Research & Conservation

A feisty and crucial 2019 comes to an end

We could not believe the year 2019 turned out to be…and we are proud to have covered some of the most important topics together in this blog. We’ve been through loads together on our journey to change the world for a better place, and in the latter end of 2019, I feel the momentum finally shifted as the mighty Greta Thunberg, recently clinching the Time Person of the Year award, literally changed everything through her School Strike for Climate Change protests which are still seeing millions of protestors from every corner of the world.

A huge protest for the environment

We reported major incidents and dug deep into topics including sea-level rising, and the all-important figure of 12 years to save the planet. Here we discussed how action needs to be taken now in order for us to keep global warming to a bare minimum – and the magical number here was that a 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature increase is all the world can tolerate at this point in time… before we face unprecedented changes to wildlife.

Talking about wildlife we also reported that we sadly have already lost over 60% of the world’s wildlife, which is an alarming amount. This figure still shocks us, and while we do our part in going green, we really beg you to do yours… even giving you tips on how you can have a greener Christmas. If you have not read our tips already, please, follow these easy examples.

Besides 1.5 degrees Celsius and 12 years, we explained the significance of another key figure to our planet: Two metres, in our blog post entitled “Whats in two meters?” – well, in a nutshell, a huge amount of wildlife, and a huge amount of damages… and yes even our little islands will be impacted in a negative way, so let’s act now and in 2020 to ensure minimum damages.

The Galapagos islands gave us a good territory for a deep case study on how plastic is floating from way across the world and causing misery on these remote islands which were once so rich in biodiversity. The result was shocking as we now realise that basically plastic pollution is being carried all over the world, and is essentially ending up in our stomachs via the fish we catch and eat…

The Galapagos Islands

And what about the devastating fires in the Amazon rainforest. Do you think they were started by man? As the world wept, more pressure fell on our politicians whose decisions ad wrecking our planet for short term goals.

We also gave you news about the year 2050: an even hotter Malta and a London like Barcelona. Yes, it is getting serious folks, and global warming is a thing, no matter who tries to deny it and why…

Thankfully, We also had some fun and good news when we talked about NGOs ambitious plans to plant 1,000,000 indigenous trees in Malta and Gozo over the next 10 years. Bravi! We’ve had fun scuba diving and spotting squid eggs in Cirkewwa and have hosted dozens of workshops here at the Malta National Aquarium for hundreds of eager students who want to equip themselves with the right knowledge to change their world, our world, for a better place. This December I was even lucky enough to spot a school of juvenile barracuda stalking the Um El Faroud wreck in Zurrieq as that artificial reef keeps attracting more diverse species of marine life.

Talking about artificial reefs, we showed you what scientists in Australia are doing to rebuild reefs using 3D printers, and we also showed you the differences between a healthy reef and a dying reef in the blog post “Dare to Listen.”

With this episode, we realised the importance of sound in a reef  – and now scientists have taken it one step further. They have started an experiment where they planted waterproof underwater speakers emitting the sounds of a healthy reef into a dying reef. The result? Curious fish visiting the reef, pushing up wildlife by 20% and this is fantastic as they can begin to reintegrate into the reef, attracting more and more species as the hustle and bustle of a reef returns to life. Its fantastic news, and though still in the experimental phase, scientists are excited by this major development. This technique is called Acoustic Sound Mimicking and we can’t wait to see its impact.

A healthy coral reef with all the hustle and bustle of aquatic life.

2019 was crucial to the world and without the gumption and stubbornness of one young girl, Greta Thunberg, we will not have made as much progress as her actions even led our politicians to declare a climate emergency here in Malta. Well, she is now the Time Person of the Year 2019, and we can’t wait for more news in 2020 as she vows to carry on the vital fight for our planet.

2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference

The tail end of the year saw even more action as the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference was held in Madrid, which also brought about hundreds of thousands of protests to the Spanish capital as people demand more change and action. This was the 25th edition of the COP25.

