Welcome to World Oceans Day! May mine be just one of several salutations to the splendour of our seas you receive this day—a remarkable day in which everyday people have remarkably decided as one to clean the ocean to a kitchen floor standard. May I be the only one, however, who mistook this day as a celebration of the new, all-girl, all-star Oceans film.
Let me be clear: I am no fan of plastic straws, the unnecessary deaths of precious creatures to plastic bags or of a life in a time so heedless of life itself that great sea mammals are found dead to tonnes of industrial waste that fill their insides. I am, however, quite a fan of Rihanna, Sandra Bullock and the general idea of a rag-tag gang of glamorous ladies who come together to bankrupt a fictional casino while wearing haute couture.
World Oceans Day is cause for a little optimism for people themselves.
I was distracted, you see. I was distracted by a shiny commodity and prioritised my simple moment of leisure before that of the ocean and its eternal, complex systems. Of course, I fully intend to consume the latest of the Oceans franchise—we are all simultaneously capable of great seriousness and great silliness—but I intend not to consume my cinema beverage with a straw.
As you are likely aware, a diverse coalition of campaigners have been urging for the last straw. Surfers, consumer advocates, environmentalists and folks ticked off that single-use items continue to clog our single-use planet have come together to demand response from industry.
Without their mass action, World Oceans Day, whose goal this year is the diminished use and production of plastic, would mark another date of despair. With their mass action, World Oceans Day is cause for a little optimism. Not just optimism for that big, extraordinary complex of salty systems that governs the mood of our weather, but optimism for people themselves.
This is a little preview of what can happen when people move together. When one person—let’s say she is called Helen and let’s say she has a predilection for films in which ladies say and do tough things while wearing tailored pants—says “I’d better not have a straw with my ten-litre cola”, nothing changes. This Helen person makes a point largely to herself about her own goodness, and then she sinks into a soft seat with her sugary drink to enjoy some sugary cinema.
It doesn’t all start with “you”. It all starts with us.
One of the great deceptions of Western culture can be summed up in the phrase: it all starts with you. It really doesn’t start with you, nor, indeed, with me. Where “it”, by which we mean meaningful overtures to social and environmental change, starts is in a mass of people. We talk. We connect. We seek advice about what should be done, what may be done and how we might start doing it. The refusal of a single person to accept an item of single-use? Nice, but historically insignificant.
The demand by a mass of persons to quit the sale of single-use items? That’s one for the history books.
There is such a difference between the individual certainty that plastic bags, plastic straws, plastic bottles are wrong and the mass knowledge that comes when we investigate this wrong, and how to put it to rights, together.
It doesn’t all start with “you”. It all starts with us. Together we can coerce supermarkets, monitor industry and perform a heist on casino capitalism while wearing a lovely laser-cut tan block heel, probably made in Italy.
Oops. Again. I am distracted. My session of Oceans starts in an hour. In four hours, I’ll almost certainly have forgotten the plot. I won’t forget the example set by such a range of Australian activists in a hurry, though. Together, a crowd can move a mountain of history’s waste.
Helen Razer is your frugal food enthusiast, guiding you to the good eats, minus the pretension and price tag in her weekly Friday column, Cheap Tart. Don't miss her next instalment, follow her on Twitter @HelenRazer.
Don't miss her next instalment, follow her on Twitter @HelenRazer.