Time to think about National Day balloons

The annual balloon release on National Day is a source of joy for thousands in this community and has become an integral part of our traditional celebrations.

For many, watching the red and white globes drift up against a blue sky is one of the highlights of the day.

Over the years, the SDGG has rightly sought to minimise the environmental impact of the balloon release, using biodegradable alternatives and cutting back on numbers.

But as each years passes, it becomes increasingly difficult to defend this tradition in the face of clear evidence of worsening marine pollution around the globe.

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After they are released, balloons drift away out of sight. Some deflate and sink back to earth or sea. Others become brittle and break up high in the atmosphere.

The thing with gravity, however, is that anything going up must also come down, even if in a faraway place or in small pieces. The damaging effect on the environment is no less real for being less visible.

Gibraltar prides itself on its proven green credentials. This commitment is reflected not just in government-led initiatives, but across the community as a whole.

None of us would fill 30,000 balloons with air and release them on the shoreline of a beach. Filling balloons with helium and releasing them is perhaps no different. As oceans campaigner Lewis Pugh said this week, it is “pollution upwards”.

It is time for some soul searching and an open, honest debate on how we celebrate our identity on National Day. The question we must answer is, can we do this differently?

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Brian Reyes
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