2016 Year in Review and the Plastic Island

Maybe 2016 will be remembered as the year of ‘The Trump’ and the global rise of the “Alt Right” political movement. Perhaps this is a predictable response by people ignored for generations by the political and wealthy elites and threatened by global expansion and global catastrophes. Or maybe people will remember the seemingly high numbers of famous people who passed. Luminaries such as Prince and Bowie, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Leonard Cohen and Harper Lee, Alan Rickman, Gene Wilder, George Micheal, Mohammed Ali and most recently Carrie Fisher.  Perhaps though, their spirits were buoyed by the ratification of the Paris Agreement. This landmark agreement is designed to hold the world to task. From it, we hope to create a strategy to mitigate the worst effects of global warming with a challenge to limit the rise to under 2 degs C.

For me though, it was something else that resonated. Something so profound, I know it will stick with me for the rest of my life.

2016 began in Thailand and like many like-minded people doing my bit for the environment I got involved. First by cleaning up the local beach outside my condo in Pattaya, then at a nearby Island, called Koh Rin, with a group of friends. We had fun and it felt like we made a difference no matter how small. We even made a movie, which I look great in by the way!

In June, my wife and I made the decision to leave Thailand and made our way to the incredibly beautiful Island of Taiwan. I couldn’t wait to carry on where we left off in Thailand and quickly joined in with a local beach cleaning group called Re-Think and another beach clean in Bali province. Since arriving in Taiwan we have been busy too with the One Brown Planet project, trying our best to let people know about some of the issues we face and how to fix with them, offering practical, simple solutions.

It has been a challenging year though, I will be the first to admit. I find myself after 20 years, instead of working for an industry helping to destroy the environment I am working for myself trying to save it. Most of the time I don’t know what I am doing or how I can possibly achieve anything I want to. Sometimes I wonder why I left a very good job in a tropical Country to even attempt all this (Especially confused about this last bit)?

But in the very brief time since I started all this, what incredible people I have met. So many volunteers, all with the same passions as me, all wanting to make a change. I am learing so much too, about the issues we face and even more about the solutions that already exist to fix them. We have been lucky to be involved in some wonderful projects such as the world’s largest plastic crochet turtle. The turtle is now touring Taiwan and been seen by over 150,000 people (and counting). By the end of 2016 we somehow managed to convince almost 500 people to follow us! Every day we meet new people who want to help and get involved. It has been incredible.

It has been a great year for sure but actually there is something else which moved me more.  So much in fact, that it left no doubt in my mind what I needed to do in 2017.

My Plastic Island

A few weeks ago, I came across this video made by CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh. It was shot on Midway Island located over 1000 nautical miles away from it’s nearest neighbour. In the video, there is a scene  5″58′ in , which shows in graphic details the stomach contents of an albatross carcass. It is filled to capacity with plastic. The bird’s stomach was full. It literally starved to death because it couldn’t get enough nutrients.

Even more incredible to me, is that 100% of the birds on this Island have ingested plastic. Think about that, 100% of the birds on the Island. It turns out that as red plastic looks and smells like squid so they actually prefer it over the real thing. The adults then feed the plastic to their chicks, so they too, have plastic in their guts.

I did know about this problem before, it was actually one of the main reasons I felt the need to start One Brown Planet. But to see it in such graphic detail really struck a cord. This incredibly sad scene has given me the motivation I need to continue with this project. So in 2017, I will continue to find my own way to help give back to this planet that we have damaged so much already.

2017 – A Better Time Ahead

On a more upbeat tone, here is a short list of what we have planned in 2017 .  We hope you can join us and help take us all make this place a better place to live in.

  • Our first major project will be the launch of a series of toolkits.  The toolkits will help you make informed decisions, what to buy and how to minimise your impact on the environment. This is supplementary to the on-going series, 52 ways to reduce your environmental footprint. Only 40 to go…… 🙂
  • We will continue working with local groups, cleaning beaches and raising awareness through projects such as the world’s largest plastic sea turtle. We also hope to involve a few more inspiring people to join us and help write some more great content.
  • Finally, we hope also to launch a curated store. This store will stock items that we wish we could find more easily. Useful products that have been made sustainably. We will do the research for you so you don’t have to worry about the impact of what you buy.

In 2017 it will be One Brown Planet’s goal to make living sustainably not just easy and useful but fun and interesting. Living sustainably shouldn’t be a fringe sport, it needs to be the main event!

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