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Time to tackle plastic

I get asked frequently, why do you care so much about the oceans?  What does your job in technology have to do with ocean health. Turns out a lot, says DAVID LEAR, Vice President of Corporate Sustainability, Dell.

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A healthy world ocean is critical to our survival – this magnificent body of water flows over nearly three-quarters of the planet, holds 97% of our water and produces more than half of the oxygen in the atmosphere. It impacts all of us, the health of our families, our communities and our businesses. However, despite commitments from governments, vocal campaigns with celebrity endorsement and a lot of people talking about the issue, our oceans are still in danger.

Each year, more than eight million tons of plastic enter the ocean, over time breaking into trillions of microplastic particles, which only leave the ocean when they are ingested by sea life and enter the human food chain (the average seafood eater consumes 11,000 plastic particles per year). Ocean plastics impact the environment, human health and, ultimately, are threat to the future of our planet – making it an issue that everyone should care about.

Where do we start to tackle the plastic problem?

Any attempt to reduce plastic waste, be it on an individual or organisational level, is a step in the right direction. Campaigns like #StopSucking or The Last Straw are fantastic gateways to highlighting plastic pollution; raising awareness and starting to educate a wider audience. However, a key theme that came to light at a recent roundtable held by Dell and Lonely Whale, was that whilst there has been a lot of research into the ocean plastic problem, not enough is actually being done right now to tackle the problem.

On an individual level, the advice for preventing plastic pollution is straightforward – do your part and be smart in everyday actions and we can all make a difference. The roundtable discussion, which included representatives from CIEL, Common Seas, World Resources Institute and Interface showed that whilst individual impacts matter, alone they aren’t enough.

Instead, we need governments, businesses and NGO’s to be held accountable and make commitments to remove the plastic that is already in the ocean, prevent more from entering and make sustainable decisions that limits plastic production. 

Actions speak louder than words

When speaking at the recent roundtable, Kristian Teleki, Director of the Sustainable Ocean Initiative at World Resources Institute noted that there are notable new levels of interest in plastic pollution in the public, political and private spheres. As such, there is now a clear end goal to decouple waste generation from economic growth.

Until that happens, governments around the world have made commitments to address the plastic problem. It is, however, important to note that there is no one size fits all solution; what works in France might not work in Egypt, and we need to consider that there are different starting points for each country. Each government need to invest in individual infrastructures which allow for waste solutions that can scale at a speed which meets the problem at hand.

This is a daunting task and the improvements to infrastructure that needs to occur isn’t going to happen overnight. It is unsurprising, therefore, that we are increasingly seeing governments pull out of sustainability agreements, face a lack of accountability, or simply just promise to make changes but not actually take any action.

Be it due to an absence of investment in infrastructure or poor visibility into a country’s waste disposal or recycling system, governments across the globe are failing to offer sufficient waste management solutions.  As such, it is up to businesses to take the lead in plastic innovation and reducing waste in our oceans.

Pledges that keep plastics in the economy 

There may be no way to reverse the ocean plastics damage to date, however, there is an opportunity to transform the way we think about this issue. In fact, companies have begun to reimagine plastic waste as a resourceful material rather than waste, taking note of the positive economic and sustainable impact of utilising plastic waste rather than virgin materials in their production lines. Companies such as Adidas, Trek and Herman Miller amongst others, have incorporated ocean plastics into their products, whether it is  packaging, furniture or footwear. Then there’s McDonalds who is taking the step to remove single use plastics as an option. Businesses have to start taking action, and looking into how they can reuse plastic waste and the alternative materials which they can utilise instead. This is why Dell, in addition to using ocean-bound plastic in our product packaging, is going strawless at our facilities globally in honour of World Ocean Day.

The good news is commercial sustainability is driven by customer enthusiasm, innovation and cost cutting – it isn’t just great for the environment.

Consumers are increasingly looking to help tackle the plastics problem by making green purchasing decisions. Lastly, businesses leading the sustainable, ocean-bound plastic movement will be ready to comply with future plastic waste regulations – especially as governments are increasingly looking to do their part in helping our ocean through new plastic related taxes.

Collaboration is key

No one can fight the oceans plastics problem alone – a view I made very clear when speaking at the recent roundtable. Whilst having individual sustainability goals drives innovation, it is so important to collaborate with customers governments and even competitors. After all, in the long-term, alleviating the ocean plastic problem is going to make a difference for all of us and we can’t do it alone.

For this reason, companies who have pioneered new ways of using ocean plastics are already sharing knowledge and blueprints for projects that have worked well for them, so that others can build upon and learn from these ideas.

