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ENVIRONMENT

French ‘eco-adventurer’ runs 100 marathons for climate

A 30-year-old Frenchman is running 100 marathons in as many days to raise awareness of the carbon footprint left by major sporting events.

French 'eco-adventurer' runs 100 marathons for climate
Photo: Pixabay.

“I do to my body what we do to the planet,” Nicolas Vandenelsken, who calls himself an “eco-adventurer,”  told AFP as he reached Paris on his 84th marathon, having crossed 10 regions since September 3.

His itinerary of 42.2-kilometre (26.2-mile) marathons is to resemble a heart when seen on a map of France.

Vandenelsken — an activist in two associations dedicated to climate awareness in sport — has met children, associations and farmers along the way.

In Paris, he had a meeting with French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera, saying he told her, “Sport is an incredible lever to reach a maximum number of people.”

Vandenelsken, who had doctors check his fitness before setting out, told AFP that “with my mental strength and with my training, I am able to get through this.”

But he added: “I wouldn’t advise anybody to run 100 marathons in 100 days, because I expect to feel the impact of this in my joints in five or 10 years’ time.”

Vandenelsken timed his runs to coincide with the football World Cup in Qatar which has been criticised for, among other things, its carbon footprint.

But he told AFP his concern went well beyond one major event.

“All these big organisations should think first of respecting the integrity of nature before thinking about the business of sport, before thinking about money,” he said.

Among concrete measures, Vandenelsken said he would like to see transport quotas for major events like cycling race Tour de France, and renovation of existing sports infrastructure rather than building them from scratch.

“My aim is to get a law voted,” he told AFP.

His final marathon is to take him to Valenciennes, in northern France, on December 10.

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ENVIRONMENT

France to probe microplastic pellet pollution on Atlantic beaches

French prosecutors said on Friday they would investigate the appearance of vast quantities of tiny toxic plastic pellets along the Atlantic coast that endanger marine life and the human food chain.

France to probe microplastic pellet pollution on Atlantic beaches

The criminal probe will follow several legal complaints about the pellet invasion lodged by local authorities and the central government in Paris, Camille Miansoni, chief prosecutor in the western city of Brest, told AFP.

The microscopic pellets, called nurdles, are the building blocks for most of the world’s plastic production, from car bumpers to salad bowls.

They are usually packed in bags of 25 kilogrammes for transport, each containing around a million nurdles, which are sometimes called “Mermaids’ Tears”. 

But they can easily spill into the ocean when a cargo ship sinks or loses a container. Environmentalists also suspect that factories sometimes dump them into the sea.

Fish and birds often mistake them for food and, once ingested, the tiny granules can make their way into the diet of humans.

Experts told AFP the nurdles found along the coast of Brittany may have come from a plastic industry container that fell into the sea.

“We can’t rule out a single source for the industrial pellets,” said Nicolas Tamic at the CEDRE pollution research body in Brest.

On Tuesday, the French government filed a legal complaint against persons unknown and called for a international search for any containers that may have been lost at sea.

Local authorities have followed suit, and the environmental crime branch of the Brest prosecutor’s office will lead the investigation.

Last weekend, around 100 people took part in a clean-up campaign on a microplastic-infested beach in Pornic in Brittany to collect pellets and draw attention to the problem. 

“We think they’ve come from a container that may have been out there for a while and opened up because of recent storms,” said Lionel Cheylus, spokesman for the NGO Surfrider Foundation.

“Our action is symbolic. It’s not like we’re going to pick up an entire container load,” said Annick, a pensioner, as she filled her yoghurt pot with nurdles. 

French politicians have taken note. Joel Guerriau, a senator from the region, has called for a “clear international designation” of  the pellets as being harmful.

Ecological Transition Minister Christophe Bechu labelled the nurdles “an environmental nightmare”, telling AFP the government would support associations fighting pellet pollution.

Ingesting plastic is harmful for human health but nurdles, in addition, attract chemical contaminants found in the sea to their surface, making them even more toxic.

Measuring less than five millimetres in size, they are not always readily visible except when they wash up in unusually huge quantities, as has been the case since late November along the northwestern French coast.

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