Ocean Plastic Pollution, A Global Crisis – What Can We Do?

turtle.jpgPhoto Credit: greenpeace.org

In September of last year, Kenya joined the growing list of countries to ban plastic bags. This recent ban bars the production, sale and use of all polythene plastic bags, with a fine of up to $40,000 or four years imprisonment for failure to act in accordance with the law (1). This ban was imposed by the government after identifying that the toxins from plastic bags were impeding the water sources within the country. Kenya isn’t the only country to realize the destructive effects of plastic bags, Bangladesh was one of the first countries to enforce a ban after their plastic bags started blocking drainage systems, causing serious flooding across the country. In 2008, China also joined in banning thin plastic bags and began charging more for thicker ones.

Through these very tangible experiences of plastic bags impeding society, global citizens have become more aware of a world that could be headed toward a plastic pollution nightmare. We see the pictures of plastic pileups on beaches and the islands of waste floating in oceans (the last episode of Planet Earth-Two was especially troubling), but what’s causing this catastrophe (2)? The popularized chants of, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” and “Save the whales” inspire citizens to be more conscious waste consumers, but without knowing how our waste consumption is actually affecting the environment, how can we be motivated to make more permanent changes?

According to an article by Linda Nowlan, the Head of the Marine Program at West Coast Environmental Law in Vancouver, close to 90% of seabirds have plastics in their guts (3). This alarming statistic is merely a side effect of the main problem: up to 12 million tonnes of plastic is entering the ocean every year. To put that into perspective, that’s a garbage truck emptying out its contents into the ocean every minute Plastic accounts for more than 80% of marine litter, making it our primary debris in oceans (4). As more marine animals consume the plastics, the toxins are absorbed in their bodies and passed up the food chain– where humans will inevitably experience these detrimental health effects. While you may not be dumping your garbage straight into the ocean, you may be contributing to this pile up without even being aware of it.

Plastics are entering our ocean ecosystem through litter, drains, and landfills (5). When plastic bottles and plastic bags are littered on the streets or beaches, they are often blown into rivers or drains that flow into the ocean. In the case of drains, many people aren’t aware that the tiny microbeads in toothpaste and makeup products are made of plastic, and when they have washed down the sink they are being added to the plastic pile in the ocean. The industrial leakage in landfills is also one of the biggest problems for plastics. While we may believe that we are responsibly disposing of our plastics by putting them in the garbage, the reality is that many of our plastic bags and containers in landfills are blown away, and like the litter, end up in our oceans.

While global initiatives should continue to be pushed as they drastically help create a more sustainable, healthy environment, all Vancouver citizens are capable of helping by making practical contributions to the movement. A great place to start is by joining the 72,300 others who have signed the #CleanSeas pledge the UN launched in 2017. The pledge challenges citizens to reduce their use of plastic straws, water bottles, containers, bags and packaging by replacing them with reusable alternatives.

You can join the #CleanSeas pledge here: http://www.cleanseas.org/take-action

 

Another way to contribute to cleaner oceans is by responsibly disposing of your plastics. Instead of putting your plastic bags in the garbage where they’ll go to landfills and can take up to 1000 years to break down, you can recycle them at Recycling Council of British Columbia (RCBC) depots for free. There are two sites that help Vancouver citizens get clarity on what gets recycled, and where, that you can find in these links:

https://recyclebc.ca/what-can-i-recycle/#1489682007898-14c54374-fbb1

http://vancouver.ca/home-property-development/what-goes-in-garbage-bins.aspx

 

UNAC-V, OceanWise, Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, Surfrider Vancouver and the City of Vancouver are organizing a World Oceans Day Cleanup and Celebration event on June 9th from 10:30am-2:00pm. Join us for a panel discussion addressing solutions to plastic pollution, an educational fair with like-minded organizations and a shoreline cleanup! You can find more information here: https://education.ocean.org/oceanmatters/calendar/event/36153

We hope to see you there!

