Xavier Pastor has spent his life fighting to protect the environmentt. Coming from a family with a maritime and fishing tradition, the Mallorcan is a biologist, oceanographer and ecologist and was one of the founders of Greenpeace Spain and president, as well as vice-president, of the organization Oceana for the defense of the seas. He was one of the pioneers of the environmental struggle in Spain.
After graduating in biology from the University of Barcelona, he worked as a scientist at the Spanish Institute of Oceanography, participating in numerous fisheries research campaigns.
In 1984, he was one of the founders of Greenpeace Spain and contributed to the creation of the organization’s branches in Italy, Greece, Turkey, Tunisia and Malta, as well as leading various Greenpeace campaigns. in the United States before joining Oceana.
Today he is retired but continues his work on a voluntary basis serving as a bridge between environmental organizations in the Balearic Islands, such as Miralles, which he praises for their work in sharing their discoveries with the general public and not only the scientific world, and the general public. and private institutions. This with the aim of bringing everyone together in the fight against climate change, its main focus being the Balearics and the marine environment of the islands.
This week, in the context of the COP27 summit in Egypt, he told the Bulletin that the fight against climate change has reached its tipping point.
“I fear we are too late, there is still so much work to be done to help the poorest countries meet the targets set, while some of the world’s biggest polluters are slow to fully commit to the cause. . .
“We are going to have to learn to live with climate change and manage it. It can be slowed down and the impact reduced, but there is no turning back now,” he said.
“As we saw last week, climate change makes the Mediterranean one of the fastest warming seas in the world – with temperatures rising about 20% faster than the global ocean average. Marine plastic pollution has increased tenfold since 1980 and it is estimated that more than 10,000 tons of waste are dumped in the Mediterranean every year”.
Scientists already warned in 2015 that from the point of view of ecological and marine monitoring, the case of the Mediterranean was of particular interest in terms of plastic pollution. This semi-enclosed basin, with restricted outlets, is one of the most polluted regions in the world and the situation has only worsened.
“The problem is that up to 80% of the plastic in the waters of the Balearics and the Western Mediterranean comes from North Africa – Algeria in particular and to a lesser extent Tunisia and Morocco.
“Much of the waste is either dumped into the sea or dumped into the sea by rivers and then gets caught in the currents that bring the plastic to the Balearic Islands.
“This needs to be resolved. Politicians cannot sit idly by and ignore the problem because it is foreign to the Balearic Islands. We need to talk and work with these countries and look for ways to help solve their waste treatment systems to reduce plastic pollution in the sea.
“I took part in a big campaign about thirty years ago in Gibraltar, where most of the waste was dumped directly into the sea, causing serious damage to the marine ecosystem. We have succeeded in solving this problem, and a similar approach must be adopted for the damage caused by the countries of North Africa which have neither the money nor the know-how to find a solution. Perhaps they are not fully aware of the threat they pose to the Mediterranean, whether ecological or social.
“That said, under pressure from environmental groups, the Balearic government has achieved some success. The expansion of marine reserves is extremely positive and the way they are managed is very good. Take Cabrera, for example, it is the largest and best-managed natural marine reserve in the western Mediterranean and we have seen fish stocks grow rapidly over the last ten years; the same goes for El Toro and the Malgrats. So, with better management, countries and regions like the Balearic Islands, which have the funding, the technology, the expertise and the will to protect the environment, can make a difference. But unfortunately the poorest and least developed countries are missing out and that is where we need to engage,” he said.
But macro and micro plastic pollution is just one of the problems facing the marine environment of the Balearics and the Mediterranean.
As the world heats up, marine heatwaves are expected to become more frequent, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Climate change has already contributed to a 54% increase in the annual number of ocean heat days between 1925 and 2016.a team of international scientists found in 2018.
Scientists say the Mediterranean could experience at least one severe, long-lasting heat wave every year by 2100, according to a 2019 study in the journal Climate Dynamics.
“The sea and the land are getting warmer and warmer, just look at what we have experienced this summer in the Balearic Islands, plus we desperately need rain. Rising sea temperatures and an increase in CO2 in the sea are a danger to marine life, moreover we have a rise in sea level which is already leading to the erosion of our beaches, while on land the temperatures are gradually becoming unbearable.
“I guess there’s a flip side to every crisis. In the next ten years, perhaps less, the Balearic Islands will become uncomfortably hot for tourists from northern Europe. We are already seeing an explosion of tourism in countries like Scotland, Iceland and Scandinavia and this could lead to a reduction in the number of tourists to the Balearic Islands, which I have been calling for for almost 30 years. The islands can no longer cope with the human footprint left by mass tourism. They have been suffering for decades, so nature can help create a more balanced tourism industry in the Balearic Islands and help bring the numbers down,” he said. “It’s a natural contradiction in a way.”
“A perfect example is the fact that the sewage treatment plants on the islands, especially in Mallorca, cannot cope with the amount of waste. The factories were built about 30 years ago and at the time were working extremely well. Now they can’t, that’s why every time it rains, the beaches are polluted when the sewers overflow. Luckily they are being replaced and modernized thanks to EU investment, but it took time,” he said.
“But at the same time nature can help create a more balanced tourist industry in the Balearic Islands, it will lead to an increase in the number of visitors to Northern European countries. This will have a negative impact on their environment and ecosystems. It is a vicious and unstoppable cycle.
“I suppose for the younger generations the impact might not be so extreme. For people of my generation, for example, we remember it, we know how it was in Mallorca and the Balearics there. is 30 or 40. We have witnessed what we have lost, how things have changed and the impact of climate change on the region.
“The younger generations have not seen the radical change and the impact of climate change and mass tourism on the region so, understandably, they do not grasp the urgency to act radically.
“As far as the Balearic Islands are concerned, I push for the greater use of renewable energy, solar and even wave power. I am trying to persuade all institutions, whether it is the airport, hospitals, schools, large companies, to switch to solar, renewable energy and to produce their own electricity. If we are facing a drought, turning to desalination plants is not the solution because they are powered by very expensive means and emit large amounts of CO2, so it defeats the whole purpose . Any action we take now must be aimed at exploiting climate change. »