Q: What motivated you to bring your talents to Lonely Whale and their fight against plastic pollution? And what’s your approach to using your background in tech and entertainment as a tool in this fight?
So often social and environmental causes leverage tech and entertainment to simply reiterate a problem.
This approach of compounding negative with negative can feel tiresome and act as a turn off for millennials and Gen-Zers who are already hyper-aware of the social and environmental injustices in our world.
It certainly felt that way for me, which is why I sought out opportunities to use social media and digital content as a tool for inspiration and engagement. At the Lonely Whale, we aim to create content at a quality that mirrors the brand and entertainment space so we can captivate the interest and attention from a whole new type of activist.
Q: How have you seen the marine environment that you study change in your lifetime? Both in general and in the context of your work?
Since I was young I’ve been an ocean lover. In fact, the only camp I ever went to was a sleep away marine biology camp!
Since then, my curiosity for the ocean has been re-contextualized with a nuanced understanding of its threats.
But I didn’t learn that from a textbook, I learned that from Netflix and Instagram. The internet and social media have expedited this understanding for all of us and have allowed us to see that the problems plaguing our ocean are not just inescapable, they’re also visually tragic.
It’s both horrifying and mesmerizing to see the ocean and sea life forced to confront a flood of products we recognize from our shelves, which might be one reason public awareness about plastic pollution has been raised so quickly.
Q: What do you believe is the biggest threat to the marine environment? And why?
In my opinion, the greatest threat is inaction stemming from apathy.
It’s so easy to feel paralyzed and to not know where to channel your energy and interests. But if we don’t start now, we are at risk of irreversible damage to our ocean and our environment as a whole.
Q: How do you aim to bridge the gap between educating your audience about plastic pollution, and getting them take real action and make real changes? (going from ‘slack-tivism’ to activism)
The #StopSucking campaign has been a really great opportunity to test this out.
Why? Well, the challenge has one key component — social pressure. You can’t pledge to #stopsucking or call someone out for STILL sucking and then post a photo of yourself with a plastic straw. That’s off brand and millennials and Gen Zers get that.
They cultivate their own brands through their online personas and if they’re going to take a public pledge they will stick to it.
We’ve received countless tweets, DMs, and posts sharing either their slip ups, (“I sucked today…”) or expressing just how hard it can be to maintain their #StopSucking pledge. I’d say that’s moving the needle from ‘slack-tivism’ to activism.
Q: Do you think that getting big names in entertainment is enough to change societal norms, and the status quo of businesses? Or do you think change comes more from the ground up?
I think you need both influencer engagement and grassroots activism.
Like I said, everyone is a brand online today and millennials and Gen Zers look to celebrities and social influencers as templates to model their behavior off of – both online and off.
What translates influencer engagement towards social change however, is providing that gentle “nudge” to encourage collective groups to demand market change. Then, the movement becomes less about refusing or avoiding a product and more about buying into a new culture: an ocean-friendly lifestyle brand.
Q: What’s one everyday thing that you believe any individual could do better to conserve the marine environment?
Can I shamelessly self-promote? Because I’m going to!
Pledging to refuse single-use plastic straws really is hard, even for me, and I have countless alternatives laying around my apartment!
So, I would suggest taking the #StopSucking pledge and trying to kick the plastic straws habit once and for all. Then, get your favorite restaurant or bar to join you to make the switch.
How I Sea is a new effort by The TerraMar Project to dive into the minds of our global ocean community. We highlight opinions on conservation issues such as: marine pollution, overfishing, drilling, climate change, marine protected areas, scientific discoveries, and much more. Stay tuned for more.