Books for Sustainability

in Environmental Insight

Sustainability can be fun, engaging and help build confidence in young learners. It promotes the development of capabilities associated with the ‘head’, ‘heart’ and ‘hand’ as children and teenagers learn about key issues that have an impact on people and planet.  

Books and resources for sustainability can often inspire as they present real and relevant themes of interest to young minds.  There are, however, many books in the market; some informed by educational experts who draw out learning outcomes and others produced by interest groups seeking to promote particular views of the world. To a parent, guardian or educator it can be difficult to choose amongst these resources as they are often packaged in similar ways with attractive images and themes that appeal to young and old.

Often a good indicator is to find the resources making explicit references to the UN Sustainable Development Goals or the SDGs. These provide a framework for identifying the areas or issues that underpin learning for sustainability. The SDGs address global challenges including: poverty; inequality; climate change; environmental degradation; peace and justice. They seek big changes in the way we live, organise and govern ourselves and involve children and young people in considering alterative futures to the ones we are currently destined for. 

I am often asked if ‘sustainability’ is about the environment. Environmental issues do feature as part of the SDGs as they have and will continue to have an effect on our health, economic and social wellbeing. However, there is a difference between resources that support learning for sustainability and environmental education. Both provide important learning opportunities, especially for the young, but they are quite different in their intention and approaches. It has been suggested that environmentalism (and environmental education) is a movement against things – for example stopping pollution and other harmful activities. It is mostly concerned with engaging learners in action to improve the environment and challenge their own behaviours. Sustainability, on the other hand, is concerned with change for the longer term and deals with the socio-economic contexts that create environmental issues in the first place. It avoids ‘doom and gloom’ approaches and recognizes that individual actions by themselves cannot change the world.  They both approach the same issues but in different ways. If you would like to learn more about the difference do check out: WWF’s ‘Weathercocks and Signposts’ (2008). 

Another common misunderstanding, is that sustainability refers to ‘retaining what we have’ or ‘sustaining the current situations’, when in fact sustainability is about change and creating a fairer and safer future. It reframes relationships whether it be between producers and environments; consumers and suppliers; or, young people and decision-makers.   

As parents and guardians, it is important that we involve our children and young adults in learning about sustainability: challenging misconceptions; encouraging them to question; and, helping them find their own way through this complex area. Our young people will, in future, need to anticipate, become involved, and in some cases address sustainability issues that we are only just beginning to comprehend.   

Recognising these challenges, the Office of the Commissioner for Sustainable Development and Future Generations partnered with the Guardian Angel Foundation and the Department of Education to support learning for sustainability in local schools and the community.   Resources were purchased that avoided treating environmental and conservation issues in isolation of the economic and social considerations that underpin them. Equally, textbooks and reading books were chosen that encouraged children and young people to envision how the world could be rather than how it is and to identify ways in which we can work towards shaping the future. It was important that texts that preached particular ‘behaviours’ in children and young people were avoided as well as resources that promote alarmist concerns for the future. Our young do need to know that we face significant challenges but we also have a duty to empower them, through learning, with the tools to process, decide and respond in their own way. Otherwise, we have children who act without understanding or who believe that single actions will make a difference.

The resources for this initiative chosen aligned with the priority themes and topics taught in local schools through the national curriculum and encouraged active learning approaches as well as futures, creative and critical thinking – key tenets of Education for Sustainability. 

The partnership purchased storybooks, readers, fact-finding texts, and growing food manuals that can bring sustainability topics such as biodiversity, carbon footprints, poverty, privilege, cultural diversity and justice alive in classrooms. Included in the purchases were resources that enable learners to engage practically in growing food in schools, looking after green areas, and making a positive contribution to people in our local community. The books were distributed across schools including Bayside and Westside Schools, Bishop Fitzgerald School, St Anne’s School, St Bernard’s Lower Primary School, St Joseph’s Lower and Upper Primary Schools, the Hebrew Primary School, Governors Meadow School, Notre Dame School, St Paul’s Lower Primary School. Book displays exhibiting these new resources can be found across our schools. The Gibraltar Cultural Services also participated in the initiative by purchasing books for the John Mackintosh Library. The Gibraltar College and a handful of schools requested resources to support the development of a food growing area on their grounds. Funds were also generously provided by the Guardian Angel Foundation for these purposes.

If you have young children or adults in your life, do consider borrowing the books from the library or asking your school about these resources. If you are considering a birthday gift for a child or young adult, give some thought to purchasing learning resources that can inspire and challenge our next generation to think about the future in different ways. More information about the initiative can be found at www.futuregenerations.gi.  

Protecting your Environment

in Environmental Insight

The ESG (Environmental Safety Group) 

Janet Howitt, co-founder and Chairperson of the Environmental Safety Group (ESG) explains how in In May 2000 a damaged nuclear submarine, HMS Tireless, limped into Gibraltar and caused great concern among the community and that became the catalyst for the formation of the ESG. “At the time I had been back in Gibraltar for 6 months having been based in Tanzania, East Africa, for the preceding 10 years,” she says.

