I will be joining a team of 14 women to cross the Atlantic Ocean from the Ivory Coast in Western Africa to Brazil on November 2nd, 2015. The purpose of our crossing is to gather scientific data about the plastic concentration in that area and promote practices that can lead to healthier oceans. The end goal of this study is to make people aware of how plastic enters the food chain through fish, which understandably mistake our garbage for something to be consumed given that there is ten times more plastic in the Atlantic Ocean than there is actual food. Not only are these micro beads void of any actual nutrients the fish need to survive, they attract other toxins and are, therefore, highly poisonous to animal organisms like fish and human beings. We will conduct research in order to shed light on some of the ways in which we see plastics negatively impacting our environment and our health, and we will use our findings to seek change in the politics and policies governing the way we use plastics in our daily lives.
Everybody on the crew has a specific role from skipper or scientist to filmmaker, but we will all share tasks. My role will be mainly to produce a documentary film of the expedition, in addition to taking water samples for study and research. I’m honoured and excited to be part of this incredible team of women and, more importantly, to chronicle the journey and to create something that can be shared with the world. Education is critical, and my hope is to spread the vital word through film.
The rewards I’ve come up with reflect my desire to give back to my support network, from cooking dehydrated meals for other exciting expeditions and adventures and offering geological consultation, to working in homes and gardens throughout my community and beyond. I’m already so humbled by the generous offers I’ve received for contributions of all shapes and sizes. Thank you, in advance, for your support!
Litter and pollution are the material manifestation of unconscious behaviours: we don’t see the end result of failing to dispose of a plastic container properly or that bag that blows away in the wind. Yet tons of plastic and chemical pollution washes through our streams and rivers, ending up eventually in huge gyres of plastic debris circulating in the world’s oceans. Most plastics do not biodegrade on land or in water, instead becoming brittle in sunlight and breaking apart into ever-smaller bits of plastic, still containing toxic substances introduced during manufacture, like phthalates, bisphenol-A and flame retardants. These plastics attract and concentrate persistent oily pollutants present in seawater. Plastic debris not only threatens sea creatures through entanglement or by clogging their digestive tracts, it also introduces dangerous chemicals into the food chain, many of which are linked to disease and are found contaminating our own bodies.
Scientists estimate that everyone alive today carries within her or his body at least 700 contaminants, most of which have not been well studied. Wherever you live in the world you have been exposed to a cocktail of chemicals. Chemicals can have different effects in people or in wildlife, depending on the amount, timing, duration, and pattern of exposure as well as the properties of the specific chemical. They can have toxic effects through a variety of mechanisms: those that cause cancer are called carcinogens; those that cause birth defects are called teratogens; and those that damage the normal development of the fetus, infant, or child, or damage our reproductive tissues are called developmental/reproductive toxicants. Some chemicals can cause damage through their ability to interfere with normal hormone function. These chemicals are called endocrine disrupters.
Policymakers, politicians and the public remain largely unaware of the extent of the plastics problem and the magnitude of the threat to marine ecosystems and human health. At present, the ocean’s litter and plastic problem is increasing at the same rate as population growth. Let’s break that cycle!
My background is in geology, so I am able to look at this issue through a scientific lens and can quantifiably measure how our love affair with plastic products is affecting the oceans that cover over 70% of the planet we call home. My passion for outdoor adventure and exploration has also put me face-to-face with the devastating reality of our growing plastic footprint on even the most remote coastlines and pieces of wilderness: while surfing in Indonesia I literally had to contend with garbage in the barrels of the waves I was riding on a regular basis. My experience as a woman in several of the industries supporting this expedition – from photography and filmmaking to the very general field of scientific discovery - has also brought me closer to the project on a very personal level. To join a team of 14 women in support of a project, adventure and dream such as this is not only empowering for me, it sends a positive message to future female scientists, photographers and environmentalists that I think is much needed and incredibly valuable.
We are 14 women preparing to cross the Atlantic Ocean from the Ivory Coast in Western Africa to Brazil on November 2nd, 2015. The goal of our crossing is to gather scientific data about the plastic concentration in that area and promote practices that can lead to healthier oceans. The end goal of this study is to make people aware of how plastic enters the food chain through fish, which understandably mistake our garbage for something to be consumed given that there is ten times more plastic in the Atlantic Ocean than there is actual food. Not only are these micro beads void of any actual nutrients the fish need to survive, they attract other toxins and are, therefore, highly poisonous to animal organisms like fish and human beings. We will conduct REsearch and MEsearch in order to shed light on some of the ways in which we see plastics negatively impacting our environment and our health, and we will use our findings to seek change in the politics and policies governing the way we use plastics in our daily lives.
We are sailing the South Atlantic to get a new transect and fill in gaps in the data of plastic distribution around the globe. We will use surface trawl nets to sample for plastics and to catch pelagic fish, which we will store and send for assessment. Collected micro and nano plastics and sample of industrial toxins will be sent for assessment for POPs, PCBs and other toxic contaminants and the fish will be assessed for plastic fragments in their digestive system and for the presence of toxic residues. Basic plastics counts will be done aboard by the crew. Micro and nano analysis will done by Jenna Jambeck's lab at University of Georgia. Toxic analysis will be done by Anna Karrman at Obrero University.
Note: the scale of our experiments is dependent upon funding.
Our aim is to engage women in scientific narratives relating to the consumer choices they make, and their long term health impacts on themselves and our environment.
The biomonitoring is a UN founded initiative ‘Safe Planet‘ to assess personal exposure to known toxic substances. Through personal exploration of our internal environment (MeSearch) we aim to better understand the levels of toxic exposure in women. Through our shared mission to understand this invisible pollution we hope to create a conversation which sheds light on the science of ecotoxicology and inspire positive actions to tackle the root causes.
