It all started back in November 2011 when I was researching for a TEDx talk I was doing at Discovery College, Discovery Bay. I went to the site www.algalita.org which I had been to many times before whilst researching previous talks on plastic pollution in the ocean when I saw an ad for volunteers to crew for an upcoming research expedition to the Plastic Vortex. I was instantly excited!! Now, I realise most people would not get excited about sailing to an area that is known to be the Earth’s storage place for plastic, but for me it was a trip of a lifetime. I quietly filed that little nugget into the back of my mind so I could concentrate on preparing for the TEDx talk that was scaring the pants off me. I have done many talks to school kids on this subject and whilst I have always been a little nervous before each one, TEDx is different as there are strict guidelines for speakers, it was being filmed and it is now on YouTube.
Once my talk was finished and I had stopped wandering the streets mumbling to myself rehearsing lines such as … ‘there is six times more plastic than there is plankton in some parts of the Pacific Ocean’ I could secretly fill in the application. I actually didn’t expect to be selected on this voyage, I thought there would be so many applications from people that were far more qualified. People for instance that could actually sail. Seeing as we were sailing from Tokyo to Hawaii over 4 weeks it might be a handy skill to have. But they said it wasn’t necessary which was good as my sailing knowledge is very limited. I only know there are port & starboard to a boat but I couldn’t tell you which was which. What are the front & back called?? Minor details though.
I did put helpful information on my application like I can swim, I don’t generally get seasick (except for that one time on a really, really rough dive trip), didn’t snore (very handy for living in very, very close quarters with 12 other people for over a month), I used to be a nurse (in my previous life before I moved to HK) and I was absolutely obssessed with plastic rubbish! They were obviously very impressed with all my skills and lack of snoring that they said ‘Welcome Aboard Me Hearty’ or something to that effect. I then casually mentioned to my super understanding husband that my application for the boat trip had been accepted. He didn’t freak out (externally) although he was as surprised as I was.
So to my obsession. we moved to HK from the UK (and before that Oz) in 2005. My son Finn was 1, I wasn’t working, life was great but I wanted to do a little something extra. I saw an ad for a new ‘green group’ that was starting up in DB so I went to the first DB Green meeting and volunteered my services to organise a beach cleanup in the near future. I had never done that before but seeing all the rubbish that was clinging to our beaches it seemed like a worthwhile thing to do. One beach cleanup lead to another and before I knew after 6 years of cleanups we are now doing them monthly on several beaches. I don’t know how many cleanups we have done but I do know we have stopped possibly/probably/at least 30 tonnes of rubbish from re entering our sea and encouraged a whole troup of little eco warriors to be more aware of their surroundings.
Once I sarted doing the cleanups I learnt more about the bigger picture and slowly started reading about the consequences of all this rubbish on our beaches. And you know what, it is truly frightening what we have done! I started talking in schools to the kids and sharing what I had learnt, it was amazing that a problem so big was practically unheard of …