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The July wave: Ocean policy in DC and the Plastiki in Sydney

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Here’s a long one for Blog Action Day 2010 and change.org.

July was a big month for ocean policy and global attention on polluted oceans.

On July 19 President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing a National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, Coasts, and Great Lakes. His order adopted the 96-page Final Recommendations of the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force and directs Federal agencies to take the appropriate steps to implement them.

“Subject to later refinements,” the Task Force made five broad recommendations, including:

1)    Establishing a new National Ocean Council (NOC) which consolidates and strengthens the Principal- and Deputy-level components of the existing Committee on Ocean Policy within a single structure;

2)    Strengthening the decision-making and dispute-resolution processes by defining clear roles for the NOC and the NOC leadership;

3)    Formally engaging with State, tribal, and local authorities to address relevant issues through the creation of a new committee comprised of their designated representatives;

4)    Strengthening the link between science and management through a new NOC Steering Committee; and

5)    Strengthening coordination between the NOC, the National Security Council, the National Economic Council, the Office of Energy and Climate Change, the Council on Environmental Quality, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Office of Management and Budget, and other White House entities.

Getting to a bit more detail, the Task Force outlined these “national priority objectives”:

o    Ecosystem-Based Management: Adopt ecosystem-based management as a foundational principle for the comprehensive management of the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes.

o    Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning: Implement comprehensive, integrated, ecosystem based coastal and marine spatial planning and management in the United States.

o    Inform Decisions and Improve Understanding: Increase knowledge to continually inform and improve management and policy decisions and the capacity to respond to change and challenges. Better educate the public through formal and informal programs about the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes.

o    Coordinate and Support: Better coordinate and support Federal, State, tribal, local, and regional management of the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes. Improve coordination and integration across the Federal Government, and as appropriate, engage with the international community.

o    Resiliency and Adaptation to Climate Change and Ocean Acidification: Strengthen resiliency of coastal communities and marine and Great Lakes environments and their abilities to adapt to climate change impacts and ocean acidification.

o    Regional Ecosystem Protection and Restoration: Establish and implement an integrated ecosystem protection and restoration strategy that is science-based and aligns conservation and restoration goals at the Federal, State, tribal, local, and regional levels.

o    Water Quality and Sustainable Practices on Land: Enhance water quality in the ocean, along our coasts, and in the Great Lakes by promoting and implementing sustainable practices on land.

o    Changing Conditions in the Arctic: Address environmental stewardship needs in the Arctic Ocean and adjacent coastal areas in the face of climate-induced and other environmental changes.

o    Ocean, Coastal, and Great Lakes Observations, Mapping, and Infrastructure: Strengthen and integrate Federal and non-Federal ocean observing systems, sensors, data collection platforms, data management, and mapping capabilities into a national system, and integrate that system into international observation efforts.

Sure that’s a lot of government-policy-speak and verbiage for a blog post, but if your’re still reading what strikes me is that finally there is acknowledgment of the need for a definite, comprehensive policy and a prioritized approach to strengthen national resolve to address climate change and climate-induced impacts on ocean, coastal, Great Lakes and the Arctic.

Let’s get real; let’s it started — this provides a long-needed roadmap.

About one week after the President’s executive order, the Plastiki arrived in Australia. The Plastiki is the 60-foot catamaran made out of more than 12,000 recycled plastic water bottles and its 10-member crew arrived in Sydney after sailing some 8,000 nautical miles in 130 days.

The journey’s goal was two-fold: to show that trash – mainly in the form of plastic water bottles – can be made useful, and to publicize the huge area of plastic trash and other debris known as the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch. The expedition also demonstrated a new approach to boat-building, namely one without fiberglass.

The voyage from San Francisco to Sydney drew particular attention to the health, or lack of it, of the world’s oceans. The vessel’s itinerary brought it close to Hawaii, the Bikini Atoll, and the Tarawa Islands. Its course also followed the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, where floating plastic covers an area twice the size of Texas.

David de Rothschild, the youthful heir to the European banking fortune, environmentalist, adventurer and head of Adventure Ecology, lead the Plastiki Expedition.

Plastiki’s hull is made entirely out of recycled plastic bottles filled with carbon dioxide. Nearly everything on the boat from the hull to the sails is made from recycled materials.

Solar panels, wind and sea turbines generate power. It also has an on-board exercise bike to provide extra power for electronics, including a laptop. An onboard hydroponic garden provided fresh greens for the crew.

The catamaran’s frame uses a new plastic product called self-reinforced polyethylene terephthalate, or srPET. Developed in Europe, it is similar in strength to fiberglass, but unlike fiberglass it is made of 100 percent recyclable plastic.

Change.org|Start Petition

Written by William DiBenedetto

15 October, 2010 at 2:00 am

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