 

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About Our Writer: 

Julianna Driedger

Julianna Driedger is currently a Media and Communications student at Trinity Western University (TWU). She is passionate about women’s advocacy and has been involved in the sexual misconduct policy reform for TWU. Julianna has led ideas for marketing campaigns in her University and is currently completing an internship in Communications at Lehigh Hanson. She looks forward to her semester as an intern in Parliament Hill, Ottawa in the Fall.

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Dr. Patsy George

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UNAC Vancouver is pleased to announce that UNAC-V Past President and current Honorary Director of the branch, Ms. Patsy George, has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Laws (LL.D) by the University of British Columbia.

Patsy George is an internationally recognized former social worker and ongoing activist who has devoted her long career to fighting for social justice both within Canada and internationally. She is a recipient of the Order of Canada and the Order of British Columbia.

Please read and be inspired by Patsy’s acceptance speech, below.

Thank you to the Chancellor, President and Vice Chancellor, other distinguished guests on stage, Faculty, students, parents and friends. Let me express my deep appreciation to the original peoples of this land to have welcomed us all to their unceded territories.

Congratulations to each and every one of you graduating today and to your families and friends who are proud of you. I accept this honour with a great deal of emotion and gratitude and want to thank not only UBC but also Canada.

I arrived in Canada as an international student 58 years ago after a brief period in the US where I experienced a traumatic incident because of my colour. I am eternally grateful to the then president of that university in Texas who advised me to give Canada a chance, instead of packing my bags and returning to India which was my home at that time. She had a PhD from a Canadian University and convinced me that I would find like minded people in Canada who are progressive and who truly believe in equality and human rights .So today I thank her as well, a woman who had the wisdom to counsel a young 20 year old in tears, to move to Canada.

It is a Canada that embraced me and gave me opportunities to finish University, work as a public servant both at the Provincial and Federal levels, take on leading roles in the nongovernmental sector and contribute as a volunteer locally, nationally and globally. Canada gave me opportunities to build on the already existing good will in our communities in different parts of this great country. It offered me room to grow and fit in and offer my talents to bring people and resources together to work for an even better Canada where diversity is respected and celebrated. Where else would a young foreign student with average interest in music and reading become so passionately involved in listening to Western classical music and opera and later on get doors opened to serve as a Trustee of one of the largest public libraries in Canada! Cultural minorities and people in the margins of society are guaranteed rights in our Human Rights Codes, and in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, unlike the early 1960’s USA I left behind.

Canada gave me opportunities to represent her overseas at various UN conferences, Peace and Social Development Forums organized by the women’s community and my own profession of Social Work. I was able to share with the world the nature of Canadian Multiculturalism with pride and confidence. My colleagues and I, at the provincial government level were able to develop racism free structures in our bureaucracies and support community based anti racism programmes. I shall remain grateful to the Government of Canada for giving me the job as a Commissioner representing Canada to determine eligibility of refugee claimants and welcoming them from many parts of the world to this country. One can count on Canada to provide opportunities for such experiences whether you were born here or chose Canada as your home as I did.

Even though we  in Canada have reasons to feel proud of our Human Rights legislations, the Charter and various UN treaties we have adopted , we still have a lot of work to do to live up to the  expectations of the UN Declaration of Human Rights , which a Canadian helped to write, as we are proud to note. As yet we are a long way from the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples recommended to us by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

While Canada does provide opportunities and the environment, in which we have the potential to achieve the said goals, we need to remain committed to furthering the goals as stated in those declarations.  The idea of Canada can only sustain itself through a symbiosis between people and purpose, through resonance and resolve of its pluralistic fabric that continue to evolve through its respect for the rights of the indigenous peoples and the rest of us settlers from around the world . It is a challenge for this graduating class, together with our families, neighbours and friends. We must continue to work together for equality, peace and justice in Canada and around the world.

