However small a role I may play, my intention and hope is that this sailing experience will both deepen and broaden my research focus when it comes to water and sanitation, in particular with respect to how to engage youth as the next generation of scientists, educators, artists and politicians in developing effective strategies to address the complex challenges associated with the Sustainable Development Goals. Even though we know the 'solutions' lie on land, there are still important knowledge gaps to be filled through the type of studies we'll be conducting, and experiential learning experiences such as these play an important role in creating a community of change makers. I think citizen science, a major focus in eXXpedition, holds tremendous potential for catalyzing change of the magnitude we need to see globally, in order to halt or reverse some worrying trends.
On a more personal level, I recognize that I make choices for work and for play that have an undeniable impact on the environment. I find it easier to make changes when it comes to some issues such as meat consumption and trying to avoid excessive plastics in my purchases, and harder when it comes to travel for instance. I'll never be 'perfect' and have a zero carbon footprint, but I want to become more conscious of my actions and challenge myself to make sustainable decisions and also find fun, non-judgemental and positive ways to encourage others to do the same.
Speaking of fun, this past summer I completed an 'Everesting' challenge on the vertical kilometer in Chamonix with one of my best friends Carrie Craig. This mad cap adventure involved doing consecutive laps until we reached 8848m (the height of Mount Everest). We took up this challenge in connection with a Fantastic Unplastic campaign where we tried to raise awareness about the impact of excessive plastics among our friends and family and challenged them to commit to sustainable actions rather than donate money. I definitely want to do a few more of these fun (albeit exhausting!) events in future! Not to make light of serious issues of course, but I do think that achieving mass mobilzation and large scale behavior change hinges on getting people engaged in a multitude of ways and reaching them with messages that resonate.
I feel fortunate to be employed at NMBU, a university which places sustainability at the core of its strategic commitment to excellence across research and education. Going forward, the plastics issue which is already a cross-cutting highlighted in the SDGs, will received increased attention as we enter 2021, given that the UN has declared 2021-2030 as the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. I hope to use this experience as a platform and opportunity to forge transdisciplinary collaborations both within NMBU (which already has tremendous competence within water and sanitation, especially from a tech standpoint) and beyond, to develop research initiatives that contribute to the evidence base regarding plastic pollution.
Updates from the voyage are soon to follow!