“A few of us started meeting up to discuss this issue and to organise and lend support to the Voice of Gibraltar that had already started campaigning on this,” Janet states. “Our small but active group called ourselves Concerned Parents, then Concerned Citizens and soon after, formalised as the ‘Environmental Safety Group’ of which Tom Scott and I became co-founders and spokespersons.”

Significant protests took place in Gibraltar and in nearby Algeciras where approximately 70,000 people are thought to have attended, including the ESG with a banner showing support for a protest against a regional threat posed by Tireless. “The submarine eventually left having stirred up issues of constitutional importance locally. It also helped forge alliances between NGOs across the border, and gave birth to the ESG Committee, made up of dedicated environmental activists,” she explains. 

“The Committee had to prioritise its work from the start as it was clear that Gibraltar faced many environmental problems.  Overwhelmingly, however, the large and highly polluting Oil Refinery in the Campo area was considered our biggest threat and so became not the only, but the main target of our energy and time.”

With the strong links forged through the intensive submarine campaigns, the ESG and a number of Spanish Environmental NGOs initiated and ran several campaigns and protests against the heavily polluting Oil Refinery.  “In 2002 with the support of Hassan’s International Law Firm, we lodged our first official complaint with the European Commission against the Refinery and general poor standards operated by the industrial base in the Campo area,” Janet states. “Our complaint was also signed by the GONHS, and contained evidence and reports from Spanish NGOs of examples of various breaches of environmental regulation by industries in the Campo.”

Thus started what became 8 years of solid lobbying and campaigning at EC level, supported by multiple and substantive cross border protests, the collection of scientific data to support concerns of air quality via the Bay Bucket Brigade, and the creation of a high level team of internationally respected experts and advisers to support ESG’s actions in Brussels. This included Professor Joan Benach, a public health specialist whose work exposed cancer clusters within the triangle of higher mortality in 3 provinces including Sevilla, Huelva and Cadiz, the worst cases being found in the bay itself.

“We also discovered and worked closely with Denny Larson from the USA whose work as the Global Community Monitor involved the training up and equipping of affected communities, living near toxic industries, into setting up Bucket Brigades, to test air quality in their neighbourhoods. This led Denny to India, South Africa, Europe, the UK and then to our Bay where he trained and helped us form a cross border Bay Bucket Brigade made up of 3 NGOs from both Spain and Gibraltar,” Janet reports. This joint approach further depoliticised the nature of the campaign and complaints in Brussels. “We continued to lobby the European Commission directly until the emergence of MEP representation for Gibraltar in Brussels began. We worked steadfastly with a number of interested MEPs namely Neil Parish and Sir Graham Watson, among several others, who supported our case of environmental degradation and threat to public health in the Bay from industry, and eventually saw enforcement measures against the polluting giant. Janet adds that they were also ably supported by industry specialist Stephen Salter from Canada, David Dumas QC from Hassan’s, Moses Benrimoj Environmental Chemist, Tom Scott Marine Engineer, Henry Pinna, James Machin Climate adviser and Sandra Kloff Marine Biologist. Juan Jose Uceda, a well known Bay activist also worked closely with us during these years.”

Turning their sights closer to home it was clear that issues of power generation, traffic, pollution, lack of renewable energy programmes, waste management, planning and development were highly significant. During this time bunkering (refuelling of vessels) had also grown exponentially, without parallel oversight, creating growing levels of air and noise pollution in our coastal areas, neighbourhoods and schools. Janet goes on to say that additionally, Gibraltar saw two maritime accidents of consequence also highlighting the need for VTS and cross-port coordination, among their aims and objectives.

“In 2005 we held the first of what have been 16 major Clean Up events locally. Gibraltar had major issues regarding litter and fly tipping, historic dumping grounds, lack of facilities and recycling, and a general disregard about these problems.”  Each year the ESG, together with multiple partners across the community, strove to clean up, raise awareness and push for environmental protection and maintenance of Gibraltar’s green and open spaces, cliffs, coastal and underwater sites. “We have seen significant change take place over time showing the value of this sustained community campaign that will no doubt continue for some time to come,” Janet confirms. 

“We learnt very quickly of the need to lobby on a non-party political basis and set about producing a Wish List, or List of Objectives, the first of which was published for the 2003 Elections and has been updated regularly ever since. Our 2019 List contains 15 separate areas summarising key issues and recommendations for action.”

Asked what progress had been made on the 15 points on the list handed to political parties in Gibraltar for consideration, Janet replies that the 2019 list is currently being updated. “There have been a number of improvements and goals met in some areas while others are caught up in the uncertainty of Brexit and now Covid setbacks. Two projects of interest here are the Sewage Treatment and Solid Waste Plant.” 