An example of this is an open-source initiative called NextWave, which convened leading technology and consumer-focused companies to develop the first-ever commercial-scale ocean-bound plastics and nylon supply chain, while also ensuring economic and social benefits for multiple stakeholders. The founding list of companies include Dell, General Motors, Trek Bicycle, Herman Miller, Interface, Van de Sant, Humanscale and Bureo, with others able to easily apply to join the cause. The companies are working with scientists and advocates working with marine litter and ocean health to advise on a sustainable model that supports the needs of coastal communities and environments.

Among other collaboration efforts is also Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas Alliance, which aims to finance solutions to address marine debris or advice resources such as foundations like Lonely Whale, a group facilitating the creation of innovative ideas to maintain the health of our ocean.

The time to take a stand is now

The road to sustainable production and business practices can seem long, but the early believers and adopters will win the hearts and minds in the future.

Eventually, no doubt, governments across the world will invest in the necessary infrastructures and enforce the changes we all need them to make

This World Oceans Day, take the opportunity to reach out to NextWave to find out more on how you can switch to more sustainable practice and help us turn the tide on the ocean plastic problem.

 

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Prepare your cam to capture the Blood Moon

On 27 July 2018, South Africans can witness a total lunar eclipse, as the earth’s shadow completely covers the moon.

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Also known as a blood or red moon, a total lunar eclipse is the most dramatic of all lunar eclipses and presents an exciting photographic opportunity for any aspiring photographer or would-be astronomers.

“A lunar eclipse is a rare cosmic sight. For centuries these events have inspired wonder, interest and sometimes fear amongst observers. Of course, if you are lucky to be around when one occurs, you would want to capture it all on camera,” says Dana Eitzen, Corporate and Marketing Communications Executive at Canon South Africa.

Canon ambassador and acclaimed landscape photographer David Noton has provided his top tips to keep in mind when photographing this occasion.   In South Africa, the eclipse will be visible from about 19h14 on Friday, 27 July until 01h28 on the Saturday morning. The lunar eclipse will see the light from the sun blocked by the earth as it passes in front of the moon. The moon will turn red because of an effect known as Rayleigh Scattering, where bands of green and violet light become filtered through the atmosphere.

A partial eclipse will begin at 20h24 when the moon will start to turn red. The total eclipse begins at about 21h30 when the moon is completely red. The eclipse reaches its maximum at 22h21 when the moon is closest to the centre of the shadow.

David Noton advises:

  1. Download the right apps to be in-the-know

The sun’s position in the sky at any given time of day varies massively with latitude and season. That is not the case with the moon as its passage through the heavens is governed by its complex elliptical orbit of the earth. That orbit results in monthly, rather than seasonal variations, as the moon moves through its lunar cycle. The result is big differences in the timing of its appearance and its trajectory through the sky. Luckily, we no longer need to rely on weight tables to consult the behaviour of the moon, we can simply download an app on to our phone. The Photographer’s Ephemeris is useful for giving moonrise and moonset times, bearings and phases; while the Photopills app gives comprehensive information on the position of the moon in our sky.  Armed with these two apps, I’m planning to shoot the Blood Moon rising in Dorset, England. I’m aiming to capture the moon within the first fifteen minutes of moonrise so I can catch it low in the sky and juxtapose it against an object on the horizon line for scale – this could be as simple as a tree on a hill.

 

  1. Invest in a lens with optimal zoom  

On the 27th July, one of the key challenges we’ll face is shooting the moon large in the frame so we can see every crater on the asteroid pockmarked surface. It’s a task normally reserved for astronomers with super powerful telescopes, but if you’ve got a long telephoto lens on a full frame DSLR with around 600 mm of focal length, it can be done, depending on the composition. I will be using the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with an EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Ext. 1.4 x lens.

  1. Use a tripod to capture the intimate details

As you frame up your shot, one thing will become immediately apparent; lunar tracking is incredibly challenging as the moon moves through the sky surprisingly quickly. As you’ll be using a long lens for this shoot, it’s important to invest in a sturdy tripod to help capture the best possible image. Although it will be tempting to take the shot by hand, it’s important to remember that your subject is over 384,000km away from you and even with a high shutter speed, the slightest of movements will become exaggerated.

  1. Integrate the moon into your landscape

Whilst images of the moon large in the frame can be beautifully detailed, they are essentially astronomical in their appeal. Personally, I’m far more drawn to using the lunar allure as an element in my landscapes, or using the moonlight as a light source. The latter is difficult, as the amount of light the moon reflects is tiny, whilst the lunar surface is so bright by comparison. Up to now, night photography meant long, long exposures but with cameras such as the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV now capable of astonishing low light performance, a whole new nocturnal world of opportunities has been opened to photographers.

