Putting Ocean Warming into Perspective

Ocean temp 1

Few places provide the perspective the Earth’s vastness as effectively as standing on the seashore and gazing out on the vast expanse of the ocean. The level horizon provides an uninterrupted vista of the planet allowing the view to extend miles and miles (well, 3 miles about). A dip into this immensity adds the dimension of depth as you realise that this body of water plummets to fathoms below. In fact, the lowest point down in the ocean (Challenger Deep 36,200 feet) is deeper than the highest point up on land (Mount Everest 29,029 feet).

This immensity cloaks the blue planet in not just an aquatic wonderland, the birthplace of life and countless resources, but it regulates the world’s climate significantly. It absorbs and releases heat and water constantly. And with the inexorable release of Anthropocene carbon into the atmosphere and the consequential inching up of average temperatures, the oceans are doing their bit to absorb both.

The problem is that when the oceans absorbs carbon it makes the seawater more acidic which makes it less hospitable for a lot of its creatures. Also, when it absorbs the heat, it raises the water temperature which makes it less hospitable for the one of the pillars of the marine food chain – the coral reefs. The result is the widely reported bleaching and dying of the reefs. Over the two decades we have been visiting the Maldives, we have applauded the destination growing in many exciting ways, but each year (especially recently) we despair at the painful shrinking of the living coral primarily due to the warming sea temperatures.

In the Maldives, the reefs are not just foundation to the ecosystem, but the entirety of the county’s very being. As such, the country has been on the vanguard of campaigning for eco-sustainability and cutting carbon emissions. With the global prominence of Time’s Person of the Year Greta Thunberg and the impassioned television series by famed naturalist David Attenborough “Life on Our Planet”, the scale of carbon impact is getting a higher profile than ever.

But just how big is the impact right now? Forget all of the controversial models and forecasts. Forget the graphs showing tonnes of carbon emitted (as few of us are chemistry experts to know what all that carbon really means). Let’s just look at the actual, observed real world impact today of that carbon and climate change with a easily obtained and verified measurement – the temperature of the ocean.

I’ve happened upon a couple of illustrations of ocean temperature increase recently which prompted this post. The first from the Futurism website noted that

  • After analyzing data from the 1950s through 2019, an international team of scientists determined that the average temperature of the world’s oceans in 2019 was 0.075 degrees Celsius (.135 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than the 1981–2010 average…The amount of heat we have put in the world’s oceans in the past 25 years equals to 3.6 billion Hiroshima atom-bomb explosions. That averages out to four Hiroshima bombs’ worth of energy entering the oceans every second for the past 25 years. But even more troubling, the rate isn’t holding steady at that alarming figure — it’s increasing.”

But a possibly even more dramatic number and comparison is the simple quantification of the energy that the ocean has absorbed – an accelerating at average of 10 zetta-joules per year(and last year was over 200 zetta-joules added). ZETTA joules. You don’t know what that is? Not surprising since it is such a big number there really aren’t many things in the universe to apply it to. A “zetta” is “10^21” (1 with 21 zeros after it).

Best of the Maldives: Vegan Beef – LUX South Ari Atoll

LUX South Ari Atoll - vegan beef

The ecological impacts of what you eat affects both the surf and turf of your dinner plate. Beef cattle methane flatulence is a major contributor of global carbon which contributes to ocean warming which kills coral. Concern over beef consumption has led to many initiatives to take the beef out of the most classic beef dish of all – the burger. Even mainstream chains like Burger King have introduced vegan versions like its “Impossible Whopper”. In the Maldives, LUX South Ari Atoll has introduced its own vegan “beef” burger

  • Embraced by leading brands, tech companies and major news media, the plant-based protein, formally known as ‘Beyond Burger™’ is now available at three of the resort’s eight restaurants to provide additional vegan and kosher options.”

Inspired by LUX’s culinary carbon-reducing crusade, I found myself trying my first vegan burger yesterday in London. It was a Avocado Chipotle Burger by the UK chain, Leon’s. Admittedly, my expectations were pretty low, but I must say that they were handily exceeded. Eating it, you realise that the taste of a “burger” is a real collection of tastes – bun, condiments, lettuce, charcoal grilling. So getting a patty of something that is remotely evocative of a burger in texture and even some flavour make the whole sandwich a pretty close facsimile to the original. But with much less impact on the coral reefs you are enjoying during your stay.