Addressing the issue of Brexit and Covid and the implications of those for the environment, Janet says that the ESG understand that Government is facing a most challenging time in keeping our community safe from the Covid Pandemic while keeping every sector stable. “Public health is a major priority for any community and understandably resources are being ploughed in to ensure the best outcome for us all.”

“Meanwhile Gibraltar faces Brexit also and this will have implications for our environment as we will no longer have the umbrella cover provided by the European Commission for the enforcement of environmental legislation. This is a serious issue for us. Especially regarding cross border environmental threats etc., but we will continue to monitor and research these issues and keep these in focus. The next few months and year will be very significant for us and our environment.”

Is the Government being successful in its mission to achieve a low carbon economy and to make Gibraltar as environmentally sustainable as possible?

“As years go by we are all feeling the growing pressure and concern about Climate Change. Awareness of the issues globally is growing, but the speed of necessary action moving less fast. Locally we know that reports produced on Gibraltar’s Climate Strategy and long-term plans were due to be published at the beginning of the year but these have been delayed due to the necessary focus on addressing the immediacy of Covid and secondly the upcoming upheavals we face due to Brexit.”

“Nevertheless Gibraltar has made progress in the last few years in recording and understanding the true weight of our carbon loads and it’s clear where the major changes need to come from if meaningful emissions are to be eliminated. While a small community we nevertheless have a sizeable comparative carbon footprint due to our desalination for potable water, imports of food, sale of fossil fuels and more.”

“The drive we are seeing to harness the widely available renewable and free energy around us is encouraging and we are glad to see projects being rolled out at an increasing pace. A plan to reduce all carbon impacts via the climate strategy and longer term plans we hope will soon be released and form part of our future to ensure we address this ultimately toughest challenge facing humanity today,” Janet states.

The impact of polluting transport and the implementation of a safe and sustainable transport network for Gibraltar is a hot topic at the moment. What are the views of the ESG in this respect?

“The ESG concurs with the view that people should walk and cycle more and park up their motorised vehicles and motorbikes. We have pushed for a holistic transport plan, which was finally achieved with the very comprehensive STTPP, and agree with its aims but would like to see all the recommendations implemented. This would involve a lot of change – a great public transport service using clean fuels; controls in number of car and bike ownership; phasing out of fossil fuelled vehicles among others. Gibraltar is like the rest of the world that is being overtaken by motorised and polluting vehicles and it is in all our interests to manage this directly together, for all our sakes.”

What can the public do by making changes in their everyday lives to reduce the impact of environmental issues?  

Janet explains that every citizen has a role to play to help protect our environment. “From reducing your waste to recycling, to the way you travel, from informing yourself about environmental issues and how you can help, to not littering and encouraging others to do the same. By using water and energy sensibly, to thinking about your diet and how you can change this by eating more plant based food, to support a more equitable and sustainable planet.”

For those interested in more details please refer to www.esg-gib.net.

Sustainable Food choices

in Environmental Insight

It’s quite simple really, our daily food choices can make a significant difference not just to our own life chances but to the health of the planet.  We are already aware that low fat, low sugar, balanced diets are good for us; they improve well-being and reduce our chances of obesity and disease. Yet, the impact of food procurement and consumption on the earth systems, nature, and biodiversity are perhaps not so well known. 

We have recently come to learn that between 20-29% of greenhouse gases come from food production. A diet based on vegetables and grain has the lowest carbon footprint; meals containing pork, chicken and fish create a moderate impact; whilst consuming large quantities of beef and lamb leaves an environmental dent on our planet. Sometimes it can simply be a matter of awareness and of understanding the impact of choices as consumers. Other times, it is about what is expected by those who organise events and/or procure food services on a regular basis.

Recognising this, HMGOG has released a new Sustainable Catering policy. This document identifies what it understands by sustainable catering and sets expectations with regards to the procurement of food and food services for government meetings and functions as well as Government-supported events. So going forward, the Gibraltar Music Festival and similar events will be subject to the commitments outlined in this document.  Various stakeholder groups including the Sustainable Gibraltar Food Working Group and key professionals in the field have informed the policy and guided the identification of best practice. A separate document outlining sustainable catering considerations as they apply to catering outlets such as Government hospitals and homes and schools is to be developed.

In Gibraltar, we rightly engage in clean-up campaigns, promote recycling and have bought into the idea of avoiding single-use plastics.  We have a healthy obsession with waste disposal and waste reduction.   The policy recognises that this is an important issue but also looks at the big picture regarding food and sustainability – going beyond the promotion reusable and bio-degradable options. In my view, this is very timely. We need to go a step further and consider issues at source and not just at the end-of-pipe. This means going beyond packaging and asking questions about ethical sourcing, animal welfare, fair wage as well as how far the food has traveled to get to us. The document recognises this need promoting consideration of food miles, choosing organic and Fairtrade options as well as sustainably certified fish and fish products.     

