Sheri's sailing blog

Sailing for science and sustainability

Kicking the post-expedition blues with a bit of action!

  • Arctic Frontiers
    Sheri Bastien

I’ve been on mountaineering expeditions in the past which involve a long period of preparation and focus on the objective, and then an intense period of solitude and immersion in the experience for many weeks. After these experiences I invariably struggle with settling back into the ho-hum of every day life and feel like my compass has gone a bit haywire. This is actually a well known phenomenon post-expedition, and the ‘what next?’ question looms large.

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This sailing expedition has been no different in that regard. I'm still trying to find the entry points and platform for this experience and wondering what my next steps look like. Prior to eXXpedition, I didn’t have a network either personally or professionally that was engaged in the issue of plastic pollution. I still have only a small one, but it is growing and with a concerted effort to grow that network I’m starting to see opportunities open up for using my experience with eXXpedition as a platform.  

In January, I was so eager to participate in the Arctic Ocean Decade Workshop, the first of several consultations leading up to the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainability,  on priority and agenda setting that I self-financed a trip to Tromsø and given the exorbitant cost of a hotel, slept on a cold, hard bench in the airport! It was worth the time, effort and discomfort. At the conference and workshop I was astounded at the lack of presence by other social scientists; the discourse was dominated by the natural sciences primarily focused on end-of-pipe technological solutions. There was limited if any focus on plastic pollution prevention. I had an opportunity to raise this perspective in the working group where I tried to reiterate the old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This was the first in a series of consultations and hopefully subsequent workshops will have greater emphasis on the need for efforts to be proactive and focus on innovative ways to engage communities through citizen science and other means, in protecting our oceans and preventing pollution in the first place, rather than being reactive and concerned solely on measuring impacts. We need both of course, but an overemphasis on impact and end-of-pipe solutions would be a huge missed opportunity that we cannot afford.

To that end, I’ve been excited for a few other opportunities to connect with others interested in the awareness/education component of plastic pollution prevention. I’m very excited and grateful to become an alternate member of the environmental committee at NMBU. It was impressive to hear the tremendous amount of work they have already been doing to ensure NMBU is making strides towards its sustainability mission and I’m thrilled for the opportunity to become more engaged in future efforts. I also got the opportunity to kick off the first lønningspils on campus with a presentation about eXXpedition was a super, low-threshold way to share my experience. Additionally, I just had a meeting with staff members from the Plastic Soup Foundation, which is doing very important, ground-breaking work when it comes to plastic pollution on several fronts. In the autumn they will host the first ever conference which focuses on the health impacts of plastic pollution. They also are deeply engaged in developing educational materials for schools. I welcome more opportunities to build my network and see how I can use my experience with eXXpedition both personally and professionally to catalyze change.

I am planning to dip my toes into the Zero Waste movement next! I think it will be an interesting and consciousness raising experience and although I’m tempted to aim for a full 30 day pledge, I’m going to try and keep it realistic and achievable and start with 7 days. Care to join me? I welcome any and all tips and will be sharing any I discover along the way!

Published 19. February 2020 - 13:00 - Updated 19. February 2020 - 13:01