Finding the right partners is key to protecting our oceans

Sustainability has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. In fifth grade, I wrote an essay on the importance of taking care of our environment. I grew up thinking about how all ecosystems are interconnected and how we need to act more sustainably to protect the planet. It’s also a family business — my father, who was in ecosystem analysis school when I was young, instilled these beliefs in his children from the start.

It may not have been the ocean, but growing up on the shore of Lake Michigan in Green Bay certainly felt like it sometimes. My dad was a part-time scuba instructor while he was in school, and I followed him as he taught people how to dive in pools and the Great Lakes. When I imagined scuba diving in the ocean, I imagined the vast blue as something mysterious, glamorous and amazing.

When I finally moved to San Diego, I learned that my imagination was right. Even when I lived near the ocean, it held its mystique in my mind while being part of the fabric of my family’s daily life.

The opportunity to serve as a senior sustainability manager at Dow brought together my career and my passion for oceans and conservation, focusing on the sustainability of our waterways and our planet as a whole. I work with my engineering and scientific colleagues and colleagues to create strategic partnerships and targeted investments in communities to help protect natural resources through low-carbon, circular solutions.
Although I left the California coast, my ties to the water did not dissolve. I’m in Texas now, and part of my ocean restoration work is working with the Galveston Bay Foundation to conduct marine debris surveys on Texas City Dike. Dow is also working with GBF to provide more impactful sustainability education and reduce waste in the environment.

At the heart of this partnership, and with all of our other work to protect and restore the world’s waterways, is the recognition that the ocean plays a critical role as a carbon sink, which is essential in curbing climate change. . Yet ocean challenges are complex and often overlapping, requiring a range of initiatives that take a more holistic and collaborative approach that protects our ocean – and the coastal communities that depend on it for their livelihoods.

A holistic approach — with science and innovation at the forefront

Plastics undoubtedly contribute to ocean litter, and restoring our ocean will require a sustained global commitment to reduce, reuse, reuse and recycle. But from lightweight automobiles to protective coatings for solar panels, plastics are an important part of a low-carbon future. So we need to support circularity by building more robust recycling infrastructure and programs. At Dow, we’re taking action to tackle this complex issue through a multi-pronged approach. This includes our Stop the Waste initiative, which is committed to enabling the collection, reuse or recycling of 1 million metric tons of plastic through direct actions and partnerships while supporting good green jobs. In 2021, the initiative did just that for 23,000 tonnes of plastic waste an increase of 15,000 metric tons over 2020, while launching new field programs in local communities.

But plastics aren’t the only source impacting the ocean and marine life, so focusing exclusively on them risks losing sight of interconnected issues. For example, the United Nations estimates that 95% of the damage to the world’s oceans is the direct result of bottom trawling – a technique used in commercial fishing. And, according to the WWF, the greatest threat to most sea turtles is a fishing gear.

Science and innovation are finding new ways to reduce the impact of fishing on our oceans while improving the quality of life around the world through access to food and jobs. For example, the SmartFish technology harness hydroacoustic sensors with sonar and machine learning technology to track and identify ocean life caught in nets underwater. This innovation helps the industry identify real-time fish and current fish stocks in a given area.

Building a more equitable, sustainable and prosperous global ocean economy

Millions of people around the world depend on the blue economy for their livelihoods, working in industries like waste management, tourism or shipping. Unfortunately, working in the blue economy often comes with low pay and can involve unsafe and outdated equipment in less than ideal conditions. As we take action to clean up and protect the ocean, we must also create a more equitable and sustainable system for surrounding local communities.

The CoopeProMar programme, led by the World Bank, is a great example of making a difference by support fishing cooperatives in Costa Rica. CoopeProMar cultivates community talent to build new infrastructure and support additional income for fishermen through alternative work. It also focuses on strengthening the local market and the broader value chain.

lots of blueth economy workers, especially those in the fishing industry, face difficulties similar to those of many waste workers around the world: low wages, dangerous environments and difficult work. At Dow, we know that investing in careers through training and professionalization can make a difference.

For example, Dow recently partnered with Mr. Green Africa, the continent’s first certified B Corporation recycling company. The partnership supports additional income for local communities while diverting plastic from informal landfills. Instead, this valuable material is recycled into new, high-quality plastic applications. Dow invests in the people and skills needed to get the job done, and we’re seeing first-hand how green jobs for waste workers drive improvements in sustainable practices, waste reduction and wages.

Fighting climate change by saving our ocean

The ocean and its rich biodiversity play a vital role in the fight against climate change. We need to step up our efforts to reduce ocean pollution by continuing to partner with a number of stakeholders – science, industry, government, communities and others – to find new, creative and effective ways to accelerate towards a zero future. carbon in 2050. As we come together, we are also keeping in mind how these challenges intersect with broader value chain challenges. By investing in the people we work with, we are better placed to make a difference.

Jen Ronk is Senior Sustainability Manager, North America at Dow.

About Matthew Berkey

Check Also

Venezuelans who braved horrific jungle trek may have to repeat it | Migration

After two weeks of hiking through the jungles of the perilous Darién Gap with her …