A message from Philippe Cousteau Jr.

The new year is a time when many people look back and consider what could have been better or how they will do or be better in the upcoming year. People are very focused on individual actions, on their personal resolutions...but I am challenging myself this year to focus not just on resolutions but on revolutions. And since my brain is on plastics these days, let’s talk about that.

We must globally revolutionize our approach to plastic. The durability of plastics was originally advantageous, thought to reduce stress on natural resources like wood and ivory. Unfortunately, that same durability has resulted in ubiquitous remnants of plastic in nearly every system in the world. From the North Pacific gyre to the ice in Antarctica to the human digestive system, plastic is everywhere. Hundreds of thousands of sea turtles and marine mammals die each year due to entanglement and ingestion of marine debris. And if you think that plastics has not infiltrated your food systems, you would be sadly mistaken. This year’s campaigns such as For A Strawless Ocean and Ban the Bag were almost as ubiquitous as plastics themselves. Effective progress was made both in personal behaviors and policy decisions. But more is needed. Manufacturing of virgin plastic and transportation of plastic nurdles represents huge opportunities in the coming year - we want young people to know how to advocate for these improvements and to continue to develop new ideas and approaches to the plastics problem.

To that end, my team at EarthEcho collaborated last year with researchers, policy-makers, and teachers in Australia to create a suite of classroom materials to prepare middle-grade students to do just that! You can find more details in our newsletter but next week we will release EarthEcho Expeditions: PlasticSeas specifically to prepare young people to manage the impact of plastics in our world. The materials include several activities and design challenges to move students to thinking not just about how they can make personal commitments to reduce their plastic use, but how they can make an impact on this seemingly unstoppable global issue. If you work with youth, you will not want to miss the January 15 Eat Less Plastic Virtual Field Trip introducing EarthEcho Expeditions: PlasticSeas.

Let’s all resolve to be revolutionary this year, to challenge the status quo and not necessarily work within the system. We all want a better world, a safer world, “a world where every single child can breathe fresh air, drink clean water, and walk on green grass under a blue sky.”

Happy New Year!