As part of the 2020 edition of Esquire Neighbourhood we brought together four thought-leaders that are pushing for change, innovating to find solutions, and helping to bring awareness to the fragile state of our oceans.
Cody Simpson is best known as a singer and songwriter, and additionally serves as the UNDP Ocean Advocate, for which he uses his profile to raise awareness of the important role our oceans play in the health of our planet. “I remember being around 14 or 15 years old and really for the first time noticed all of this garbage – things like plastic bags and scraps – in the water, and realising what an issue this was becoming,” Simpson told Esquire Singapore, having fronted our special digital cover for World Oceans Day back in June. "Ever since, I've tried to stay aware and be conscious of it. I'm by no means one of the most well-known people in the world but I'm disappointed when I see people that are not really taking advantage of their [public] profile and doing enough to care about these things, because if they did they'd make such an impact.”
At the virtual roundtable, Simpson is joined by Cyrill Gutsch, the founder and CEO of Parley for the Oceans, a new form of environmental organisation that brings together creators, thinkers and leaders across brands, governments, creative communities and environmental groups to raise awareness for the beauty of the oceans and collaborate on projects that can end their destruction. Despite the reckoning of our oceans, which forms some three-quarters our planet’s surface, Gutsch is cautiously optimised that we have the power to change our current course. “If we want to, we have the opportunity right now to truly understand our relationship with nature and question it,” he says. “We are in a very tragic war against nature, against our oceans, and if we win this war [then] we lose everything.”
Ben Lecomte know first-hand just how devastating this war looks up close. In fact, he’s one of few people to have witnessed microplastics at their most dense, having swum over 330 nautical miles through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch over the course of 80 days, an achievement acknowledged in the 2020 Guinness Book of World Records. As he describes it, what he saw very closely resembled snow falling at night, but in reverse, as he looked down into the oceans depths to see millions of plastic fragments rippling through the water. Lecomte’s mission was to analyse the amount and type of plastic in the ocean as well as its impact on the ecosystem, and followed his 2018 attempt to swim from Tokyo to San Francisco to bring attention to the declining state of our oceans and collect valuable scientific data. Lecomte's advocacy has been recently supported by watchmaker Ulysse Nardin, which recently released a collection for which the straps are made entirely from recycled fishing nets.
Record-breaking explorer, endurance athlete and motivational speaker George Bullard has likewise seen such impacts up close. In the video, he talks about the complete nothingness he discovered on a voyage in the Pacific, a void of natural life – birds, fish, sea life of any kind – that he found utterly devastating. Bullard’s forthcoming mission, currently delayed due to the Covid pandemic, is an unassisted journey to the North Pole to collect vital scientific data on the impact of microplastics in the Arctic Ocean, an important project given we know more about the surface of the moon that we do about the Arctic Ocean in winter.