We will explore our own bodies for presence of toxins. The first step to understanding a problem is work out how big it is, to measure it: to be scientists! We will measure our blood and urine samples for the presence of pthalates, heavy metals, PCBs, and persistent organic pollutants.
We will also explore our genetic likelihood for disease using DNA fingerprinting tools to assess our relative genetic risks. We believe that knowledge is power and that by exploring nature vs. nurture in our relative risks of disease we can take charge of our future and be inspired to make choices that have a positive impact on the health of our bodies and the seas.
Through our personal and collective journeys we hope to inspire followers to understand the relationship between our bodies, the products we consume and the world we inhabit.
There is also a lack of diversity in gender and race roles models in both STEM professions and in exploration / sports events. We would like to assemble a crew of inspiring female role models and help address the balance.
While there is no scientific consensus, there is an evidence base building that environmental exposure from chemicals is impacting women’s health. We would like to better understand the links between health of the environment and of our bodies.
Breast cancer rates in young women are on the rise. Women’s specific disease research has a low public profile in the media and there is an imbalance in research funding directed towards gender specific diseases.
There will be 14 women sailing across the Atlantic on this expedition. The point of an all-female crew is to promote healthier consumer choices by making women more aware of the toxins they are eating and putting on their skin in the form of cleansers and cosmetics. Everybody on the crew has a specific role from skipper or scientist to filmmaker, but we will all share tasks. My role will be mainly to produce a documentary on the expedition and take water samples for study and research.
As you can imagine, an expedition of this scope and magnitude requires a ton of support. The $25,000 I am raising will pay for my flight to the Ivory Coast, my trip across the Atlantic aboard our ship and additional gear needed to produce the documentary film project. It does not include any wages to myself. I have just launched a major Kickstarter fundraising campaign that will run until the end of June and have made a very short film that speaks a bit more about the project. What I seek is exposure during the campaign and support on a broader level so I can raise awareness to a wide audience during the expedition itself.
Risks and Challenges
The risks and challenges of this project are largely unforeseen, given that the documentary film will be created in real time, aboard a sailboat as we travel across the Atlantic Ocean. I suppose any number of things could happen: a giant squid army take-over, mermaid interference, the Bermuda Triangle. Anything is possible!
Fortunately, I feel confident that the collective wisdom and experience of my crew and wider community will provide more than enough support to see this project through to completion... whatever that may look like.
I grew up in the mountains north of Quebec City as well as Switzerland, seeking adventure as often as possible and always with a camera in hand. My purpose is to share my experience and knowledge as an earth scientist in an effort to promote sustainability in our daily lives and also to empower people to live the life they have always dreamed of. My images, film and articles are created with the hope of inspiring people to be responsible, innovative and proactive in their decision-making in order to minimize negative impact and maintain balance between ecological resilience, economic prosperity, political justice and cultural vibrancy to ensure a livable and lovable planet for all species now and in the future.
Schedule of Funraising events:
June 3rd : New release in Revelstoke Currents, Revelstoke Mountaineer
June 3rd : Radio interview at Stoke FM, Article Revelstoke Mountaineers, revelstoke Current
June 6th : Skype conference with expedition members and blood collection for the Me Search research
June 9th : Meeting with the Dragon’s den, interview Kukanusa publication
June 10th : Finishing school double exposure art project in Canmore, BC, interview Calagry Herald and Banff journal
June 11th: Highline magazine summer issue launch party-featured artist, interview Rossland news and Trail times
June 15th : Highline Magazine releases 6 pages about the project, Live Interview at the CBC currant program
June 15Th : Pina Style pop up shop at Birch and Lace, Revelstoke BC
June 26th: Special yoga class and music at Balu Yoga, Revelstoke BC
June 27th : Fix it fair and tool share, Revelstoke’s summer market
All month and beyond: Schools from the Kootenays area, Revelstoke, Québec and all over the world are creating paper birds. The Orikaso Memorial Project is an ongoing collaborative art project to collect over one million orikaso (origami made from non-recyclable plastic) as a memorial for the 1,000,000 sea birds and 100,000 marine animals estimated to die each year from plastic ingestion. See : http://www.positivelifecycle.com
Top 3 Allies In The Fight To Eliminate Microbeads:
3. Fauna & Flora International – the focus of this decades old association of environmental activists is on biodiversity: namely, “to secure a healthy future for our planet where people, wildlife and wild places coexist.” Their work spans the globe, with over 140 projects in over 40 countries, mostly in the developing world. Directly related to our own project is FFI’s Good Scrub Guide, a program which aims to address the direct sources of microplastic pollution by working with businesses and stakeholders throughout the UK to stem the flow of microbeads into the world’s oceans.
2. The North Sea Foundation – initially created to protect the coastlines of the Netherlands with respect to fishing and shipping practices, the NSF has more recently been very active and influential in keeping the North Sea clean and waste-free in the face of increasing pollution due to microplastics. By educating the public on the precious nature of their sea, they seek to share their passion and inspire change. They advocate for “a clean and healthy sea” by exposing proglems, lobbying at the national and international level, creating dialogue with policymakers and industry personnel, and proposing realistic solutions.
1. Plastic Soup Foundation – the purpose of this Dutch organization is to promote and inspire international cooperation, projects by and with leading enterprises and the dissemination of good practices for sustainable solutions. Using various Internet and social media outlets, PSF puts pressure on industry and governments to affect real, legitimate change. In 2012, Plastic Soup Foundation and the North Sea Foundation created a smartphone app called Beat The Microbead that lets users scan the barcodes of cosmetics products to see whether or not they contain microbeads, putting the power to control the industry squarely in the hands of the consumers themselves.
5 Cosmetics Companies That Have Pledged To Stop Using Microbeads (eventually)