Change the world


That was the call at a National Marine Week event at NMU by computer science Professor Jean Greyling, who unveiled a mobile game for youngsters to raise awareness about the marine plastic pollution crisis.

Available as an app on Android, BOATS challenges the player to navigate a craft through the ocean by interacting with actual tokens while collecting plastic garbage along the way, he said on Tuesday.

“As they clear a piece of plastic debris, they are presented with a fact about the marine pollution crisis so the game implicitly teaches them as they progress,” Greyling said.

“My vision is that one of the big corporates will pick up on it and use it in one of their campaigns but in the meantime we are rolling it out to youngsters across Nelson Mandela Bay.”

In line with this strategy, the NMU computer science department has partnered with the Mandela Bay Development Agency and S4 Integration to allow 10,000 pupils across the metro to interact with BOATS and another mobile game TANKS by the end of October.

“Tanks focuses on introducing kids to computer coding and BOATS as a spin-off that adds the marine environmental education aspect.”

The concept for both games was initiated by Greyling and his computer science honours student, Byron Batteson, who also developed TANKS.

BOATS was developed by Bay computer programming company Avocado Chocolate.

South African Environmental Observation Network Elwandle node manager Dr Tommy Bornman said the 2019 National Marine Week theme “harsh realities of plastic in our ocean” was fundamentally important.

“Up to 90% of marine litter is made up of plastics. This makes plastic pollution one of the most widespread problems facing our oceans today.

“Globally, it is estimated 6.4-million tons of marine litter enter the oceans each year and about eight million items every day,” Bornman said.

“According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, South Africans use between 30kg and 50kg of plastic per person per year and a large portion of this ends in the sea.”

Bornman said the network had recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science in the UK to develop a Commonwealth Litter Programme laboratory – one of only four in different partner countries around the world.

“It will be here on the NMU Ocean Sciences Campus and it will enable scientists to analyse water, sediment and tissue for microplastics.”

He said environmental literacy was another key element that would contribute to sustainable human livelihoods and protection of the planet.

“The issue will be addressed this week through science engagement and educational outreach activities at NMU’s Ocean Science Campus and elsewhere in the Bay.”

According to a recent study, 54% of South Africans had never heard of climate change and only about half of those who had heard of it believed it needed to be stopped, he said.

“Even less thought they could play a role in fighting it.”

Bornman noted that environment, forestry and fisheries minister Barbara Creecy had said last week that the government wanted all citizens to understand that climate change, loss of biodiversity and environmental degradation were happening now.

“She said that these phenomena are highly undesirable, that we as human beings are primarily responsible and, most importantly – we can do something and we can do it now,” Bornman said.

He said the minister had emphasised the need to create an environmentally literate society.

“It will be our collective role this week and every single day thereafter to create an environmentally literate society by making scientific evidence more available, accessible, understandable, relevant and reliable for everyone.

“Only through those societal partnerships can we secure an environmental future for all,” he said.


This article appeared in The Herlad of 9 October 2019 written by Guy Rogers

Picture: WERNER HILLS SPREADING THE WORD: At the launch of Marine Week 2019 at Nelson Mandela University’s Ocean Sciences Campus are, from left, SA Environmental Observation Network Elwandle node manager Prof Tommy Bornman, the SA Environmental Observation Network’s Jennifer Mohale and computer science Professor Jean Greyling.

Contact information
Prof. Jean Greyling
Associate Professor
Tel: 27 41 504 2081