Securing a shared future for wildlife and people

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The last three months have been very busy for the crew at Take 3 with lots of exciting projects and a great deal of attention coming their way surrounding co-founder Tim Silverwood’s expedition to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Take 3 won last year’s Taronga Green Grant, awarded to the best green initiative which would inspire environmental change in the community.

Here is an update from Tim about his voyage and opportunities for you to be involved in future Take 3 projects.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch…the mere mention of the place conjures images of a vast, obese, monolithic ‘beast’ swamping the North Pacific like a wet blanket over a dreary fire. Sorry to burst your bubble…the ‘floating island’ doesn’t exist. I know this because I just spent two months examining the impact the accumulation of discarded plastics is having amongst the network of currents that constitute the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, otherwise known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. I sailed 5000km from Honolulu to Vancouver with an international team of researchers and environmentalists to see and document this marvel. The results? Well, I’d be pleased if it were a ‘floating island’, if it were it might be feasible for us to get out there and clean it up. But in fact, it’s much worse than that…

My journey commenced in Hawaii where I’d arranged to spend two weeks with the co-founders of Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawaii. Suzanne and Dean from BEACH have spent over five years cleaning the beaches of Hawaii, educating the community on the issue and encouraging people to choose sustainable alternatives to disposable single use plastics. Together we travelled to a remote corner on the Big Island where lies Kamilo Beach, toted ‘the world’s dirtiest beach’. Who would ever have thought the world’s dirtiest beach would be on a remote coast off the island paradise we know as Hawaii?

The 500m stretch of rocky coast was absolutely covered with all manner of plastic debris from toilet seats, toothbrushes, and tennis balls to mountains of rope, piles of crates, umbrella handles and bottles, bottle caps and bottle necks. At a guess 99.9% of the items on the shore were clearly not from Hawaii but from countries circling the North Pacific ring from Asia to North America. The North Pacific Gyre, like a laborious conveyer belt delivers new trash to Hawaii on each and every tide.

My home and courier for the journey across the Pacific was be the 72ft Sea Dragon, a racing yacht built for the 2004 Challenge Round the World Yacht Race. As we set sail from Honolulu I said goodbye to the islands and hello to the vast, unfamiliar blue. Never having sailed across an ocean I was immediately struck by the enormity of the sea, this realisation that now more than ever I really was just a speck on an immense blue planet.

Looking out upon the ocean on the countless hours I spent steering the yacht, cleaning the deck, deploying trawls and hoisting sails I never once saw an island of trash. That’s because the island of trash doesn’t exist.  The image of an ‘island’ was conjured by the media in the hype surrounding Captain Charles Moore’s ‘discovery’ of the Garbage Patch in 1997. In fact we’ve known about the accumulation of waste in this part of the ocean since the 1960’s and for hundreds of thousands of years all manner of coconuts, driftwood and seed pods would have drifted the same. But the difference is, this plastic isn’t going anywhere. Plastic doesn’t biodegrade; it simply breaks apart into smaller and smaller pieces. This is why it is more accurate to think of the Garbage Patch as a giant plastic soup. Large items don’t retain their structure in the ocean for long. The sun’s radiation and the physical motion of the sea causes it to break up into small pieces – billions of pieces of plastic that descend throughout the water quality where they mimic  the food fish, birds, turtles and even whales like to eat. The impacts of marine debris on wildlife are profound with millions of deaths each year, but what about the impact on us? Do you want plastic in your sushi?

Once in our oceans we know plastic kills marine life, makes our beaches look like rubbish tips, becomes brittle and breaks apart into billions of pieces making it impossible to clean up and is consumed by all manner of marine life including those that make up the basis of our food chain. We’ve used more plastic in the last decade than we have in the entire 100 years of the 20th Century, if we continue on this path unabated what will it mean for our children, and their children? What will the beach of the future look like and what marine animals will be left for us to appreciate or eat without fear of contamination?

It is clear to me and to a growing number of scientists and environmentalists that the time to act on this issue is now. So please, re-evaluate your relationship with plastic. Re-think your actions, do you really need that over packaged product, plastic bag, plastic cup or plastic bottle or is there a reusable alternative you can adopt? Remember to reduce, reuse and recycle but go above and beyond – vote with your wallet – we need our producers to redesign products built to last, be highly recyclable and made from recycled material.

Take 3 – A Clean Beach Initiative asks people to simply take threepieces of rubbish with them when they leave the beach, waterway or…anywhere. Get out there and clean up our world, it’s easy, doesn’t cost you anything and makes you feel great. 

Tim Silverwood is currently visiting parts of Australia to give presentations on his expedition and to screen the award-winning documentary all about plastic called ‘Bag It’.

New South Wales

October

6th           Sugarmill Surf Emporium, Narrabeen. 2/1329 Pittwater Rd. 7pm ‘Bag It’ and public premiere of ‘One Beach’

18th         Manly Ocean World. 6.30pm

20th         Mosman Art Gallery, 6.30pm ‘Bag It’ and presentation.

21st         Gerringong Town Hall, Fern St Gerringong. 8pm

24th         Terrigal Surf Club 7pm (presentation only, no film)

25th         Newcastle, Dixon Park Surf Club 7pm (presentation only, no film)

26th         Forster NSW Venue TBC 7pm (presentation only, no film)

9th           Newport Public School, Queens Pde Pittwater 6pm

November

 

12th        Newcastle, TEDx event, Playhouse Theatre. 12pm.

 

 

Queensland

September

28th         James Cook University, Townsville, Room 101. 5-6pm. Guest Lecture only (no film).

29th         Base Hostel, Magnetic Island 6.30pm. ‘Bag It’ and presentation.

30th         Reef HQ, Flinders St East. Townsville. 1pm-2.30pm ‘Bag It’ and presentation.

30th         Court Theatre, Stokes St. Townsville. 6pm for 7pm start. ‘Bag It’ and presentation.

November

15th         Brisbane venue TBC

16th        Sunshine Coast venue TBC

 

Western Australia

October

11th         Northbridge Piazza, Perth. Spaceship Earth Film Festival 7pm

13th         Curtin University Sustainable Policy Institute, Freemantle - 5.30pm

14th         Dunsborough – Three Bears Bar - 7pm ‘Bag It’ and ‘One Beach’ films

15th    Bunbury, Koombana Sailing Club 6.30pm