- Feb 27, 2023
- Coastal Health
On April 22, 2021, we celebrated the 51st anniversary of Teach-in Day now known as Earth Day, the largest secular observance in the world. Former senator Gaylor Nelson from the state of Wisconsin is credited with the idea of Earth Day back in 1969, a transformative period for the United States. At the beginning of the year, an incident occurred off the coastline of the city of Santa Barbara, California causing the biggest oil spill at that time and the 3rd largest in the history of the United States. The spill reached beaches as far south as the Mexican border. Further, the impacts of DDT chemicals on wildlife were being spotlighted by Rachael Carson and her book Silent Spring. In June 1969, the Cuyahoga river in Ohio caught on fire shooting flames as high as 5 floors from years of contamination and pollution. After witnessing these environmental disasters, Senator Nelson started promoting the idea of “bringing people together to save life from the deadly byproducts of our actions.”
The first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970 in which as many as 20 million Americans participated in nationwide talks, gatherings, protests, bike rides, and clean-ups. As mentioned earlier, this was a transformative period for the nation. The attention garnered by the natural disasters in the 60’s and the celebration of Earth Day is credited with the successful push to pass the National Environmental Education Act, Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Clean Air Act. A couple of years later, building on this momentum and the passion of its participants, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act were created; some of the most significant pieces of legislation for the protection of the environment in the United States.
Twenty years after its first celebration, Earth Day went global with more than 200 million people from 141 countries participating in the various activities. More recently, Earth Day celebrations have focused on drawing attention to an even bigger threat – Climate Change. Climate change is being driven by human activity such as burning of fossil fuels, changes to how we use land, and deforestation. These activities produce certain gases known as Greenhouse Gases which include water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane and others that enter our atmosphere and prevent heat from earth escaping back into space. This greenhouse effect causes overall temperatures in our planet to increase over time, accelerating the threats of climate change like increasing sea level rise due to melting ice caps and the expansion of ocean water as it warms. The oceans will become more acidic making it difficult for ecosystems like coral reefs to survive and a warmer ocean will lead to stronger and more frequent storms. Further, climate change will affect rain patterns making some areas wetter while causing droughts elsewhere – making climate extremes a potential norm. NASA identifies Carbon Dioxide (CO2) as the major greenhouse gas behind climate change. This gives us an opportunity to fight back. We can do something about CO2! Our understanding of nature and new technology is giving us the opportunity to be able to remove or sequester CO2 from the atmosphere in hopes of staving off the worst of climate change. We can also work towards the identification of Nature-based solutions to try and mitigate the risks of climate change. In many places, the private sector is leading the way by signing on to international climate initiatives, improving sustainability within their operations, improving ecosystem health in the areas in which they operate and committing to becoming carbon neutral in their operations.
Iberostar Group and its pioneering Wave of Change movement recognizes climate change as the largest risk to its business operations, threatening a significant transformation of the coastline with consequences for the tourism sector, built infrastructure, biodiversity and the resiliency of the destinations in which it operates. As such, Iberostar has developed 5 long term goals for sustainability, within those goals, is Iberostar’s commitment to reaching carbon neutrality (net-zero carbon dioxide emissions) by 2030 through the implementation of efficiency and nature-based-solutions. Iberostar believes that if steered correctly, businesses can build business models of recovery that will not only achieve the global sustainable development goals, but help create the business models of the future for the sector.
In its commitment to reach carbon neutrality within the next 10 years and contributing to reduction of CO2 emissions to mitigate climate change, Iberostar has partnered with the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of the Environment to help protect and restore mangrove ecosystems in the areas in which it operates. Mangroves serve as critically important nurseries for many of the commercially valuable marine species, function as biodiversity hotspots, and are important ecosystems for natural carbon sequestration (123 tons/hectare/year of CO2); mangroves are 10 times more efficient at removing carbon than rain forests. Iberostar’s carbon neutrality goals are led by science and science indicates that conserving current mangrove ecosystems can keep 48 times more CO2 from entering the atmosphere than restoring mangrove populations alone. As a result, mangrove conservation and not only restoration must be part of the nature-based solutions – Iberostar is working on both alongside government representatives.
In partnership with the ministry of the environment, Iberostar has setup a first mangrove nursery in its Bavaro resort with hopes of expanding its program to all of its areas of operations in the Dominican Republic within the next 3 years. The Ministry of the Environment, which is charged with managing the natural resources of the country, has donated over 4,500 red and button mangrove plants to help set-up the mangrove nursery. To date, over 2,000 mangroves have been planted within the resort’s green areas. Approximately 10% of the planted mangroves are being tracked for growth and survivorship. As of the last data collection, monitored mangroves had 100% survivorship. In addition to approving the mangrove restoration efforts that Iberostar is undertaking, the ministry is also offering continued guidance and training for staff.
In countries with limited resources like the Dominican Republic, private-public partnerships are excellent tools to protect and preserve natural resources and a must if we are to succeed in mitigating climate change. The mangroves that we are planting alongside the ministry will continue to sequester carbon dioxide throughout their lifetime. As the 51st Earth Day celebrations came and went, Iberostar hopes to continue contributing to the spirit of Earth Day by raising awareness and planting mangroves to reduce CO2 emissions.