As human beings, we need to experience a sense of belonging which I have felt in this country and among my colleagues and friends working together to eliminate poverty, racism, sexism, violence against women and children and all other prejudices and ill conceived notions of gender , about people with varying abilities and about the aging populations in our communities. We are interdependent locally and globally. Let us prove to the world that Kipling was mistaken when he expressed the sentiments that “East is East and West is West and never the Twain shall meet”. We can and we have brought the world closer and smaller in Canada by bringing diverse people and a diversity of ideas together.

Let me emphasize. Seeking to be part of change –social change – means one must become that change. Social activism is not what others do. It gives you meaning in life .Belonging and valuing others, serving something beyond yourself helps you to connect to a higher reality. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi “be the change you want to see in this world”

Whether you spend your future choosing a career in business, take on public service, become a politician or diplomat, create art and music or serve your fellow citizens as a teacher, a nurse, a social worker or a technician or working with others to keep the planet alive for the future generations, the key to feeling fulfilled is to recognize the urgent and persistent question in life. What are you doing for others? In other words recognize our common humanity and work towards strengthening those bonds. That is the ideal Canada is built on.

If it were possible for the president of my former US University to be here today, she would smile and remind me that it is a good idea to listen to your elders and teachers, at least sometimes, while you are seeking your own truths and finding your own way in this complicated world.

May each of you be blessed with opportunities to fulfill your life’s potential, seek the truth; and contribute to the betterment of humanity, no matter where or how you pursue your career goals. Follow the advice of Ferdinand Magellan, one of the Portuguese explorers, “the sea is dangerous, and its storms terrible but these obstacles have never been sufficient reason to remain ashore”.

All of you who are graduating today must thank this institution, the University of British Columbia for providing the tools, role models, inspiration and values to go out into the world and fulfill your dreams. It is my prayer that you will find yourselves as global citizens, dedicated to creating peaceful and just communities and toward creating ONE WORLD.

Martin Luther King told us the following: “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way”. Let that message ring in your ears whenever you are called upon to take on responsibilities. Congratulations to each and every one of you.

Patsy George, May 24, 2018

Come to DOXA: ‘The Cleaners’

Screen Shot 2018-05-09 at 12.56.22 PMIn 1998, Vancouver gained DOXA, a non-profit society dedicated to presenting innovative documentaries to local audiences. The Vancouver branch of the UN Association in Canada (UNAC_V) is proud to have sponsored films for the Justice Forum category of this festival since 2012.

This year, UNAC-V has chosen, “The Cleaners” to support. A film about social media and its hidden secrets, it is especially relevant to global issues when considering recent news about the impact of disinformation and subsequent national, even international events. The film will be screened Wednesday, May 9th at 6pm. The location is 149 West Hastings Street in the SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts. Please visit representatives of UNAC-V at their table located on the 3rd floor near the entrance of theatre! We would love to see you there. We are always looking for supporters to join which would assist us financially in supporting important local events such as DOXA.

Social media breathes life into democracy; Arab Spring and #BlackLivesMatter comes to mind. Unfortunately, more sinister forces are cultivated using social media, sometimes consciously and often inadvertently,  but seemingly unabated. A United Nations report has blamed social media for genocide in Myanmar, with concern about “high levels of hate speech…particularly on social media”. Facebook has declared it has clear rules against hate speech and the incitement of violence, and that efforts have been improved to keep it off the platform. It’s what makes up these efforts at cleaning up Facebook that is the subject of this DOXA film, “The Cleaners”.

This year, 2018, is the 70th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights. In honour of this most important international document let us consider the ways that human rights are breached, and then support the UN in prevention and eradication efforts of these breaches. By supporting and joining the UN Association in Canada, you would be contributing to this important process of education and action. (Tip: Use the Google Chrome browser to see the online form.)

 

UNAC-V Sponsors DOXA Film: The Cleaners

THE_CLEANERS_photoUNA-Vancouver is pleased to be sponsoring the May 9th screening of The Cleaners, a documentary film about the unseen impact of outsourcing the ethics of social media on workers, democracy and the role of technology in our lives. The Wednesday, May 9th screening is part of the Justice Forum Series and will include a post-film discussion with a selected voice from the field.