  1. Master the shutter speed for your subject 

The most evocative and genuine use of the moon in landscape portraits results from situations when the light on the moon balances with the twilight in the surrounding sky. Such images have a subtle appeal, mood and believability.  By definition, any scene incorporating a medium or wide-angle view is going to render the moon as a tiny pin prick of light, but its presence will still be felt. Our eyes naturally gravitate to it, however insignificant it may seem. Of course, the issue of shutter speed is always there; too slow an exposure and all we’ll see is an unsightly lunar streak, even with a wide-angle lens.

 

On a clear night, mastering the shutter speed of your camera is integral to capturing the moon – exposing at 1/250 sec @ f8 ISO 100 (depending on focal length) is what you’ll need to stop the motion from blurring and if you are to get the technique right, with the high quality of cameras such as the Canon EOS 5DS R, you might even be able to see the twelve cameras that were left up there by NASA in the 60’s!

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How Africa can embrace AI

Currently, no African country is among the top 10 countries expected to benefit most from AI and automation. But, the continent has the potential to catch up with the rest of world if we act fast, says ZOAIB HOOSEN, Microsoft Managing Director.

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To play catch up, we must take advantage of our best and most powerful resource – our human capital. According to a report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), more than 60 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa is under the age of 25.

These are the people who are poised to create a future where humans and AI can work together for the good of society. In fact, the most recent WEF Global Shapers survey found that almost 80 percent of youth believe technology like AI is creating jobs rather than destroying them.

Staying ahead of the trends to stay employed

AI developments are expected to impact existing jobs, as AI can replicate certain activities at greater speed and scale. In some areas, AI could learn faster than humans, if not yet as deeply.

According to Gartner, while AI will improve the productivity of many jobs and create millions more new positions, it could impact many others. The simpler and less creative the job, the earlier, a bot for example, could replace it.

It’s important to stay ahead of the trends and find opportunities to expand our knowledge and skills while learning how to work more closely and symbiotically with technology.

Another global study by Accenture, found that the adoption of AI will create several new job categories requiring important and yet surprising skills. These include trainers, who are tasked with teaching AI systems how to perform; explainers, who bridge the gap between technologist and business leader; and sustainers, who ensure that AI systems are operating as designed.

It’s clear that successfully integrating human intelligence with AI, so they co-exist in a two-way learning relationship, will become more critical than ever.

Combining STEM with the arts

Young people have a leg up on those already in the working world because they can easily develop the necessary skills for these new roles. It’s therefore essential that our education system constantly evolves to equip youth with the right skills and way of thinking to be successful in jobs that may not even exist yet.

As the division of tasks between man and machine changes, we must re-evaluate the type of knowledge and skills imparted to future generations.

For example, technical skills will be required to design and implement AI systems, but interpersonal skills, creativity and emotional intelligence will also become crucial in giving humans an advantage over machines.

“At one level, AI will require that even more people specialise in digital skills and data science. But skilling-up for an AI-powered world involves more than science, technology, engineering and math. As computers behave more like humans, the social sciences and humanities will become even more important. Languages, art, history, economics, ethics, philosophy, psychology and human development courses can teach critical, philosophical and ethics-based skills that will be instrumental in the development and management of AI solutions.” This is according to Microsoft president, Brad Smith, and EVP of AI and research, Harry Shum, who recently authored the book “The Future Computed”, which primarily deals with AI and its role in society.

Interestingly, institutions like Stanford University are already implementing this forward-thinking approach. The university offers a programme called CS+X, which integrates its computer science degree with humanities degrees, resulting in a Bachelor of Arts and Science qualification.

Revisiting laws and regulation

For this type of evolution to happen, the onus is on policy makers to revisit current laws and even bring in new regulations. Policy makers need to identify the groups most at risk of losing their jobs and create strategies to reintegrate them into the economy.

Simultaneously, though AI could be hugely beneficial in areas such as curbing poor access to healthcare and improving diagnoses for example, physicians may avoid using this technology for fear of malpractice. To avoid this, we need regulation that closes the gap between the pace of technological change and that of regulatory response. It will also become essential to develop a code of ethics for this new ecosystem.

Preparing for the future

With the recent convergence of a transformative set of technologies, economies are entering a period in which AI has the potential overcome physical limitations and open up new sources of value and growth.

To avoid missing out on this opportunity, policy makers and business leaders must prepare for, and work toward, a future with AI. We must do so not with the idea that AI is simply another productivity enhancer. Rather, we must see AI as the tool that can transform our thinking about how growth is created.

It comes down to a choice of our people and economies being part of the technological disruption, or being left behind.

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