Remember the iconic Banksy drawing of the girl chasing a red balloon with the caption ‘There is always hope’ planted next to it?
A little cliche, I know, but it resonates strongly with me and I have a print hanging in my flat. It implies that hope is essential and that hope gives us the motivation to continue on in life despite the challenges, set backs or disappointments we’re facing. And we all need a sprinkling of that from time to time.
Over the last three weeks of my #SuperSUPEngland challenge I’ve witnessed humanity at both ends of the spectrum; the total idiocy and disregard that some people have for our planet, countered by the love, goodwill and kindness that I received along my 400 mile route. And, because of the latter, there is still plenty of hope left in me for humankind to make a difference.
The challenge, now, is sustaining that hope. And what better time to talk about how and why than World Ocean Day.
You see, I paddle boarded 400 miles across England to make a point. Whilst the global issue of plastic polluting our oceans is a hugely important one I struggle to get my head around why there isn’t bigger focus on the fact nearly 80% of it starts inland – on our canals and rivers.
That makes it a local issue and by drawing on this very fact it becomes very much our responsibility. Once we scale up the problem and look at it globally it transforms into an overwhelmingly large and often meaningless statistic far beyond our ability to grasp. The result? Simply cover our eyes, stick our fingers in our ears and ignore it.
When it’s a global problem it suddenly becomes everyone elses problem. But it isn’t. It’s yours, mine and their problem. It’s our planet, it’s our future generations, it’s our health and livelihoods. It’s a collective problem that flows from our very doorsteps.
In our lifetime, and under our (mis)management, we’re facing a serious, immediate and very real threat to the our oceans that, if we don’t start controlling, will leave them in a state of dire disrepair that, sadly, we won’t be able to rectify.
Plastic is an entirely man-made material and therefore we are wholly responsible for the destruction and devastation it’s causing to our oceans globally – and canals and river locally. There’s not way of absolving blame or pointing fingers elsewhere. Each and everyone one of us – unknowingly or otherwise – has contributed.
By plotting plastic hotspots and pressure points in our canals and rivers up and down the country my aim was to draw out the how serious the problem is inland – places we all recognise, visit and hopefully feel the desire to protect from plastic pollution.
Cleaning up our waterways not only improves the aesthetics and desirability of the area around it and allows wildlife to thrive but it goes a long way to resolving the global threat we are under.
If you don’t think it’s bad take a look at some of my findings here and visit the map I’ve started plotting with more than 1000 images from my route.
I’m hopeful in the belief that my actions will make an impact and get people to think serious about how to address the problem. I’ll stay persistent in the pursuit of change and focused on my determination to make a difference.
You might be happy to trade nature with plastic, but I certainly am not.
There is always hope.