that this corner of Asia is far from plastic-free.
Indeed, plastic pollution is so apparent to Singapore’s diving community that the 2019 edition of Asia Dive Expo (ADEX) adopted the phrase “Dedicated to an ocean plastic free future” as its slogan.
Asia is home to the two biggest global contributors of plastic waste (China and Indonesia). As the dive community continues to grow in China and Asia as a whole, it’s increasingly clear that people who dive become immediately concerned once they’ve descended below the water’s surface.
However, North American readers will know that ocean plastic is an issue we are grappling with on this side of the Pacific, and in our fresh waters as well.
In fact, ADEX Founder John Thet attended the G7 Oceans Partnership Summit (OPS), organized by GLOBE, in Halifax, N.S. in 2018 and was so inspired by the discussions that took place, he connected with GLOBE Series to bring these two events together.
At ADEX Singapore 2019, I had the immense pleasure of announcing that GLOBE will be working alongside Mr. Thet’s team to hold the Ocean Partnership Summit Asia (OPS Asia) in Singapore during ADEX Ocean Vision 2020 in April. In addition, ADEX 2020 will repeat the ocean plastics theme as concerned citizens the world over mobilize resources to combat this issue. Following the events in Singapore, GLOBE will then bring the OPS conversation back to North America in fall of 2020 as the global community turns towards the World Circular Economy Forum taking place in Canada.
My time at ADEX 2019 was exciting and inspiring as I marvelled at live mermaid displays, geeked out with impressive new diving gear and started conversations with Asia’s diving industry and enthusiasts around keeping this pale blue dot as blue as possible.
I was struck by the raw passion of ADEX attendees for solving the many environmental issues affecting our oceans. The diving industry in Asia is adopting the principles of eco-tourism, so they recognize that there are many threats to the pristine environment on which their livelihoods depend. The South Pacific includes some of the most beautiful diving destinations in the world, but plastic waste and climate change are changing that quickly. The dive community and ADEX are motivated to bringing attention to the problem.
The professional photography and videography Voice of the Ocean contest at ADEX brings below-the-surface stories to life with startling underwater videos like a diver descending through 30 feet of suspended plastic stratum or the moment a turtle chomps into a plastic bag confusing it for a jellyfish. The show was filled with images that force reflection and motivate behavioural change.
Both the OPS and ADEX communities are leaders of the blue economy in their own rights. I look forward to seeing what happens when these two powerful events converge in 2020.
With a focus on impact, our goals for OPS Asia 2020 are:
- To increase education and awareness by harnessing the diving community and their first-hand experience of ocean health issues.
- To create a common list of plastic waste targeting policies. Of course, effective policies in Asia and North America will need to reflect regional differences, but through collaboration, we can learn from one another and unite around a common cause.
- To engage business and industry coalitions around thoughtful solutions to the issues affecting our oceans.
- To raise the necessary funds to accomplish the above goals.
In North America, we have seen improvement on environmental issues through industry associations like BASF’s Responsible Care that rally industry together to establish appropriate standards. GLOBE will be pleased to share this experience and perspective at OPS Asia 2020 and we look forward to hearing similar success stories from our colleagues across the pacific.
In a blog with many announcements, I’m also thrilled to note that GLOBE’s engagement on oceans issues will continue throughout the year leading up to ADEX 2020 with oceans serving as a sub-theme at GLOBE 2020 (Feb 10-13, Vancouver), where we will explore the great blue seas as they relate to circularity, financing, innovation and more.
The size and potential magnitude of the problem needs action over words. It’s the single largest carbon sink on the planet and the single most important source of protein for developing countries. No one individual can solve all the issues affecting our oceans, indeed no one continent can address these problems alone. At the end of the day, water is literally what connects us from North America to Asia. Collaboration is essential.