Global sustainability starts locally

Talk: Sustainable sea
Speaker: Martin Hassellöv, professor, Institution for Marine Sciences, University of Gothenburg
Site: Smögen Seaside Resort

Martin Hassellöv is an internationally recognised researcher, but he originates from Smögen, and starts and ends his lecture with a local perspective.
Before plastic and disposables, the strong currents from the Atlantic and the North Sea was an asset. They brought wreck wood to the stony Westcoast of Sweden, where that otherwise was a limited resource.

Martin himself joined his grandparents when they went out on the cliffs to ”vraga”, as it is called using the genuine dialect of Smögen. But with his generation came the tar spots on the wreck wood, and more and more trash as time passed by. The amount of hazardous waste increased, and on Smögen a scow was build. They called it “General Smuts” , “General Dirt” in English, and it was used to dump all waste in the Hållö fjord, outside the island.

Not better in the old days
It was for sure not better in the early days. Far into the 1900s many people obviously believed that if something disappeared below the surface, it was gone for ever. Bot with the spread of plastics and the welfare on the whole, that sort of innocence was gone.

Another professor from Smögen, Arne Holmström, active at Chalmers University of Technology, showed already 1975 how the influence of UV- radiation on plastic film made it to sink to the bottom. Today we know that large areas of the ocean bottoms are covered by plastics, and that out of the 12 million tons ending up in the oceans every year, 94 percent sink deeper and deeper. All the way down to the Marianer grave, the deepest place on earth.

Dangerous and ugly
Here Martin Hassellöv starts to show the well-known pictures from the Midway Islands. Birds wrenching in pain and dying because they have suppressed their hunger with plastics instead of food, as becoming evident when they are teared apart.

– Plastic in the sea is killing, Martin Hassellöv says with the gravity of a person that has directed his whole career to the sea and comes from an island at the outermost frontier to the sea. And it is also ugly, he adds, and is pleased by the fact that more and more people understands the problem, realize it and act.

Supported by the UN´s 14th sustainability goal – Life below water – the work to turn off the cranes that produce unnecessary products of plastic and other material threatening the environment has begun. Along more and more coasts in the world people are getting better and better to clean up what the sea spits out. Global sustainability starts on a local basis, Martin Hassellöv closes his lecture.