The Volvo Ocean Race Ocean Summit in Alicante is the first of seven events in Host Cities around the planet – a fascinating meeting of minds from the worlds of science, sport, government and business.
It's about tangible action to address the problem, sharing ideas and networking to create powerful cross-industry relationship and links. Paul Rose, a highly experienced explorer, TV broadcaster and ocean advocate, is MC for the Alicante event – and we chatted to him about kicking off the exciting set of conferences on Wednesday.
Why are you coming to MC the first of the Volvo Ocean Race's Ocean Summits?
Conferences like the Volvo Ocean Race Ocean Summit are great because that means that commitments are being made in front of a global audience, a chance to celebrate and champion what's being done, whilst creating a level of competition for other leaders and activists. All these people then realise that this is the standard to aspire to regarding ocean protection. It's all to do with leadership. We have enough science and enough facts about the ocean, but now we need to share that message and inspire people to make changes. The key thing is that these conferences are not just talking shops, they've become action-focused events, and that's why I like them. That's what I'm expecting here.
Why is it important for sporting events like the Volvo Ocean Race to amplify the plastic pollution message?
Sports events get a big audience. I travel around the world to these ocean conferences and we're all like a happy group of sea gypsies, but there's always the danger of just speaking to each other about it. Getting our message out through sports and platforms like the Volvo Ocean Race allows us to speak to a fresh audience. Sport speaks to all of us... children, global leaders, teachers, business guys. Everybody out there is interested in one sport or another.
The Volvo Ocean Race is a world-class global sporting event and it reaches so many people through the amazing sporting endeavours of the characters within it. If you can carry a message about the ocean while people are fully engaged in an ocean race, then that's a great start.
How can Volvo Ocean Race sailors carry the clean seas message and share their experiences with the world?
When people see the exciting human adventure that is racing around the world, they become interested, even if they're not into sailing, or boats. Competition is a basic human desire. If we can use that energy of human desire for the race, and the commitment of the people doing it to pass on the messages of ocean conservation, then we're onto a winner. When people look at offshore sailors, they see an ocean lover. It is possible to capture a whole new audience that people like Greenpeace or Governments can't reach. The audience is engaged and that's so important. So you've got government, global leaders and influencers, sports people, NGO's, media, scientists, all working on their bit of the problem, and now is the time to work together.
You have dived in places all around the world. What have you seen that shocks you about this problem?
I've been diving since 1969 and I've been seeing a lot less fish and a lot more plastic. Every single dive I'm on, whether it's in the Russian Arctic, Antarctica or the middle of the Pacific, when we take our plastic samples, we always find it. I haven't dived anywhere now where there's no plastic.
It breaks down into smaller pieces and now it's in the fish, the birds and there's no doubt that it's in us humans, too. We've got a plastic sea out there and no one knows what the long-term consequences are going to be.
What can people do in their daily lives to make a difference?
The biggest thing that we've discovered recently is that we can all make a difference because we're all part of the problem. We used to imagine that the ocean was a bottomless pit for all of our waste. But we know now that it isn't. People love plastic. We use it every day. Our relationship with it is starting to change. I now see people in London carrying their plastic sandwich packs to a recycling bin whereas just a couple of years ago they would have piled it on top of an overstuffed rubbish bin where it would have blown into the Thames and then the sea with the first gust of wind. I believe that I am seeing behavioural changes that we would never have seen even a couple of years ago.