Scientists are right to stress that halting rampant deforestation is vital to mitigating climate change (Scientists say halting deforestation ‘just as urgent’ as reducing emissions, 4 October). But forests do much more than serve as carbon sinks; their value is far greater and multidimensional. They enable clean air and water, preserve the integrity of complex ecosystems, prevent soil erosion, and contain an extraordinary variety of plants, many of which are critical components of life-saving medicines.
People struggle with taking climate change seriously because it feels temporally distant, abstract, and can be hard to visualise and appreciate palpably. Deforestation, on the other hand, is much easier to visualise and understand.
We must make every effort to reduce deforestation drastically and demand that countries such as Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia and China take decisive measures to curb deforestation and contribute to afforestation and reforestation where they are ecologically advisable and viable. The US, Europe, Canada and Australia can all make far greater efforts to incentivise forest protection (including domestically), promote ecosystem integrity globally, mobilise consumers to reject products that stem from ecologically abusive behaviours, and hold to account those businesses and governments that destroy our forests with policies and actions that are harmful to humanity and the planet as a whole.
Visiting associate professor of ethics and international affairs, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University, Washington DC
• Your review of the BBC documentary Drowning in Plastic questions our ability to turn the plastic tap off before our oceans become a plastic matrix with some jellyfish embedded (A rallying cry to ditch plastic – but is it too late?, G2, 2 October). We are living in a multidimensional plastic matrix and there is no easy and quick fix. However, the International Solid Waste Association has proposed five steps to turn the plastic tap off.
First, we should identify where the leakages and hazards occur, and then prioritise fixing them – there is no need for fancy solutions that are not accountable, like some of those mentioned in the article.
Second, plastics and microplastics leakages should be treated like CO2 emissions. We need a global plan and an international agreement to reduce them substantially. The problem can’t be solved locally.
Third, microplastics should be considered as hazardous substances, subject to stricter control, and replaced by other materials.
Fourth, closing the world’s dump sites, upgrading recycling systems and delivering proper collection services to the developing world is a certain way to prevent marine litter.
Fifth, we need to create a new operational system for plastics that will stimulate a surge in plastic resource recovery.
Plastic is too convenient and successful. Reducing our dependence on it is the only way ahead. We can only hope that new materials will replace existing plastics, as plastics have replaced so many other materials in so many different uses over the past 65 years.
President, International Solid Waste Association
• The 38 Degrees campaign for empty non-recyclable crisp packets to be posted back to their manufacturer brought a “crinkly” smile to my face (Don’t post crisp packets without an envelope, begs Royal Mail, 27 September).
In the interests of reducing the amount of non-recyclable plastic, why not stop buying crisps and other snack food sold in this type of packaging? This would offer a threefold benefit: saving money; reducing consumption of junk food; and reducing the waste currently going to landfill or, worse, into the water systems. And Royal Mail wouldn’t have to put vehicles on the roads to return the empty packets.
If crisp sales were to decline, I wonder how long the manufacturers would take before introducing “smart” packaging? Might I suggest edible packets? They might taste as good as their contents!
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