There are many businesses in our community that are already opting for sustainable practice and embrace many of these commitments. Indeed, the recently announced finalists for the Food for Sustainability category of the Gibraltar Sustainability Awards demonstrate that the commitment to sustainable catering is alive and well.  Judges commented on how the Calentita Festival has taken on environmental and ethical considerations at its core – and this is not an easy task. Yet, the ripple effect of such an initiative can be immense and organisers can influence not just the food and catering industry but also consumers and how they make choices that impact people and the planet.

Nosha’s Healthy Options is also recognised for embracing sustainability values at the heart of this small business venture. This catering business provides nutritious food meeting a diversity of dietary needs in the community (low salt, low fat, vegetarian, gluten, and lactose-free options) at a reasonable price. It also seeks to minimize its carbon footprint by reducing their plastic waste. And using food containers that are made from sugar cane, and bamboo cutlery as well as plant-based soup containers.

Vicky’s Natural Kitchen (VKN) has also been shortlisted for a Gibraltar Sustainability Award. This catering business offers balanced meals sourced locally (and regionally) and supports homegrown food practices as well as healthy choices. VNK offering has sustainability an integral principle and is committed to raising awareness and building interest in sustainable food through workshops, courses, and television programmes.

Article written by Professor Daniella Tilbury, Commissioner for Sustainable Development and Future Generations.

HMGOG Sustainable Catering Policy document can be downloaded from https://www.futuregenerations.gi/news/sustainable-catering-11

The Gibraltar Sustainability Award: Food category was open to catering professionals and food as well as organisations that procure food on a regular basis.  Videoclips of the entries can be viewed at www.futuregeerations.gi, The Awards will be announced on the 8th October.

Clean-up the world event

in Environmental Insight

Normally in September the ESG would be spreading the word about the Clean Up The World weekend which takes place this month globally every year, and encouraging Gibraltar’s citizens to get involved in its wide reaching mission of cleaning and protecting our natural environment. 

Clean Up The World was established 26 years ago as a non-profit, non-government event. Its common focus is to protect the environment and is one of the largest community-based environmental campaigns in the world, engaging some 35,000,000+ people in 133 countries. It has been supported and organised in Gibraltar by the ESG for over 15 years, to incredible success. Bringing together teams of volunteers from every sector of our community picking up rubbish, with hundreds locally getting involved. 

Clean up sites in Gibraltar are identified the preceding weeks to the usual Clean Up The World weekend, via land and sea surveys – with support from agencies where necessary – and the ESG co-ordinates numerous teams representing organisations, businesses, agencies clubs and schools who take part cleaning up the many sites. Principally targeted are green and coastal sites, including open water, underwater and boat and abseil access only, revetments etc. 

Key effort is to remove harmful waste from our natural environment to help restore and protect habitats and make them safe for humans too. Over 30 separate sites here are usually tackled each year. 

Through the preparation and lead up to the Clean Ups themselves the ESG has found that this annual campaign has been very useful in spreading awareness in the community as well as inspiring others to take action. It also helps with the management and handling of waste and litter issues on the Rock. 

This year sadly, it is likely that the campaign will not be able to operate to its usual capacity and involve wide spread public action in Gibraltar. At the time of going to press the likelihood was the event as a mass gathering would be cancelled, but do check for statements in the media for updates and details in case the situation should change. However that is not to say that we can’t all play our part in caring for the Rock and taking some time out this month to think about litter and how responsible we are with our own waste. 

Do please email the ESG at esg@gibtelecom.net if you are interested in taking part and you will be contacted directly by a member of the Clean Up with any updates. 

Star Product

Ecopress aluminium capsule recycler

For those of you that love good coffee but want to enjoy it with a clear conscience that the coffee pods will be recycled, this tool is for you. Dualit’s EcoPress provides a mess free solution to the recycling of aluminium coffee capsules. Putting used pods in recycling whole or even with stray grounds still in can mean pods are rejected for recycling, however this quick and easy press enables you to empty the coffee from the pods, give them a quick rinse and then they are clean for recycling. There are it turns out, multiple uses for used coffee grounds, from fertilising plants and deterring pests, to tenderising meat, making a body scrub or repairing scratched furniture to name a few. The Ecopress retails for £12.49 from Dualit or sites such as Amazon. 

Electronics: The fastest-growing toxic waste stream in the world

in Environmental Insight

How much IT equipment do you have gathering dust in your office? Do you know what happens to it when it’s removed or thrown out? We spoke to Dave Williams (Head of Operations) from electronic waste recyclers and sustainability champions Reconome to figure out all the plus points of applying the circular economy to IT hardware.

Reconome, a certified B Corp (Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose), was set up to help solve the headache of dealing with unwanted electronics. In 2017 Nick Rawkins (Founder and CEO) quit his job in the City to follow his dream of running a company that solved an important global problem. Working for banks, he saw expensive IT devices being replaced and upgraded daily, with no idea of where it was all going. 

Data security concerns, a fragmented market of service providers, and poor messaging all contribute to the world’s dreadful performance on electronics recycling. With the rapid digitisation of our planet this is only just beginning. Thankfully, consumers, businesses, and governments are beginning to take notice.

“A recent UN report stated that a whopping 53.6 million metric tonnes of e-waste was generated in 2019, that’s the weight of 350 cruise ships the size of the RMS Queen Mary 2 – think about that for a second. The figure has increased by a whopping 21% in 5 years making it the world’s fastest growing toxic waste stream – we have to do something and we have to do it fast,” says Dave

Reconome provides businesses and consumers with an easy to use, sustainable IT disposal service that diverts 80% of devices from landfills and redeploys them as refurbished, affordable devices to new owners such as schools, charities and SMEs. Their process extends the life of useful and valuable equipment, fulfills an underserved need for affordably priced technology, and prevents hazardous materials from ending up in landfill or in the hands of illegal exporters. 

Incredibly, a recent study by Yokohama Metal Co in Japan found that a tonne of ore from a gold mine produces just 5 grams of gold on average, but a tonne of discarded smartphones produces 150 grams and new technologies mean this can be done with a vastly reduced impact on the environment. The traditional mining process has catastrophic effects; ravaging landscapes, contaminating water supplies, poisoning wildlife (and human beings) whilst leaking huge amounts of toxic materials into the earth and systematically destroying ecosystems.

“As an example, when you start looking at the real resource cost on the planet for a single laptop, it’s very different from what the manufacturers say,” Dave explains. “It takes 191,000 litres of water to make one laptop. That’s all the contaminated water from the machinery required to process all the precious metals and plastics from the earth. To help picture that, it’s the equivalent of 733 bath loads of water. In addition, 1200kg of physical waste is created. Think about digging up a 1200 kg pile of rock and soil from your local park, that’s the mass of the waste material created for one single laptop – these are incredibly frightening facts.”

Reconome is investing in its platform to generate positive impact at scale. At its core sits a lifecycle emissions calculator that measures the carbon and waste impact for the IT departments it works with, including granular detail on the impact of Reconome’s sustainable procurement and recycling programmes, plus transparency on the final destination of processed equipment, all of which can be used for Streamlined Energy and Carbon (SECR) reporting.

Their renewal process is hugely effective. Working with some of the UK’s fastest growing companies, such as WeWork and Bulb Energy, in 2 years it has collected 3500 devices otherwise bound for waste, and put 2780 renewed, functioning devices into the hands of new owners. 

“We have proudly prevented nearly 200,000 kg of CO2 emissions and developed a data-driven process for sorting and identifying devices of high reuse value. Early in the process, multiple factors are calculated for each device, determining its route along refurbishment, parts harvesting, donation, and recycling. The business model is proven and now it’s time for us to scale” Dave says.

During the lockdown period in London, Reconome teamed up with O2 and Hubbub to further their impact. In an effort to keep the disabled, less fortunate and elderly close with their loved ones, the Community Calling Project was created. It’s a smartphone donation scheme where you send your old iPhones and Androids via freepost to be refurbished and sent out to community leaders in London boroughs who then distribute them to those in need. They have also been working with large enterprises to repurpose laptops for digitally disadvantaged school children who need hardware to learn remotely.

“There’s a real feel-good factor around making positive decisions that support the environment and you don’t have to be an eco-warrior to feel that benefit. It feels great to be doing something impactful for the planet and your community, especially in the backdrop of Covid-19” states Dave.

Reconome is currently looking to branch out to help governments and businesses in UK and  overseas territories who lack the infrastructure to effectively recycle, reuse and donate IT equipment, in compliance with regulatory guidelines and full certification provided. With its vibrant and thriving commerce sector, Gibraltar is firmly on the radar. If you work at a company that could benefit, you can contact Dave directly (dave@recono.me) to discuss a strategy to reduce the cost of IT equipment by 30-50%, dramatically cut CO2 emissions (in some cases by 1.5 tonnes of CO2 per employee) and give back to your community using a fully circular economy model. 


Air Pollution in Gibraltar – a continual problem

in Environmental Insight

During the COVID-19 lockdown I had observed various initiatives being carried out around various parts of Europe and was eagerly looking forward to the measures our Government would implement. 

o far, the only new initiative being implemented has been the temporary closure of Line Wall Road from Saturday to Monday, and this has triggered a public outcry and lots of angry Facebook posts. The environmental groups have welcomed the initiative but it is difficult to see where the benefits for the environment lie. The rerouting of traffic along Line Wall Road is resulting in longer journeys as Line Wall makes for a faster and quicker route for traffic getting from the north to the South, and vice versa. Having to divert to Line Wall Road means that travellers will take longer to make the same journey, use more fuel and create more pollution. The Queensway travellers also encounter heavier traffic and more traffic lights, both of  which mean more slowing down, stopping, idling and then accelerating again. Studies have found that these conditions can lead to a high concentration of particles (up to 29 times higher) than when traffic is free-flowing. More pollution is created during acceleration and braking and the highest levels can be found in areas of frequent braking and accelerations such as slow-moving traffic and speed bumps. 

In Gibraltar, we have wasted an unprecedented opportunity to measure differences in air quality during the COVID-19 lockdown due to a lack of monitoring equipment. The equipment in use currently is old and much of it has fallen into disrepair. Black carbon has not been monitored since the beginning of March this year, and sulphur dioxide since the beginning of May. At the time of writing PM10 is also not being measured, perhaps the equipment has developed a fault and is awaiting repair. Thus we don’t really know how the lockdown and decrease in road traffic affected these pollutants. Similarly, we don’t know whether the decrease of sulphur in marine fuel has led to a decrease in sulphates and sulphur dioxide in the air around Gibraltar. 

One major problem is that in Gibraltar the Government does not monitor real-time PM2.5; the fine particulate matter that have been causally associated with heart attacks, strokes and heart disease; as well as respiratory disease and increased risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. PM2.5 are more dangerous than the larger PM10, the 10 referring to the size of the particles; in this case 10 microns. The finer particles do not drop to the ground as readily as the heavier PM10, so they remain suspended in the air for a longer period and travel for longer distances; sometimes across continents. We do have gravimetric monitoring which measures the amount of PM2.5 collected over a 24-hour period, but the results are not available for months and they don’t give any indication of how PM2.5 levels fluctuate throughout the various times of the day. Real-time monitoring would give us an idea of how levels change throughout the day and could help to identify hot spots of particulate pollution. It could also help to evaluate whether or not measures taken to address pollution are working. However, a disadvantage with the fixed reference monitoring is that they only measure pollution at one location and can miss hotspots. 

One way that researchers and citizen scientists are getting round this problem is by using low-cost pollution sensors. A few years ago, I purchased a variety of low-cost sensors in order to measure the air quality myself. One of these is the PurpleAir sensor that hooks up to a network made up of sensors measuring different sizes of PM, in many parts of the world. The data are uploaded to an online map where you can view your own data and those of all other PurpleAir sensors globally. Last year the Government purchased some low cost sensors of a different make, AQMesh, but the PM2.5 levels they register are always unusually low and never seem to agree with the PurpleAir data or indeed that shown on my other sensors. 

The AQMesh sensors also measure nitrogen dioxide levels and data from the lockdown period has confirmed that much of our air pollution does not come from traffic. The levels of nitrogen dioxide continued to be high at Europort Road near the generating stations and the Rosia Road Clocktower sensor by the shipyard, even when there was very little traffic on our roads. 

Shipping continues to be a major contributor to pollution in Gibraltar. Around 60,000 cases of death due to cardiovascular disease and cancer have been associated with global shipping emissions. Shipping exhaust contains more volatile organic compounds (VOCs) than regular traffic exhaust; around 9% of which include benzene, toluene and xylene. These compounds are naturally found in high amounts in the heavy fuel oil which is used to power the very large vessels and have been regulated in regular motor vehicle fuel because of their harmful impacts on health. 

In a few weeks the Government will present a Bill before Parliament to limit the emissions of black smoke under some circumstances. But black smoke is not the only pollutant emitted from ships. Large vessels bunkering in the Bay run their auxiliary engines which produce ultra-fine and fine PM in the region of 0.2 to 2.5µm. Most of the PM appears to be around 0.4µm which makes them easily inhaled into the deeper parts of the lungs, where they pass through the alveoli into the bloodstream and can trigger inflammation, cardiovascular disease and strokes. Recent research has also linked PM2.5 to Alzheimer’s disease.

One study by NOAA and the University of Colorado found that tug boats emit near 1 gram of soot per kilogram of fuel burned, which is almost twice the amount of soot per amount of fuel used than other commercial vessels. Tankers and container ships emit half this amount when docked and a bit less when they are moving. Soot is known to cause cancer and also contributes to global warming by reducing the reflectance of snow and ice. The problem with tugboats (and bunkering vessels) is that their emissions don’t happen out at sea but out in the Bay where the emissions affect residents living close by. The number of ships bunkering in the Bay has increased over the last two decades. In 1996 the only supplier was Shell with a market of around 250,000 tonnes whereas by 2015 Peninsular Petroleum was supplying 11 million tonnes. This increase in shipping activity has brought a huge increase in pollution, and unfortunately, repercussions on our health. 

In Gibraltar, deaths due to respiratory disease have been increasing steadily at a rate of around 1 to 2% per year (GHA, 2014) and the deaths did not only occur in older people as might be expected; instead they were uniformly distributed across the ages in the over-50s. In the year 2000, deaths from respiratory disease made up only 6 % of total deaths but by 2012 it ranked first place in cause of death. It is now known that pollution increases the vulnerability of the respiratory system to viruses such as influenza and to bacterial pathogens increasing the risk of pneumonia. 

Back in the winter of 2017/2018, over 500 patients were seen in A&E during just one week in late December and unfortunately there was one death as a result. At the time the GHA Medical Director had said that the numbers of patients being seen and admitted with influenza was the highest they had seen for many years. 

The COVID-19 lockdown has illustrated how a reduction in air pollution is possible when traffic and industry are curtailed; and how respiratory infections can be killers, especially when combined with particular risk factors. In Gibraltar, air pollution is one of the risk factors that already seems to be having an effect on the population’s respiratory health. It’s time that our Government stop ignoring the evidence and act upon it. 

What can I do?

As citizens we can – and should – all do our part to reduce the pollution we create by using active transport such as cycling and walking or taking the bus wherever possible; and employing smoother driving techniques such as avoiding unnecessary accelerations. But we also need to write or email our members of Parliament asking them to take stronger measures against the main contributors to Gibraltar’s pollution which are out of our control such as shipping, the ship repair yard and power generation. Together we can all play a part in improving our air quality and invest in the future health of our families and community. 

Follow @PollutionWatchGibraltar on Facebook for regular updates 

Gibraltar Welcomes the Island Games – and Sustainability is the Word!

in Features/Sport Insight

In what has been described as a unique, multidisciplinary sporting spectacle and as a scaled-down version of the Olympics, the Island Games is coming to Gibraltar this month between the 6th and 12th July.

Over 3,000 coaches, athletes, officials and spectators will be descending on Gibraltar from all over the world to take part in The Gibraltar 2019 NatWest International Island Games XVIII at some fantastic new venues with the Rock as the backdrop.

This is only the second time that Gibraltar has hosted the Island Games, the first being in 1995 when it was dubbed the ‘Sunshine Games’, but it will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for many to watch international athletes competing on their home turf, and the good news is that apart from the Opening Ceremony, entry is free to all events.

The games started in 1985 as the Inter-Island Games, part of the Isle of Man’s International Year of Sport, which saw fifteen islands with 700 competitors and officials taking part in seven sports. Initially only meant to be a one-off event, the festival was such a success it was agreed to hold it every two years. President of the Gibraltar Island Games Association, Linda Alvarez, has been involved with the Island Games since 1987 when she participated as an athlete playing Badminton in Guernsey, and has been involved in the organisation of the Island Games ever since.

I remember the Games from the last time they were held here and the euphoria surrounding them, and I am hoping for the same atmosphere this time around,” Linda comments. “The Island Games will be a really good thing for Gibraltar and I think particularly in these times of uncertainty that we are facing, it is great that Gibraltar can prove to Europe and to the rest of the world that we are not just a small place but that we can do big things


The Island Games Association consists of 24 islands and to apply to join, an island has to be under a certain size to become a member. Linda explains that when the Games first began there had been a call asking for islands to participate. “Although we are not an island, it was a great opportunity for Gibraltarian athletes to participate, particularly in 1985 when the frontier was closed, and because up until then we could only compete in the Commonwealth Games,” she says.

This year there will be 22 competing islands coming from as far north as Greenland, as far south as St. Helena and the Falkland Islands in the Atlantic, and including the Caribbean Islands of Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.

The 14 sports consist of athletics, badminton, basketball, cycling, beach volleyball, shooting, squash, swimming, table tennis, tennis, judo, ten-pin bowling, triathlon and sailing. “Six new venues have been built just for the Games, which will obviously be part of the legacy for Gibraltar, and the rest of the venues have been revamped,” Linda states.

Sustainability is the word, and Gibraltar is leading the way as an example to the world by reducing its environmental impact during the Island Games with campaigns that will benefit the whole community. All the new facilities have been constructed in an eco-friendly way so as not to negatively impact the environment or heritage, featuring green roofs and solar panels.

“We want to educate and inspire the younger generation,” Linda says, “and right from the beginning it was my idea that I wanted to go single use plastic free.” With that in mind Linda decided on a dolphin as the mascot for the Games. “We held a competition with GBC Radio to name the dolphin and the winning name was Hope, which is very apt as it goes nicely with our slogan which is ‘Clean seas, our future’.”

Main sponsors for the Island Games, Nat West International, are providing each athlete with an aluminium bottle and Agua Gib will be installing fountains all over Gibraltar, particularly in the sporting venues, so that people can easily refill their water bottles.

Linda explains that just as the Olympics has a flame, the Island Games has a similar concept but with water as a symbol of the oceans and seas surrounding the islands. “The water ceremony, the now traditional curtain-raiser to the Games, will take place at the Opening Ceremony at the Europa Point Stadium,” she says. “Every island in attendance will bring water and pour it in the ceremonial fountain which will circulate until the closing ceremony, when a sample will be handed to Guernsey, the 2021 host,” Linda says.

It goes without saying that the fountain is going to be made from reusable recyclable material, the podiums are being made out of wooden pallets, and even things like the flag poles will be made out of old broomsticks. “Wherever we can we are trying to be sustainable,” Linda comments. A further lasting legacy will be the tree planted in Alameda Gardens, and to celebrate the event there are ten commemorative stamps featuring various sports.

“Minister for the Environment, Dr John Cortes, is hosting a Green Islands conference for member islands before the games to discuss environmental issues,” Linda reveals, “and there is going to be a lovely exhibition in Casemates run by the Department of Culture in conjunction with the Gibraltar Chronicle showing the history of the Games.”

There are a whole host of special events for everybody to enjoy taking place during the week of the Games to be held at Grand Casemates Square which will be named ‘Games Square’. These include a special edition of gastronomic food festival ‘Calentita’ to be held on the 5th, the eve of the Games’ official opening and also a selection of live entertainment during ‘Summer Nights’, which will take place on a daily basis from Saturday 6th to Saturday 13th.

“We will have a stage in ‘Games Square’ where medal presentations will take place every evening, ensuring that locals and visitors alike can get involved in the friendly ambiance,” Linda confirms.

The aim of the Island Games is twofold,” Linda tells me. “Firstly, the whole reason it was started was to give athletes from islands opportunities to experience participating in different sports, and secondly to build up some sort of legacy for the islands.” Linda gives an example of the legacy from the 1995 Games. “We built the GASA swimming pool which is still used by the public, and this time we are going to have new shooting ranges, new athletics track, a 50m indoor swimming pool at Lathbury Barracks and a completely new stadium at Europa Point –all venues that can be used in the future by local people and to enhance a sports tourist industry that will bring more visitors and revenue into Gibraltar – so the legacy that this Island Games is going to leave behind is going to be huge.”

Accommodation for athletes will be dotted around Gibraltar at various locations including the new University student block at Europa Point. “The hotels have been very good and given us around 700 beds and the former MoD property at Europa Walks will house about 1,200 people. The ‘Games Village’ will be housed there and the old St. Christopher’s school site has been transformed into the athletes dining area. There will be a transport link from the venues to accommodation areas so that accredited athletes will be able to hop on and off buses branded with the Island Games logos at special bus stops that won’t disrupt local transportation.

As a retired teacher, Linda knows that in this day and age it is all about trying to get kids out and about instead of sitting there playing with their computers. “Gibraltar has a high uptake of youngsters taking up sport and something like this can encourage even more to do so,” she comments. “I have been going round to all the schools giving presentations and lectures to try and get the students involved, and this is yet another part of the legacy that we need to leave behind.”

Over five hundred local people have signed-up to volunteer as ‘games makers’ to help out with the organising and running of the Games during the week-long event. “We had a fantastic response to our call for help, which is amazing, and from past experience I know that the volunteers make a real difference whilst thoroughly enjoying themselves at the same time,” Linda says.

“I can’t state this enough, but it is thanks to the Government and all the different agencies working together in the areas of security, transport, culture and customs that will make this Island Games a truly great success.”

After many sleepless nights, challenges and all the days of hard work that have gone into the huge undertaking to complete everything and make it operational for the start of the Games, Linda is sure of one thing. “It is going to be very exciting,” she remarks.


in Community Insight

A double-bill of fundraisers at Ocean Village helped local causes in terms of raising both funds and profile.

On 8th June, a Toy Story event took place in aid of Childline Gibraltar, which ended up raising in excess of £400.

Many children attended the event dressed as their favourite Toy Story characters and lucky winners Luca, Evie & Noah (pictured) won tickets to the Toy Story 4 premiere at Leisure Cinemas.

Ocean Village Fundraisers
Turbo-charge Local Causes

Annie Green, Chairperson for Childline Gibraltar commented, “We are very grateful to Ocean Village for organising this wonderful event. Fundraising initiatives like this allow us to offer our service and keep going on our mission to end all forms of cruelty to children in Gibraltar. Lots of children, lots of treasure hunting fun, games and dancing with Woody, Buzz and Jessie, all in aid of Childline Gibraltar. Childline volunteers and the Childline bear were on hand to get the proceedings off to a good start, and we were delighted to see so many children joining the fun. What a lovely time we had with the Toy Story gang!”

Later in June, the mystique and intrigue of the untamed jungle arrived at Ocean Village as Go Wild For Fashion turned up the heat for Alameda Wildlife Park. It takes care of exotic animals confiscated by HM Customs, plus unwanted pets – giving them a much-needed home – and also works to raise awareness and sustainability for important endangered species by taking part in captive breeding programmes which helps support species in the wild.

Over £1,600 was raised during the evening for the Alameda Wildlife Park, with funds earmarked for the Alameda Overground Project, a structure of tunnels and tree-top walkways which will enrich the lives of a specific set of animals at the park (especially lemurs, cotton-top tamarins, common marmosets and long-tailed macaques) and create a much more exciting and immersive visitor experience.

Emilia Hazell-Smith, Marketing and Social Media executive for Ocean Village said: “Holding these kinds of events at Ocean Village allows us to give back to the local community and raise money for important local causes, while providing a fun day out for families.”

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