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About the project

The earth-ecosystem has always been shaped by human influences. However, at the latest since industrialisation in the 19th century, this human influence has taken on another dimension, so that science now speaks of a new epoch on Earth, the Anthropocene. The changes caused by anthropogenic influence on the ecosystem are worrying, as they impact habitats enormously, and in many regions, the livelihoods of plants, animals and humans are destroyed. The world as we know it is in danger of falling apart. A decisive factor here is climate change, which is caused by increased emissions of greenhouse gases (such as CO2 or methane) caused by humans. But pollution of the environment, e.g. by plastics, has a greater impact on habitats and cycles in ecosystems than previously assumed.

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To address the issue of global warming and human impacts on the environment, members of Die Junge Akademie have launched a series of events, “KlimaLectures”, with which they express solidarity with movements such as Fridays for Future. The aim is to illuminate the observable and expected climatic consequences, as well as problems of avoidance and adaptation. In addition, members hope to address further questions arising at the interface between science and society: How do we deal with individual and collective responsibility? How is the Paris Climate Convention compatible with the goals of sustainable development? What role do scientists play in communicating climatic processes?

 

#1: Microplastics, 18.10.2019

Lecture by Dr. Thomas Mani
followed by a discussion with members of Die Junge Akademie Ricarda Winkelmann and Robert Kretschmer
Friday, 18.10.2019, 18:00-20:00h
Einstein-Saal
Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften
Jägerstr. 22/23, 10117 Berlin

Plastics have long since dominated the materials of our everyday lives. From toothbrushes to mobile phones to cars - the high plastic content of an almost infinite range of products is globally ubiquitous. While around 1.5 million tons of plastic were produced worldwide in the 1950s, today the figure is already over 400 million tons. The more than 250-fold increase within 70 years testifies to an overwhelming triumph on the world market.

In use, we appreciate the enormous resistance of plastic - in the environment, this becomes a major problem: it takes dozens to hundreds and even thousands of years for the products to degrade. Plastic is much more likely to splinter into ever smaller parts - in vast quantities of microplastic - and because new waste is constantly being added, plastic waste is constantly accumulating. Research teams are finding macroplastics and microplastics in every conceivable corner of our planet today. While mammals and birds are threatened by larger pieces of waste, i.e. via swallowing, microplastic particles can enter the digestive tract of smaller organisms, such as fish or plankton. There, mechanical and toxic hazardous consequences can unfold from base-component or adhering substances (plasticizers or pesticides). Such substances affect the entire food chain, and therefore humans are not immune to the shady sides of our miracle material.

Dr. Thomas Mani is a British-Swiss dual national. He studied geography and sustainable development in Basel and wrote his doctoral thesis on plastic pollution in river and marine environments. He was a guest scientist at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research and was on an expedition to the Antarctic with the research vessel Polarstern. Mani is currently advising various environmental organisations on microplastic issues. He currently works for the Swiss environmental NGO Pusch in Zurich.

The event is open to all interested parties and participation is free of charge. 

Dr. Thomas Mani © pusch.ch

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