Teenage activist Greta Thunberg takes climate campaign to the high seas on Plymouth-New York boat trip

Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg attends a news conference ahead of her trans-Atlantic boat trip to New York in Plymouth, southern UK. (Reuters)
Updated 14 August 2019

Teenage activist Greta Thunberg takes climate campaign to the high seas on Plymouth-New York boat trip

  • 16-year-old activist, who shot to global fame last year after she started missing school every Friday to demonstrate outside the Swedish parliament, is bound for New York
  • The vessel has been equipped with solar panels and underwater electricity turbines to ensure that it leaves no carbon footprint

PLYMOUTH, UK: With the wind in her hair and TV cameras pointing at her, Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg began a trans-Atlantic crossing in a racing yacht on Wednesday to further her campaign for stronger action against climate change.
The 16-year-old activist, who shot to global fame last year after she started missing school every Friday to demonstrate outside the Swedish parliament, is bound for New York, where she will take part in a United Nations climate summit.
Standing on a pontoon in a marina in Plymouth, southwest England, Thunberg gave a news conference in front of a throng of TV crews and photographers just before setting sail under a typically English grey sky on the 60-foot yacht Malizia II.

The vessel has been equipped with solar panels and underwater electricity turbines to ensure that it leaves no carbon footprint. Conditions on board are Spartan, with no shower or toilet, and meals will consist of freeze-dried food.
Thunberg, who was wearing a black waterproof jacket emblazoned with the slogan “Unite Behind the Science,” was asked how she expected other people to travel across continents, given that not everyone could muster a racing yacht and crew.
“I am not telling anyone what to do or what not to do,” she responded. “I am one of the very, very few people in the world who actually can do this and I think I should take that chance.”
She said that her voice was not heard at all when she first started campaigning on climate change issues, and it was only after she started her school strikes and other teenagers began to emulate her that she made an impact. This had convinced her of the value of creative forms of campaigning.

Having previously said it would be a waste of time for her to meet President Donald Trump, who has pulled the United States out of the Paris accord on limiting the effects of climate change, Thunberg was pressed on why she would not want to seize any chance to convince him or other skeptics.
“I’m not that special. I can’t convince everyone. Instead of speaking to me and to the school-striking children and teenagers they should be talking to actual scientists and experts in this area,” she said.
“There are climate delayers who want to do everything to shift the focus from the climate crisis to something else, or want to make people question the science. I’m not worried about that. I’m just going to do as I want to do and what I think will have most impact.”
Thunberg is taking a year off school to travel around the Americas. She said she did not yet know how she would come home at the end of her travels.

 


Plastic particles in drinking water present ‘low’ risk — World Health Organization

Updated 38 min 26 sec ago

Plastic particles in drinking water present ‘low’ risk — World Health Organization

  • WHO issues first report on microplastics in drinking water
  • Reassures consumers that risk is low, but says more study needed
GENEVA: Microplastics contained in drinking water pose a “low” risk to human health at current levels, but more research is needed to reassure consumers, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.
Studies over the past year on plastic particles detected in tap and bottled water have sparked public concerns but the limited data appears reassuring, the UN agency said its first report on potential health risks associated with ingestion.
Microplastics enter drinking water sources mainly through run-off and wastewater effluent, the WHO said. Evidence shows that microplastics found in some bottled water seem to be at least partly due to the bottling process and/or packaging such as plastic caps, it said.
“The headline message is to reassure drinking water consumers around the world, that based on this assessment, our assessment of the risk is that it is low,” Bruce Gordon of the WHO’s department of public health, environmental and social determinants of health, told a briefing.
The WHO did not recommended routine monitoring for microplastics in drinking water. But research should focus on issues including what happens to chemical additives in the particles once they enter the gastrointestinal tract, it said.
The majority of plastic particles in water are larger than 150 micrometers in diameter and are excreted from the body, while “smaller particles are more likely to cross the gut wall and reach other tissues,” it said.
Health concerns have centered around smaller particles, said Jennifer De France, a WHO technical expert and one of the report’s authors.
“For these smallest size particles, where there is really limited evidence, we need know more about what is being absorbed, the distribution and their impacts,” she said.
More research is needed into risks from microplastics exposure throughout the environment — “in our drinking water, air and food,” she added.
Alice Horton, a microplastics researcher at Britain’s National Oceanography Center, said in a statement on the WHO’s findings: “There are no data available to show that microplastics pose a hazard to human health, however this does not necessarily mean that they are harmless.”
“It is important to put concerns about exposure to microplastics from drinking water into context: we are widely exposed to microplastics in our daily lives via a wide number of sources, of which drinking water is just one.”
Plastic pollution is so widespread in the environment that you may be ingesting five grams a week, the equivalent of eating a credit card, a study commissioned by the environmental charity WWF International said in June. That study said the largest source of plastic ingestion was drinking water, but another major source was shellfish.
The biggest overall health threat in water is from microbial pathogens — including from human and livestock waste entering water sources — that cause deadly diarrheal disease, especially in poor countries lacking water treatment systems, the WHO said.
Some 2 billion people drink water contaminated with faeces, causing nearly 1 million deaths annually, Gordon said, adding: “That has got to be the focus of regulators around the world.”