As a kayaker, scuba diver and part-mermaid the ocean is everything to me. It is my sanctuary, my reset button and my inspiration. But although I feel connected to the ocean in many ways, I am aware that many do not. Despite not feeling that connection the ocean is not an optional extra for any of us! The ocean provides us with the main source of oxygen in the air we breathe and yet the we have polluted, plundered and abused it.
I used to feel helpless to do something about it, and like many felt that the problem was too big or that I was too small to make an impact. The turning point for me was in Costa Rica in 2012 after watching a nest of leatherback turtle hatchlings break free from their sandy nest and make their way into the sea. I had helped to protect their nest from dogs and poachers and kept birds away as they made this treacherous journey to the waters edge. I might not have made a difference to the eggs that I saw one night being carried away by poachers but the baby turtles I swam with that day had a fighting chance. And so I realised that by making a difference to one small creature in one instance makes an impact in that sphere of influence and that is enough because that starts a ripple effect that eventually becomes a tidal wave of change. When I got back to Sussex after that trip, I sought out more marine conservation opportunities and I found Brighton based Whalefest (now Incredible Oceans).
Working among that team of inspiring ocean geeks, I met ocean change makers and inspiring people who were doing what they could in their sphere of influence. And so, I started to realise that these ocean heroes of mine were not a rare breed with ‘special magic save the planet genes’ but ordinary people, often with limited resources, who just decided to take action instead of blindly carrying on on the conveyor belt of life.
Until that point, I led a relatively normal life, I worked as a successful lawyer for over ten years and I had just followed a path of least resistance not giving much thought to my ability to chose my destiny. Then my mum was taken ill and spent two months on life support with sepsis and multiple organ failure. It was the push I needed to take action, realising that life was short and we are the only people who can shape our futures. So I took control of the puppet strings of life and started driving myself towards a dream life that I previously thought was reserved for… I don’t know who, but not me.
Now, I know that plastic is not the problem here, but the linear way we use and dispose of it. I saw first hand the benefits of plastic when my Mum was in hospital and know that she wouldn’t be alive without it. So I became fascinated with our behaviour and how we have allowed this material to become so polluting when people have known about its inability to break down for years. I discovered that we are creatures of habit, programmed to seek out familiarity, governed by societal influence and habits are hard to change without incentives and easy solutions that everyone can get behind. And there are easy actions that individuals can take with plastic and for me that opens the gate for conversations about other far reaching environmental issues.
Roll on three years and I have now completed three groundbreaking Paddle Cleanup expeditions cleaning up plastic out of our inland waterways. I have paddled the width of England, the length of Wales and remote Scottish Islands despite having never been in a sea kayak until day one of the first expedition. By now I had become the plastics expert for Incredible Oceans, creating a network of people who are pioneering positive change for the environment. And so, I became the ‘go to rubbish expert', finding upcycling and recycling solutions for the rubbish we found and taking the waste to public events to reach a wider audience with the message about simple actions. We created this problem so we can uncreate it. If we can shift to a culture of reusable plastic bags with the incentive of 5p imagine what else we can achieve.
And so the Clare Talks Rubbish Podcast was born. A platform to tell the stories of the ordinary people I meet who have become every day heroes by just deciding to do something. (Listen to the first podcast here)The conversations are so much more than stories about the environment and living sustainably. They are conversations with real people giving truthful insight into their struggles and how they have overcome them, both internally and in the community.
At some point in our life we stop dreaming about our ideal world. Well, I think we need to spark that again and I absolutely believe that we can create a world where the individual feels empowered and the collective absolutely does make a difference. There’s no lecturing, guilt shaming or expectation of perfection, just simple ideas to inspire you to live the life you love sustainably.
So please listen, subscribe, get in touch with your feedback requests and comments. Then share to anyone who you think would also enjoy it. By refusing single use plastic, talking to your circle of influence or even engaging with the brands that you use or your local MP you can create a ripple effect in your own community.
Together we can create a wave of change.
If you'd like to tell your story at The Living Coast get in touch here.