From small children to governments joining in for the fight against plastic pollution, all thanks to a sailboat traveling across the pacific, inspiring change. There is a downside to statistics, as they grow larger they become increasingly abstract. Joseph Stalin even once said that one death is a tragedy and a million deaths are a statistic. The previous is admittedly a rather morbid example, but when you hear numbers like 8 million tons, we as individuals cannot really picture the sheer volume of such a number. To put this number into perspective: If you took the weight of the Great Pyramid of Giza, for which each stone weighs approximately 2,5 tons and add the weight of the Burj Khalifa, the Empire State Building, the CN Tower in Toronto and the iconic Eiffel Tower, you would still be of by approximately 1.25 million tons. This is how incomprehensibly huge the number of 8 million tons is.
Picturing that this insurmountable figure is something found in the ocean, the logical conclusion would be to think that the number was referencing the weight of fish in the oceans. This is unfortunately not the case. The 8 million tons refers to plastic waste that end up in the oceans on a yearly basis. Researchers approximate that there are in total roughly 240 million tons of plastic waste already in our oceans. Scientists state that by the year 2050, there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish or other marine lifeforms. Thankfully, the world is starting to recognise the devastating state that we are leaving the oceans in. This is leading to efforts trying to figure out a way before it is too late and the negative effects of what we are doing and have been doing as societies catch up to us.
This is roughly the mission statement of Phil Somerville who has spent six months on a voyage from Los Angeles to Auckland. His undertaking was rightfully dubbed “Eat Less Plastic”. The name is derived from a rather sobering fact: the plastic debris is literally entering our food chain, as other organisms that we consume take up micro-plastics, we end up eating our own pollution. He hopes that by taking action this course can be reversed. As a surfer and sailor and being raised on an island in New Zealand, Somerville says that the ocean “is literally a life force, and I want my children to experience it as I have, but at the rate things are going, they won’t.” This is the driving force that has led the actor to embark on a journey across the Pacific. He is captaining a crew of businessmen, scientists, actors and athletes across six different countries with the ultimate goal of raising awareness around plastics whilst gathering data that can help in the push for changes in legislation in addition to laying the foundation on educating net generations on the dangers of plastic pollution.
Somerville goes on to state that for him “it’s all about teaching the kids” as they make up the voices of reason that will guide us in the future and that can push for change. He believes that education is the key to tackling this problem. This is why his journey does not only consist of collecting data on micro-plastic through the 5 Gyres TrawlShare Program and participating in beach-clean-ups, but also to spend time inland with as many schools as possible in an effort to further education. This educational labour has already brought about some change, as one school already vowed to eliminate single-use plastics from all school operations. There have also been meetings with “Ocean Ambassadors” a group that works on supporting island nations to work out solutions on recycling and abandoning single-use plastics. They have additionally developed the so-called “Pirate Pack”, which is a subscription box that aims at minimising the subscriber’s plastic footprint in addition to raising funds that go towards ocean clean-up as well as preservation efforts.
In conclusion, it can be said that this undertaking comes hopefully at a turning point in the global fight against plastics, as many nations as well as the EU have passed legislation banning single-use plastics. It is time that we face our problem with plastic dependency ad start taking responsibility for the damage we have done to many biospheres and ecosystems. In the end, it comes back to haunt us as we are not only hurting other lifeforms, but inevitably ourselves. You don’t need a sailboat to participate in these efforts, as everyone can make the conscious choice of eliminating plastic in their lives to contribute to the tackling of this problem.