Best of the Maldives: Groupers – Six Senses Laamu

Six Senses Laamu - Grouper 1

You’ll should see more groupers at on the Six Senses Laamu house reef if Blue Marine work succeeds:

  • “Grouper in the Maldives are in trouble. Due to high demand and market prices, the Maldives grouper export fishery has escalated since the 1980s, spreading throughout the country. The most recent study in 2011 revealed a concerning situation: grouper stocks are declining and smaller sized fish are being taken. Larger fish have selectively been removed and fishers are targeting spawning aggregation sites. Recent catch data show that for the ten most commonly exploited species of groupers, 70% of individuals are taken prior to reaching sexual maturity, meaning that they had not had a chance to reproduce before being caught. The Blue Marine Foundation has formed a partnership with the Maldivian Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture (MOFA) and Six Senses Laamu, a beautifully sustainable, luxury resort with a passion for marine conservation. In collaboration with MOFA, BLUE has designed a project to promote a better documented and more sustainable grouper fishery in the Maldives by protecting threatened grouper spawning aggregations. Research suggests that grouper have been overfished for at least 15 years in Laamu Atoll.”

Blue Marine are the grouper groupies of the Maldives.

With this post, I’ve added the tag “Marine Life Conservation” to cover post about initiatives to save various aquatic creatures (bigger than coral polyps as those projects are covered extensively in the “Reef Regeneration” tag).

Six Senses Laamu - Grouper 2

Best of the Maldives: Edible Straw – LUX South Ari Atoll

LUX South Ari Atoll - edible straws

When most of what there is to do all day is savour pina coladas in the sun (or whatever your favourite tropical tipple is), plastic straws can pile up. Most resorts are moving away from plastic to a variety of sipping tools (so much so that with this post I have introduced the “Straws” tag). LUX south Ari Atoll has introduced another variety of edible straws:

  • The biodegradable straws, made from cooked rice flour, tapioca starch and water, can last up to one hour before they soften and eventually dissolve.”

Best of the Maldives: Plastic Bag – Conrad Maldives

Conrad Maldives - plastic bag

Black Friday! The biggest shopping day of the year. Of course you will need something to carry all those purchases and you don’t want to be adding to the landfill with shopping bags. If you do your early Christmas shopping at Conrad Rangali you not only get a useful and stylish bag for your shopping and more, but the bag itself doesn’t just stop added plastic consumption, but it actually removes waste plastic from the ocean. The bag is made from recycled plastic removed from the ocean. Parley’s website describes

  • The bags are made with Ocean Plastic® — a premium material created from upcycled plastic waste recovered from remote islands, waters and coastlines by our growing global cleanup network. Each Parley Ocean Bag in the artist series is made from approximately 5 intercepted plastic bottles and funds the removal of another 20 pounds of marine plastic waste by the Parley Global Cleanup Network.”

Bag for Sea Life!

   

Best of the Maldives: Plastic Free – Conrad Maldives

Conrad Rangali - plastic free

What you hopefully won’t find at Conrad Maldives (no matter how many people are diving how far) are stray plastics. Nor for that matter their plastic added to waste processing in the Maldives as the resort has a set a goal to eliminate all plastics. Forbes featured their ambitious campaign in its piece “How A Hotel In the Maldives Is Fighting Plastic Pollution

  • The South Ari Atoll hotel is working to eliminate all plastics on the property by January 2020, which isn’t an easy feat considering the resort encompasses two islands, 11 restaurants and bars, and two spas. You won’t find individual butter or Nutella packets in the morning buffet; instead, the hotel buys the products in bulk and has a machine portion them out. Mini bottles of shampoo and conditioner have been replaced with large refillable dispensers in the bathroom. Plastic straws have been ditched in favor of biodegradable ones. And more changes are afoot: the Conrad will swap out plastic keycards for wooden alternatives, metal water bottles will be given out to guests and recyclable boxed water will accompany those heading out on excursions.”

This bold initiative is just one of so many cropping up in the Maldives that I’ve now added a “Plastic” tag on the blog for all the posts about plastic reduction initiatives.

