Education, spreading awareness and collecting scientific data, sounds like 3 things completely related. And they are. But, as I experienced during The Swim when you want to reach the three of them at the same time, there are some difficulties or at least some differences to keep in mind. Focused on plastic pollution in the ocean, education, spreading awareness and collecting data are the goals of this project. Ben puts all his energy in The Swim to reach these goals and we do as well, not only supporting Ben, but also collecting the data, showing what we have seen and sharing our feelings and worries about this issue.
And this is the thing, during this expedition I’ve seen the direct consequences of our behaviour, the plastic we found every day. I want to share these findings with you. But it feels like a challenge because pollution is not very visible, it is too far from land and it impacts lays in the long term. Therefore we might not feel it like our responsibility anymore, because after we threw away the plastic, even if is in the correct bin of trash, we use to forget about it. We probably trust that the waste management will do a correct job and that is it.
Knowing about the pollution and seeing it with my own eyes, I question myself what is the best way to accomplish our three goals. Looking separately, I guess the simplest one, is to collect the scientific data. It is the most practical of the three, there are protocols to follow and you don’t have to doubt a lot how to do it, as long as you do it accurate, precise and disciplined. But never forget to keep the curiosity to taking attention to new things or phenomenon.
More difficult in my opinion, is the education and the awareness with all the social complexity that they encompass. Because from one side, we are not the experts. We are working with scientists in order to explain what, how and why plastic pollution is happening. But if we want to spread awareness and engage people, we need to be interesting too and try to show something that brings attention to the subject. So while providing some new knowledge about the state of the ocean, we have to grab the attention of people. The goal is too rich everyone, from who doesn’t care about the ocean to people that already care but could be more inspired to take action. With the science, this is kind of difficult because we are in the step of data collection, that can be even boring to show, whereas sometimes people just get engaged by results. But James and Mark, our cameramen, are trying to be creative to show how even just collecting water and pass it through a filter can be interesting. On the other hand, we have to be careful not to sensationalize and use wrong terms, expanded numbers or typical phrases that sounds convenient or spectacular, just to make worries based on inaccurate facts. We could be very successful by doing that, but just the truth should be, and is, enough to alarm us.
Last, the awareness is really difficult, is not something easy to transfer, and also we don’t want to put ourselves in a position that we are who says what to do and how to act about the plastic, we just want to show what is happening, let know about facts, and share our worries.
Personally, it is the first time I feel that I have the opportunity to transfer this. Because of this project, the videos, our social media and Ben’s followers, we have the opportunity to talk. So I also doubt what and how to talk, and after many reflections trying to find a good way, but still difficult, is to have a positive approachment. Although I feel that is an urgent problem, and we are already acting late, even feeling bad because to see plastic floating at the side of the boat every day, is better to approach the problem in the way to tell how amazing is the ocean and the life that lives in it; so lets care about it and lets protect it, instead of go in the way of personals responsibilities and guiltiness.
Written by: María Amenábar Cristi
I am studying environmental engineering, before The Swim I had been working in microplastic research. I was involved in a citizen science program for children, I was collecting garbage sample from beaches, and collaborating in studies about social weelling to change plastic consumption conducts.
I have spent time sailing through the Atlantic, Caribbean Sea, Patagonia fiords and Cape Horn. I also was part of a sail expedition to Antarctica, where we did sample collection and science logistic. Be part of The Swim is an opportunity for me to join my passion for sailing with my vocation to care about the environment.
During the expedition, I will be coordinating the sampling collection for the protocols that we are following with the science team on land. With The Longest Swim, I hope to spread awareness about caring for the ocean and the urgency to change our behaviour with nature. I want to show to the people around the world the impact of our acts, and try to spread a reflective message about this problem.