Sam Judd
Comment on the environment from nzherald.co.nz columnist Sam Judd

Sam Judd: Philippa Ross - heir to adventure

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James Hood Ross and Philppa Jane Ross (great-great grandson and great-great-great granddaughter of Sir James Clark Ross) with their family flag on an expedition to Antarctica. Image / supplied
James Hood Ross and Philppa Jane Ross (great-great grandson and great-great-great granddaughter of Sir James Clark Ross) with their family flag on an expedition to Antarctica. Image / supplied

175 years ago this February, Sir James Clark Ross landed on Possession Island in what is now known as the Ross Sea.

In the navy from the age of 11, this man located the North Magnetic Pole in 1831 and led the expedition that charted much of the coastline of Antarctica.

Last month, with technology that was - of course - far more advance, Sir Ross's great-great-great-granddaughter retraced parts of the epic journey along with her uncle in a feat to highlight the plight of the world's marine ecosystem.

"This came from a desire to help people wake up to the fact of how important water is to our lives,' says Ross. "The water is so pure down there and it feeds the rest of the world. It is imperative that the Ross Sea is kept sacrosanct."

She went on a 35-day voyage with Heritage Expeditions, and found that the eco-tourism experience was life changing for everyone on board.

Now she is back on dry land, Ross has turned her hand to addressing the issues facing the ocean and - not surprisingly - the first area of action is plastics in the ocean.

She has started a community organisation called Health to Oceans Waipu and has started by selling reusable bags.

I think that anything that can be done to raise awareness about this issue is critical.

Studies show fish are eating the plastic that we litter. This has major implications not only on fish stocks, but also on human health as the planet relies on fish for nutrition and persistent organic pollutants that exist in plastics are absorbed into and travel up the food chain.

Fundamentally this means that when we litter - we poison ourselves because humans are the ultimate apex predator.

Whilst innovations such as bioplastics are being lauded as a solution - unfortunately they have proven not to break down in the marine environment.

This doesn't however mean that research and development should stop on plant-based plastics, as they can be better for carbon emissions. Ecostore promotes that their switching to a sugarcane based plastic has reduced emissions by 123,000 daily commutes.

The key to me here though is - bioplastic or not - at least you can go down to Ecostore and re-fill a bottle that has already been made.

We simply have to change the trends of consumption away from single-use plastics, otherwise, as a report from the Ellen Macarthur Foundation says - there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050.

Is that how we want to leave the ocean for our kids?

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