Last night at Selfridges, at the third in Project Ocean’s trio of plastic debates, oceans advocate and sailor extraordinaire Emily Penn led us on a journey of discovery through the five ocean gyres.
In her words, at sea “life depends on your ability to respond and react to the changes in your environment”. And for Emily, when sailing around the world on the record-breaking biofueled powerboat Earthrace, she witnessed a staggering amount of ocean debris. It was this environmental change that she decided to respond to, and it was this that led her to change the course of her life. She now runs Pangaea Explorations, and curates year long programmes of expeditions on their 72 foot research sailing vessel Sea Dragon. As J.Y. Cousteau believed: “We must go and see for ourselves”. And this is what lies at the heart of Panagea Explorations, taking ordinary people out to sea, to witness and research the growing problem of marine plastic debris. And this is what lies at the heart of Selfridges’ exhibition also. A concept model of Sea Dragon is surrounded by five beautifully designed items, each of which are representations of the five ocean gyres, by artist duo Studio Swine. Using the power of the sun on board Sea Dragon in the Azores, Studio Swine melted down ocean plastic, in their hand cranked 3D printer, to create these items – turning the really “scary story” of marine plastic debris into something truly beautiful. Emily was asked last night: “What makes you hopeful?” In her reply she indicated Studio Swine, she indicated the outdoor philosopher Kate Rawles, she indicated the scientists and the educators and the ordinary people in the audience and her answer was: “Passion”. The passion of each and every one of us, in our individual disciplines, to come together and make something beautiful out of this mess we have created for ourselves. This is what happens on board Sea Dragon, this is what is currently happening in the Ultralounge at Selfridges, this is what we try to do every day at ONCA, and this is what we can all do, if we are passionate enough. We can turn the scary story of human consumption, expansion and destruction into an opportunity – a challenge, if you will, for the most creative species on this planet.