I feel honoured to speak with UK-based Jo Ruxton this week, who is the producer of the film “A Plastic Ocean” (A film my partner and I screened when we launched our not-for-profit Let’s Waste Less in 2017 that forever changed the way we viewed single plastic and our throw-away culture). View the trailer
Plastic is accumulating across the planet at an alarming rate and adversely affecting the health of wildlife, wildlife habitat and humans. Because plastic takes decades to break down, experts predict that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050.
In this interview I speak with Jo about what she observed while making this documentary and some of the challenges they faced.
We also speak about:
- how Jo has observed a change for the worse in her 40-year career documenting our oceans, with plastics having a devastating effect on so many ecosystems and species
- why plastic in the ocean has a negative effect on animals, the environment and us, once it gets into our food chain
- how micro plastics journey from land into the ocean, taking around 20 years to break down
- how the problems of plastic in the ocean are compounded by BPA leaching and its absorbent properties that trap chemicals, like agricultural run off and DDT
- how pristine environments like Lord Howe Island and its sea birds are affected as a result of the plastic we (often) unthinkingly throw away
- why recycling offshore is not sustainable and recycling alone is not enough to resolve the problems that plastic create
- how her organisation Plastic Oceans Foundation is making a difference and why there is hope for a better future.
It was an engaging and sometime emotional interview for me as I realised that there was so much more I could be doing to make a difference.
Bio – Jo Ruxton
Jo Ruxton is a passionate campaigner for the oceans, her career in conservation began in the ‘80’s when she started the first marine programme for WWF in Hong Kong, where she lived for 14 years. During that time, she was a key advocate for the establishment of the first marine protected areas there.
She was a lead member of the BBC Natural History Unit’s diving team for many years and has been producing and directing underwater sequences since the first days of filming on the award-winning Blue Planet series in 1997. During her 12 years at the BBC she was involved in numerous underwater films from Antarctica to the pristine reefs of the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean for the BBC and the Discovery Channel.
Disappointed in the lack of conservation messages in the BBC films she worked on, she decided to leave to work independently and when she started to hear about the problem of plastic waste in the oceans, she knew she had to tell the story as it was. She began to raise the funds needed to make the documentary feature, A Plastic Ocean and it was 2 years before there was enough to begin filming. The more she learned about the subject the more determined she was to tell the story as research was revealing a much bigger problem than she had ever imagined. It was 8 years before her multi-award-winning film, A Plastic Ocean, was finally released in 70 countries and in 15 languages.
Jo co-founded the Plastic Oceans Foundation as a registered UK charity nearly 11 years ago to help the fundraising process and to continue the legacy of the film with evidence-based education programmes for schools, business and public awareness.
Speaking at events
Jo is an experienced and engaging speaker who has addressed audiences around the world from School children to corporations, in parliaments and government establishments and to audiences throughout the world after screenings of her film. She was recently speaking in the House of Commons Westminster to 250 people including 51 MPs and was introduced, (at his insistence) by Sir David Attenborough, who hailed her as the person responsible for the plastic movement.
To watch this and other video content, please visit https://plasticoceans.uk/gallery/
It was thanks to Sir David telling the Blue Planet 2 team to watch ‘A Plastic Ocean’ that plastic was included in their environmental episode, until he did so, plastic did not feature in it at all.
Three years after the launch of the film, Jo is still being invited to speak at screening events around the world, her experience and expertise on this subject have grown as she has travelled to the centres of 3 oceans and witnessed the problem in 22 locations around the world, met with scientists who have dedicated their lives to studying the effects of plastic on wildlife and ultimately ourselves.
She has met with innovators and those striving to find a way to cope with the issue, and those designing alternatives to single-use plastic.
Jo is determined to bring this message into the school curriculum and has worked directly with teachers to find ways to include the topic into subjects that are compulsory for students. She has helped to develop programmes that teachers can use right away and have access to footage from her film as part of the programmes. Beginning with foundation year children, right through the school, the subject is now becoming familiar to students of all ages and they are becoming natural ocean ambassadors, determined to help turn the tide on plastic.
Awards and accolades
Featured in the 2018 Sunday Times, ‘Alternative Rich List’ – celebrating people who are rich in different ways. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/spon/alternative-rich-list/
Winner 2018 Daily Telegraph Pioneering Woman of the Year
Jo was listed by British Airways as one of the ‘100 Modern Britons who helped shape our country’ in celebration of their 100-year anniversary in 2019. Copy and paste this link to watch here:
Jo is often invited to speak live on news both TV and radio including Sky and BBC. Here is a selection of other interviews she has taken part in: