Conservation & Science

Letise LaFeir: Making waves for ocean health in California

Letise LaFeir
Letise LaFeir, California Ocean Policy Manager for Monterey Bay Aquarium

Above the sparkling waves of the Pacific, Monterey Bay Aquarium inspires nearly two million visitors each year to care more — and do more — to protect the health of the ocean.

Toward that end, Letise LaFeir, the Aquarium’s California ocean policy manager, focuses much of her energy on decisions made in the state capital, almost 200 miles to the northeast.

Drawing from her experience in marine science, ocean policy, education and public outreach, Letise encourages legislative and government officials to keep up California’s leadership on ocean and coastal health issues.

 We asked her to tell us more about two major issues she’s working on: climate change and ocean plastic pollution.


 What’s your role at the aquarium, as it relates to climate change?

Communicating about climate change, making sure people get it, is a top priority to help drive action on this issue. It’s important, and it’s affecting us right now.

 Organizations like ours, and the vast majority of scientists, agree that climate change is happening, and that humans are causing it. But we still have hurdles to get over with particular policymakers. There are some who understand, and are looking for solutions and guidance. Others, unfortunately, are still saying climate change isn’t real or isn’t our problem.

At a high level, we’re getting certain policymakers to just accept that we’re already seeing and feeling the impacts of a changing climate, and that planning sooner rather than later will actually be a benefit in the long run — even if that individual policymaker isn’t here to see that benefit.

Then we help them move from understanding to action. Part of the work we do is putting the experts in front of policymakers to answer very specific questions to help them make and implement their decisions.

Read more…

We’re educating California leaders about ocean plastic pollution

Plastic is one of the most common materials in our daily lives. We drink from plastic cups, wear clothing made of plastic fibers and buy products sealed in plastic packaging. We’re surrounded by these petrochemical-based polymers, but we don’t yet fully understand them. Especially when it comes to questions about how plastic trash affects the ocean environment — and our own health.

In January, Monterey Bay Aquarium and the California Latino Legislative Caucus hosted a Capitol briefing on the impacts of plastic pollution on the state’s ocean and waterways. Addressing an audience of legislative staff, state officials and conservationists, the expert panel presented eye-opening facts about the science and policy behind the problem.

Bottle in water_FlickrCC_Kate Ter Haar
Pollution” by Kate Ter Haar is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Dr. Roland Geyer, associate professor of industrial ecology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has investigated just how much plastic is flowing to the sea, and where it’s coming from.

Using solid waste data from 2010, he calculated that 192 coastal countries produced 275 million metric tons of plastic waste that year. Of that amount, he estimates 8 million metric tons entered the ocean — enough to cover an area 34 times the size of Manhattan ankle-deep in plastic marine debris. And that input rate is likely increasing each year.

What can we do about it? Roland sees two big opportunities for change in California: Reducing litter, and producing less plastic waste in the first place.

Read more…

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