Midlife Strategies

I Joined the All-Female eXXpedition to Study and Create Awareness About Plastic Pollution in the Oceans

On World Oceans Day, Kay Newton shares her experience of joining the virtual version of eXXpedition, which has been creating awareness about plastic waste in the oceans since 2014.

By Kay Newton

June 8 is marked as World Oceans Day. It’s an important moment to remember humanity’s dependence on the oceans for sustenance, to take responsibility for their wellbeing, and to find solutions for the damage we have caused them.

Seventy-one percent of the world’s surface is water, which creates up to 80 percent of our oxygen supply. There will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2030. The whole ecosystem is anticipated to collapse by 2050 if we do not change.

Without the ocean’s ecosystem, we will not have to worry about Covid, as there will be no life on the planet! It is time to do things differently.

A pioneering all-female sailing expedition, eXXpedition was founded in 2014 to shift perceptions on many levels, specifically to look into the problem of plastic both in the ocean and our body burden, the role of women in science, and facilitate a multidisciplinary and multicultural group to work together to find solutions.

In April 2021, instead of taking part in an ocean voyage to one of the five ocean plastic gyres to carry out experiments, nine amateur crew members (including myself), led by eXXpedition team leaders Emily Penn and Sally Earthrowl, went on a virtual eXXpedition to South Africa via Zoom.

Despite the lack of physical element, we still had the opportunity to learn about each other and get together as a team. We discussed the oceans’ problems, met and conversed with river-conservation experts from South Africa, and finally came up with our own concepts to create a difference using our individual superpowers.

Staying in the present and focusing on simple tasks instead of big-picture-worry were the greatest lessons I learned during this time. In unusual times of stress, we often come together as a community – it is human nature.

Whether onboard a 32-metre yacht, tackling natural devastations or dealing with a pandemic, we are better as a team. We find a way to work through our differences, leave behind our disparities and realise that our only option is to act together, act fast, and now. Then and only then do we achieve our true greatness. There are no borders, no religious / gender / age differences, no exceptions – we are all involved.

Plastic pollution is totally manmade and it is killing our planet. There are many parallels between plastic pollution and Covid when we look beneath the surface. Both are a global threat to life. Both will take a world effort to solve. Each person on the planet can make a difference. Yet, we have to act now.

Therein lies the great divide between Covid and the global plastic situation. While scientists the world over collaborated to come up with vaccines and to find solutions to the virus, there appears to be no such urgency about stopping plastic pollution in the oceans.

When Covid stopped the human race in its tracks, we saw how nature began a process of recovery. With fewer aircraft in the skies, the ozone layer healed. With fewer people on the beaches, more turtles hatched. Without noise pollution, we heard an uninterrupted birdsong. If we leave Mother Nature to her own devices, the sea will recover too.

Many people realised that life does not have to be hectic or stressful. We are all human beings, not human doings. The modern Western way of life, created over the past 200 years, may not be the nirvana we all have been led to believe. With time to be compassionate, a bit of space has appeared to glimpse new possibilities.

Change is the only constant in the universe. To embrace change, you have to be prepared to constantly adjust your course, reset the sails and be prepared to deal with both the calm and the storm. When we lead by example, we can influence others. Collectively, over time we create global change.

Step-by-step, focusing on any small action, is where the change occurs. The issues of fighting Covid and plastic pollution are global problems, yet the good news is that there are also infinite solutions. No one solution will be the ultimate answer.

If it means wearing a mask and staying at home – we can do that. If it means avoiding plastic usage as much as possible, making sure plastic pollution never enters our rivers and oceans, and eating less or no fish, we can surely do that too. If you feel overwhelmed and are not sure where to start, check out eXXpedition’s ideas resource at shift.how.

If the Covid pandemic has taught us anything, it is that prevention is better than cure. We must collectively wake up to the threat of plastic pollution to our lives before it’s too late.

Kay Newton is an award-winning speaker, writer and midlife strategist. Follow her on KayNewton.com

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