The crucial part of the location was the sudden change as it was originally scheduled to take place in Santiago, Chile, however mass protests erupted a change to Madrid was preferred while CHile would retain the presidency for the COP. The reasons for the protests were about the injustices of the economic system currently present in Chile and the change hit the organistion hard in terms of causing people to miss out altogether and hiking up travel demands.

The main topics included:

  • Greenland’s melting ice sheets
  • The decrease of oxygen in the world’s oceans
  • Water supply problems due to global warming and rising demand

Maltese activist JD Farrugia made the trip out to Madrid, reporting for Cop25 watch and you can follow their progress on their homepage as their team report back on the most significant climate issues.

After the conference, JD gave his comments to the Malta National Aquarium “Emissions are rising not falling, and targets to combat this are too low. Bigger companies  and rich countries are causing this, and the effect on the poorer countries and indigenous communities is damning”.

“Big countries are not accepting responsibility, they are trying to water down the science and using delaying strategies which causes more problems… with none of them taking responsibility for climate change, the situation becomes more difficult.”

“The least cooperative countries are the ones with the highest emissions like Australia, Brazil, USA and China” JD added.

Awareness is increasing, global movements are happening, and this was the longest COP to date with a two day extension. 500,000 people attended the protest, including our Maltese insider, with speeches from Greta Thunberg, Javier Bardem and indigenous representatives.

2020 will be a crucial year, and Glasgow will host the next COP – with the USA not being involved after Trump withdrew from the Paris agreement and this raises more eyebrows having one of the most notorious contributors out of the equation.

Vincent and the Whale

We also discussed the vital topic of Whaling, as Japan lifted sanctions allowing it to resume whaling activities in and around her waters. This was heavily protested against during the Rugby World Cup, held in Japan and it also led me to publish my very first fiction book entitled Vincent and the Whale

The book, available on paperback or e-book on Amazon tackles the subject of Whaling in Japan and does so in a fun, and adventurous way as a young boy called Vincent has to save his friend Sisou, a humpback whale after he was caught by fishermen in the Yellow Sea. It’s ideal for anyone over the age of eight, both kids and adults alike.

Plant-Based shoes

More good news came at the tail end of this year as sports brand Reebok released their latest footwear range: a plant-based shoe, where no animals are hurt, or used in production. Athletes are hailing it as a step in the right direction and we can look forward to seeing more vegan fashion next year. They’re comfy, stylish and just perfect for the environment!

Image credit: Reebok UK

Fix it, don’t bin it with the Repair Cafe

On this blog, we take pride in identifying worthy local NGOs which are having a positive impact on our environment, and luckily in Malta, we have a bunch of talented humans willing to dedicate their free time to educate, spread awareness and also contribute positively to the environment.

One of these is the Repair Cafe, and I caught up with Pablo Amaral, a Brazilian living in Malta who works in the local branch of a worldwide initiative.

The concept is simple: People are encouraged to bring their broken items, which they would like to have fixed in return of a voluntary donation. Volunteers then attempt and often fix the damages, meaning the item does not end up discarded in a landfill, or even worse as we have seen locally, in a field or in the sea. While repairing the item a conversation is always struck on the importance of not discarding items but finding more uses for them or repairing them rather than replacing them. This affects the market and the world by reducing demand. Recycling is often a hot topic… but since this consumes energy too, they would rather repair the broken items. Electrical items are always a popular fix, but wooden items re also frequently seen at the Repair Cafe.

The local cafes collaborate with Friends of the Earth, Malta and it is great to see two handy initiatives combine for the better cause.

If you have items that need fixes, look out for Repair Cafe events like these on Facebook, spread the word and make less of an impact on the local landfill. Throwing things away is too easy, but most things can be fixed up!

Make 2020 an awesome year for the environment

So as we close this decade, let’s keep one thing in mind: Make 2020 an awesome year for our environment. Bring on the new challenges, more protests, more research and more fantastic initiatives.

At the Malta National Aquarium, we will strive to continue our hard work, spreading awareness and we will give you more lessons and workshops than ever as we push to get our message across. There is no Planet B, so let’s fix the one we have!