This heat has led to extreme weather events across the world, including fires in the Amazon, Australia, California, Siberia and the Arctic; cyclones in India and Bangladesh; typhoons in the Philippines and Japan; one of the worst recorded hurricanes in the Bahamas; and severe flooding in Pakistan, Indonesia, Iran, India, and Italy.
The WMO predicts that 2020 will see many of the same extreme weather events, which will continue throughout the coming decades.
The climate crisis is enough to leave one feeling anxious and hopeless, and it may seem like an impossible problem to solve, but there are things that we can do as a community to prevent it from getting worse.
Here is a 15-point bio-remediation plan that reduces CO2 emissions and increases sequestration to fight climate change, clean up the environment, and diversify the economy on Phuket.
1. Education Campaigns – Teach people the importance of reducing their carbon footprint and reducing their air, water, land, plastic and ocean pollution using community groups, schools, billboards, banners, radio, TV ads, and social media. A simple slogan like Keep Phuket Beautiful strategically placed on billboards around the island and online could help reduce public littering. We could also offer workshops on how to repurpose, collect and monetise trash.
2. Save Whales – According to a study from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), an average great whale sequesters almost 30,000 kilos of CO2 during its lifetime, while an average tree only absorbs about 21 kilos of CO2 a year.
Whale activity also promotes the growth of phytoplankton which contributes 50% of the oxygen to our atmosphere and captures 40% of all CO2 produced or the equivalent of four Amazon forests. The IMF study says that a modest 1% increase in phytoplankton growth would capture the equivalent CO2 of 2 billion mature trees.
The leading killers of whales include hunting, boat strikes, fishing nets that have been left or lost in the ocean by fishermen known as ghost nets, consumption of plastics, noise, and ocean pollution. By reducing these, we could increase their numbers. Using the Ghost Gear Reporter App, we could geotag ghost nets in the ocean, remove, and recycle them.
We could also educate fishermen on the importance of preventing ghost nets and keeping the ocean clean.
3. Reduce Food and Clothing Waste –One-third of all food grown is wasted. If food waste were a country, it would rank third behind China and the United States for releasing greenhouse gases. Reducing food waste not only fights climate change, but also lowers the use of pesticides, fertilisers, and other types of pollutants.
Likewise, the textile industry produces 5% of the global greenhouse gas and the average American throws away almost 40 kilos of clothes a year.
Olio (olioex.com) is an app and website that matches businesses and individuals who have extra food and other resources with organisations or people who need them. We could use this app to match restaurants, grocery stores, and cafes that have excess food with charities that need it. Likewise, we could use the app to setup clothing exchanges or for sharing other resources such as books and tools.
4. Compost – Fifty to 60% of household waste is compostable, and we can turn it into fertiliser, which reduces greenhouse gases, enriches the soil and improves air quality, which in turn decreases flooding and landslides.
Compost bins could be built from inexpensive materials such as used fishing nets and dead tree branches. There are also reasonably priced automated tools like the Food Cycler (NoFoodWaste.com) which makes both family-sized and industrial machines that make compost in 24 hours. Finally, there is a free website/app called ShareWaste.com, which matches composters with people who have food waste.
5. Biogas – HomeBiogas is a device that takes food waste and turns it into cooking gas and fertiliser. Using backwards engineering a similar device could be built in Thailand that costs a lot less than the B22,000 that they are selling theirs for.
6. Plant Bamboo – It grows quickly, sequesters CO2, prevents soil erosion and reduces landslides and flooding. It also has lots of practical uses for construction, furniture and food.
7. Butts Off the Beach – Cigarette butts are the most common form of plastic litter in the world, and they contain cancer-causing toxins, kill marine life, wild birds and pets, and can make children sick.
We can stop this by placing ashtrays made from 1.5- and 6-litre water bottles on beaches. We could then collect the butts, decompose them and their toxins using common oyster mushrooms.
8. Grow Algae – This single-celled plant, when grown in optimised conditions, can sequester up 400 times more CO2 than a tree of comparable size. We can grow algae on rooftops, in ponds or in backyards, which would fight climate change as well as provide materials for food, fuel, biodegradable plastics or fertiliser.
9. Grow Azolla – This is a freshwater fern that grows quickly and can capture so much CO2 that it is credited with causing an ice age when it reduced the carbon levels by 3,000ppm. Scientists estimate that to stabilise our climate we would need to reduce our CO2 by 60ppm. It can also be used, for mosquito control, fertiliser, fuel, food, livestock feed and to clean water.
10. Bio-Diesel – We can recycle used cooking oil from restaurants and turn it into fuel for vehicles and generators. We could also turn azolla and algae into diesel to create a carbon-neutral fuel.
11. Repair and Protect Mangroves– These forests protect coasts from soil erosion, storms and flooding, sequester CO2, and provide a natural tourism attraction. However, 84% of Thailand’s mangrove forests have been cut down. We could repair mangroves by planting new trees, removing plastic debris, and protecting them from pollution and overdevelopment
12. Vertical Gardens, Rooftop Farms and Rain Gardens – Growing these can reduce air-conditioning usage by much as 50%, which reduces greenhouse gases. It also beautifies buildings, reduces the air temperature, captures pollution and can absorb noise. Rain gardens could absorb pollution from rooftops and streets before it enters the klongs and oceans.
13. Eliminate Plastic Waste – We can eliminate plastic waste from beach clean-ups with a tool called the Wastebot, which uses pyrolysis to convert this waste into diesel. Two other companies called Biocellection and Carbios are working on using enzymes to restore plastic for reuse and may have viable solutions in the next year or two.
14. Promote Recycling and Install Bins – We could build large inexpensive bins from tree branches and recycled fishing nets and install them at beaches and around town to collect cans, bottles and plastic.
These bins could also be placed at shopping malls to collect e-waste. Volunteers could then pick up the recycling and deliver them to a facility to collect money.
We could also use the Can-It App (canit-app.com) to match people or businesses that have material to recycle with volunteers who are willing to take it to recyclers.
15. Stop the Burn – Burning organic waste and plastic releases CO2, pollutes the air, and leads to health problems. We could place bins at the burn sites, use the Can-It app to collect the organic waste and turn it into compost.
Potential Projects – These projects would need government approval but could include floating gardens and debris nets to clean the canals, tree planting, coral reef restoration, as well as seaweed and shellfish farms to clean the ocean.
By repurposing, collecting and monetizing we could keep project costs low, fight climate change, clean up Phuket, provide an income opportunity for Thais, and give retired expats something constructive to do with their time.
If we don’t get the next 10 years right, the next 20 will get a lot worse. Implementing these projects now can make a difference tomorrow.
See Palmers 1st part here: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Palmer Owyoung is an environmental activist working with the Kamala Green Club and the Asia Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) to keep Phuket beautiful and clean.