As I write, we sail a course of 090 degrees heading North East at approximately 5 knots bound for Georgetown, Guyana from Recife, Brazil.
Ahh Recife, and beautiful Brazil. The past week has seen the eXXpedition Ascension team exchange for the eXXpedition Amazon team, and while we swapped stories and forged friendships, excitement and anticipation for the voyage ahead mounted. During the crossover, we have also been travelling the city conducting beach clean-ups, diving on wrecks, and presenting the eXXpedition mission to local schools and universities. These presentations are a fairly major part of what joining the eXXpedition team is all about. Reaching out to students, local specialists, and the general public in order to spread the message about plastic, toxics, and pollution in the ocean. Outreach also helps to remind us, as crew, why we are really here, as it is in these situations that we can truly see the impact that we can collectively create.
On Tuesday last week, we travelled to the Federal University of Pernambuco, to speak to the graduate students of the Toxicology, Marine Biology and Oceanography departments. First up was Emily Penn, with her tales from Earth Race, Tongan Islands and the founding of eXXpedition, whose journey from architecture student to global ambassador for clean-oceans, I could see, was firing the imaginations of everybody in the room. Rachel and Katrina then briefly introduced themselves as members of current eXXpedition crew, to outline the variety of backgrounds that combine to make each crew. We followed this with a talk from Diana Papoulias, our mission leader and chief scientist on board. She went into detail about the impact of microplastics on fish, and the bio-accumulation of persistent organic pollutants in our bodies. A very real problem, and one that there is currently no clear answer to, as it is only through research and examination that we can quantify the issue and ascertain its true risks.
The following day, we visited another scholarly establishment. This time an international grade school in Aldeia and presented to children aged 9 to 12, a very different discussion altogether! We collectively decided that the most productive way to approach this was to impress the importance of avoiding single use plastic in everyday life and showed them the impact that plastic debris has on marine life. Each year, the school incorporates a theme into the curriculum. Next year’s theme is based on the United Nations 14-point climate change manifesto. They will go through the whole plan over an entire school year and their studies will incorporate projects based on the climate change points. At the end of our presentation, we were inundated with suggestions from students and teachers as to things that they could all start doing both at home and at school to minimize plastic waste.
The reception we got from both of these institutes was both heartwarming and overwhelming. There is so much enthusiasm here in Brazil, for cleaning up their coast line. If just half of the many people that we have met here, take action on half of what we discussed with them, it will be making an impact.
Stella Marina, Artist in Residence, Amazon2015