Directed by Hans Block (Germany) and Mortiz Riesewieck (Brazil), their work starts with investigations and end up as striking, complex narrations. In The Cleaners, they have revealed the dark underbelly of our globalized social media culture and the people employed to determine what is unacceptable.

Tickets are on sale now: Buy Tickets.

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To see other films included in DOXA’s 2018 program: See Festival Schedule. DOXA runs from May 3rd to May 13th. Watch the trailer below, and join us on May 9th.

Invitation to AGM 2018

 

AGM_poster_3The Vancouver Branch of the UN Association in Canada (UNAC-V) welcomes all members of the local branch to attend the Annual General Meeting taking place Monday, April 9th from 7pm until 8pm with refreshments at 7pm. The meeting will convene at the Immigrant Services Society of BC (ISSBC) building located at 2610 Victoria Drive in Vancouver near the Broadway Skytrain Station.

We believe that the work of UNAC-V is very important: ensuring Canadians understand and support the goals and ideals of the United Nations. Please continue to support our work in sharing UN goals and achievements with Canadians of all ages.

2018 Dr. Richard B. Splane Lecture in Social Policy

The Dr. Richard Splane Lecture on Social Policy is an annual free public lecture in celebration of the noted accomplishments of Dick Splane, former Director of the School of Social Work at UBC and UNA-Canada patron.

This year’s guest lecturer, Dr. David Piachaud, will speak on the topic of “Poverty, Basic Income, and Social Policy.” The talk will take place on Thursday, 15 March from 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM at The Asian Centre, 1871 West Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2, located between the C.K. Choi building and Nitobe Gardens, a short walk from the Liu Institute. Please find a map here.

Event registration is required. Register here

About the talk:

Professor Piachaud’s lecture will review the causes, extent and evolution of poverty in advanced economies and the benefits and limitations of social security responses and, the growing interest in a basic income approach. Basic Income will then be described, as will confusions about its name, its objectives, its level, and its relation to other social services. Other consideration of basic income will include the justice of conditionality; individualized simplicity; redistributive efficiency; and, political feasibility. Finally, Professor Piachaud will conclude his lecture with consideration of the broader consequences of poverty and inequality for health, education and social stability – and the implications of these consequences for Basic Income and social policy generally.

Bio:

David Piachaud taught at the London School of Economics from 1970 to 2016 and was Professor of Social Policy 1988 to 2016. He is now Emeritus Professor of Social Policy and an Associate of the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion and of the Indian Observatory. He was Social Policy Advisor in the Prime Minister’s Policy Unit (1974-79) and has been Consultant to the European Commission, the ILO, the OECD and the Chinese Government. He has lectured in 20 countries. He has written papers and books on children, poverty, social security, social exclusion and social policy. Publications include: Causes of Poverty, HMSO, 1978 (with Richard Layard and Mark Stewart); Understanding Social Exclusion. Oxford University Press, 2002, (editor with John Hills and Julian LeGrand); Poverty in Britain: The Impact of Government Policy since 1997, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2003 (with Holly Sutherland and Tom Sefton); One Hundred Years of Poverty and Policy. Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2004 (with Howard Glennerster, John Hills and Jo Webb)’ Making Social Policy Work Policy Press, 2007 (editor with John Hills and Julian Le Grand); Colonialism and Welfare, Edward Elgar, 2011, and Social Protection, Economic Growth and Social Change: Goals, Issues and Trajectories in China, India, Brazil and South Africa, Edward Elgar, 2013, (editor with James Midgley).

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This event is co-hosted by the UBC School of Social Work, the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the United Nations Association of Greater Vancouver.