Conrad Maldives - plastic 2

Best of the Maldives: Largest Floating Solar System – LUX South Ari Atoll

LUX South Ari Atoll - floating solar system 1

LUX South Ari Atoll floating solar farm is using the sea to save the sea. Exploiting the expansive areas of sun-drenched waters, their floating solar system is the not just the Maldives’ largest, but the world’s largest:

  • “This unique technology called SolarSea gathers solar energy directly on the ocean to power the island in an eco-friendly fashion. As part of the resort’s commitment to sustainability, LUX* South Ari Atoll has pledged to minimize carbon dioxide emissions. To achieve this goal, the five-star luxury resort partnered with the leading solar provider Swimsol, an Austrian-Maldivian company, which provided a solution to overcome the limited space available for solar panels on small tropical islands. Consequently, Swimsol developed the first and only patented floating solar system that is designed to withstand the harsh conditions of the waves, storms and saltwater…The resort is already using a rooftop system with the same solar company. Once all suitable roofs were covered with solar panels, the resort decided to expand beyond the shoreline with twelve SolarSea platforms. Thereby the solar capacity increased by 40% and reached 678 kWp, enough to power all guest villas with solar energy during the peak sun hours. The result is cheaper energy and a saving of more than 260,000 litres of diesel per year that previously were needed to produce the same amount of electricity with combustion engines.”

Sunny days to un-warm the ocean.

LUX South Ari Atoll - floating solar system 2

Best of the Maldives: Coral Reef Art – Sirru Fen Fushi

Sirru Fen Fushi - coral frame 2

I rarely visit the same island twice (there’s just too much great stuff left to discover) much less write about the same feature twice. But islands get revamped and become entirely different properties which warrant taking an entirely fresh look. And the same is true with Sirru Fen Fushi’sCorallarium” which started life as a surf-breaking art installation, but is now morphing into a reef regeneration project:

  • The Coralarium structure, and the sculptures within, act as an artificial reef, encouraging local marine life to make it a home. Up to 5m tall, each one of the soaring sculptures is constructed of more than 500 ceramic ‘starfish’ that have been specifically designed to attract a variety of fish and crustaceans – the hard shells catch and hold biomass, or ‘fish food’, which encourage coral larvae to attach and thrive, while nooks and dark cubbyholes in the structures provide a hiding place for a variety of fish and shellfish. Each sculpture is brought to life through its union with the life that attaches to it, transforming them from concrete to textured, living organisms.”

Great to see the second life to this installation giving the coral reef new life.

Sirru Fen Fushi - coral frame

Best of the Maldives: Lights Out Event – Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru / Angsana Ihuru

Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru - dawn till dusk

Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru and Angsana Ihuru holds a monthly event to raise awareness of energy conservation to reduce carbon footprint by completely shutting off all electrical lights on the resort for 12 hours:

  • “Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru and Angsana Ihuru launched a 12-hour lights-off event under the name ‘Connect to Earth from Dusk till Dawn’ on September 14. The monthly occurrence is scheduled for full moons in order to take advantage of natural luminescence while the two resorts switch off their lights from 1800 to 0600 hrs. Connect to Earth from Dusk Till Dawn is inspired by the Earth Hour Movement, an annual celebration marked by switching lights off for a one-hour period. ‘By switching off the lights for one hour, we can make a substantial difference in the energy consumption and we can help reduce the effect of global warming’, stated the General Manager of Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru and Angsana Ihuru, Hicham Najdi…During the event, dubbed 6to6, restaurants and bars will be candlelit and a special full moon in-villa dinner can be arranged for guests upon request. The Marine Lab Team will also organize an ‘Under the Full Moon Night Snorkel’ to provide a unique underwater experience to the guests.”

The initiative is not just eco-friendly but imparts an extra romantic tone to the evening with candlelit areas and meals. Furthermore, turning off the lights in one of the few electrified places in that part of the ocean reduces light pollution making star gazing all the more dazzling.

Best of the Maldives: Easy Wipe Forms – Reethi Faru

Reethi Faru - easy wipe forms

For decades, the dream of the digital revolution was the eco-friendly paperless office. Yet, despite the profusion of connectivity and devices, dead trees still seem quite prevalent in the world of administration. You can understand that there are just some areas and applications where electronic record keeping is just impractical. Like on a dive boat where water is sloshing around and the risk of loss is high. Still, despite the extra obstacles of its environment, the Sea Explorer dive centre Reethi Faru is one of the most radically paper-free operations I have come across.

And they have not had to invest tons of money into fancy applications and sophisticated electronics. Just some clever approached. Their innovation is simply to laminate all their forms and fill them out with easy-wipe markers. Once completed, the centre takes a smartphone picture of the phone and saves it electronically. Simples. They use this technique for their registration forms, nitrox logs, dive logs and every part of their business that needs something completed and recorded.