This event is now sold out. To be added to the waitlist, please email your name and any guest name(s) to lindsay.marsh@ubc.ca

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#MeToo – Empowering Women in Vancouver and Beyond

By Julianna Driedger

In 2017, there was remarkable progress made to enhance women’s empowerment; one particular movement of which has continued to have a voice into the new year. The familiar hashtag #metoo, went viral in October across social media platforms providing a channel that would connect survivors of sexual harassment and draw attention to the magnitude of those affected. While this hashtag has been popularized recently, the #metoo movement was originally created by Tarana Burke in 2006. Burke meant to give a voice to the victims of sexual violence with her idea of “empowerment through empathy,” where sexual violence survivors could share their experiences with others who have similar stories and find they are not alone. #Metoo is meant to start conversations about sexual violence and help survivors find healing. The spread of the hashtag highlights the sheer number of people affected which in turn helps to de-stigmatize the survivors, and seeks to prevent future sexual violence.

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While the movement started as a way of giving a voice to those who have experienced sexual violence, it has since expanded to the stories of those who have been affected by sexual assault or harassment. The movement gained momentum after sexual misconduct allegations were made against Harvey Weinstein when Alyssa Milano took to Twitter to encourage survivors of sexual harassment and assault to post #metoo as a status update. According to a CBS News stat, the hashtag was retweeted just under a million times in 48 hours, and on Facebook had more than 12 million posts, reactions and comments in less than 24 hours by 4.7 million users around the world (2). The article continues that in “the U.S., Facebook said 45 percent of users have had friends who posted ‘me too.’” These staggering numbers show survivors that they truly are not alone, while also revealing to the public the extent of the problem and the shocking amount of people who have experienced sexual harassment and violence.

Vancouver citizens have joined in the #metoo movement not only by participating in the social media hashtags but by holding a MeToo Rally that took place on November 4, 2017. In Vancouver, there are many survivors of various forms of sexual misconduct. The movement and rally have brought attention to the importance of the conversation around this topic, and in order to move that conversation forward, the focus must be around ending discrimination and violence against women in society. In Vancouver, the city has provided some notable ways in which to do this.

For example, a significant legislation was passed on April 16, 2017, that required all British Columbia post-secondary institutions to establish and implement a sexual misconduct policy by May 18, 2017. The University of British Columbia has responded to this policy by implementing a Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office that receives disclosures of sexual misconduct, provides information and referrals to different counselling and aid centres, helps act as a liaison with investigations of allegations, and leads an educational program to counter sexual misconduct (5). Other BC Universities have followed in implementing programs designed to prevent and protect their students and staff from sexual misconduct.

UBC has also made a point to address and educate their students on what is considered sexual misconduct, and what is considered consent. These keywords, “sexual misconduct” and “consent,” are crucial for the public to understand so that they can recognize what appropriate boundaries and behaviour looks like. By being able to recognize and respect appropriate behaviour and boundaries, it is easier for people to spot when it is being transgressed and get help.

In 2018, women’s empowerment must continue to push new boundaries. Vancouver citizens should be able to feel safe to express sexual misconduct complaints and be taken seriously without fear of retaliation. These affected citizens are vital voices to be heard as the pain and anger from their experiences will help others understand the importance of this issue. Post-secondary institutions are now required to have sexual misconduct policies, and workplaces should too. Society cannot remain indifferent to acts of sexual harassment. The government needs to step in with active ways to prevent sexual misconduct in all levels of communities, provide aid to those affected, and alleviate survivors from feeling blamed or ignored but empowered in voicing their stories so they don’t face fear of stigmatization.

If the #metoo movement continues to be empowered with honest and impassioned voices, it will push the United Nations goal to achieve gender equality and empower all women into a closer reality. The UN seeks to see accomplishments made in favour of advancing women’s rights throughout the world, which can be seen in the UN Women’s Year in Review link: http://interactive.unwomen.org/multimedia/timeline/yearinreview/2017/en/index.html

If you are affected by a sexual misconduct crisis or know someone who is, there are resource groups established to help like WAVAW Rape Crisis Centre, Vancouver Rape Relief, and The Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre of B.C. who are easy to get in touch with. And remember, if you see something, say something.

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