The health crisis has forced us to brainstorm on new ways to raise awareness about protecting nature while locked in our houses…That’s how the podcast Waterchat was born, somewhere on a kitchen table.
How does nature shapes our lives, our professional choices, our decisions, our careers? How does it inspire us? Through a series of 40 minutes conversations led by our co-founder Séverine, Waterchat proposes to wander through the experiences and feelings of inspiring personalities and to question our connection - reliance - to nature, to our body and to our environment, enriching our vision with these intimate and singular testimonies, presenting a plurality of commitments and actions and listening to those who work hard to protect it.
Waterchat will be available in French on all dedicated platforms starting September 1st, 2021, and soon in English.
Due to lockdown, Watertrek is launching a series of Facebook live conferences to address environmental issues in times of quarantine. Those lives hosted by our Science & Education Expert Emmanuelle are only offered in French for now, but we're hoping to have them in English soon as well.
Join us here Watertrek Facebook.
The first representation of the " Cruising in Anthropocene ", the interactive presentation designed by Watertrek to address the questions of plastic pollution and the climatic disorder with children took place in Cannes on June 18th. 2018. 25 children within the School de la Croisette received our co-founder Séverine. 2 Groups focused on 2 missions: the zero-carbon crew and zero-waste crew developed their own solutions to counter the threats.
This first performance was a good opportunity to test and adapt a message suitable for younger kids. New representations are planned from September, 2018.
A huge thanks to teacher Virginie Kvietkauskas, Ladies Vaillant and Brun in the City hall of Cannes and mister Canonne, Education Advisor.
Watertrek is very pleased to present its first sensitization initiative in the form of a show, an interactive and playful presentation for school children that will be offered in primary schools from September 2018.
By combining scientific facts with historical data and their personal experience as eco-adventurers, Watertrek volunteers hope to arouse in school the desire to live respectfully with what surrounds us and the resources that are critical to our survival. It is all about recreating links between knowledge and experience, gesture and impact, between today and tomorrow, and allowing young people to grasp the current challenges of protecting their environment.
Tidefest was hosting the 7th session of the Plastic Ocean Festival on Sunday, the 10th of September, and once again, the Festival turned into a real success.
Volunteers joined a Paddle & Pick with Partner Active 360 in the morning and helped to remove 647 pieces of litter from the River Thames. The survey results showed that food wrappers came on top once again as the most abundant litter item in the Thames, followed by plastic cups and bottles. The event was honored by the visit from the local MP Ruth Cadbury.
Participants gathered in the Over the Ait Pub to attend the screening of the documentary film A Plastic Ocean, the chairman of the Oxfordshire Federation of Womens Institutes also attending. A real eye opener, the film was followed by a long and engaging Q&A session with the attendees and Kim - marine scientist from Thames Estuary Partnership, Wanda, marine Biologist and coordinator at Watertrek and Séverine, Watertrek cofounder.
This February 2017, a Watertrek crew composed of our London coordinators Mel and Paul undertook an expedition paddling in Burma's mangroves, offering the chance to raise awareness on the protection of mangrove trees and its importance to prevent global warming. The mangrove plants can recycle five time as much carbon as a regular forest. It also plays a role as a natural barrier against floods, tsunamis and helps fix the ground.
This expedition in partnership with Worldview Impact Foundation, Starboard et le Thor Heyendahl Climate Park has given our Director Ka Ki Wong the opportunity to create a short film - The Mangrove Secret - that has been screened during COP 22.
In September 2016, the first stand-up paddle board Source to Sea Relay on the River Thames was held as part of the Totally Thames Festival. The Festival was a celebration of this vital and mighty river and the relay was one of over a hundred events held over the course of a month. The relay had a strong water conversation component and aimed to raise awareness of the epidemic of plastic waste and the significant impact that this has on our waterways and oceans.The relay started at Thameshead - the official source of the River Thames - where a baton of water was collected by French adventurer and Watertrek friend Arnaud Delerive and his wife. It was then relayed down river by different groups travelling by SUP. As the baton changed hands and weaved it's way towards London there was an opportunity for different events to take place along the way, including a mass paddle and marathon, education sessions on water conservation and clean ups. The relay has been a great occasion to get communities involved in protecting the river and join environmental participative science initiatives. Paddlers were eventually asked to make their pledge to the #oneless campaign, sharing a selfie with their favorite refillable bottle.
Legs & events:
Christmas 2015: Watertrek is heading to the The Cambodia Kids Care Center, a children's shelter hosting Cambodian, Malay and Vietnamese kids located on the island of Koh Chang to develop an environmental education program with them. Forty children from 4 to 13 years are being taken care of by Uan. The children live frugally, they always have something to eat as many tourists come to support them in this period. The situation is a little different during the monsoons…The aim is to first teach them some English so we can actually exchange a bit. We set us a list of everything found in the water: bottles, cans, cigarette butts, cotton swabs, bags etc ... Good, not good? dangerous for fish or delicious to eat? children understand everything quickly, the answers are obvious for them.
Second step: let's go collect, count and sort waste on the public beach of Klong Prao. Hardly are the bags out that they come back full of trash. Smiles are big and joy is real. The location is true paradise, with wooden huts, fine sand, turquoise blue water…it is so gorgeous any waste becomes intolerable. The complexity of the subject will reveal itself: lack of management in garbage collection, lack of communal cohesion, inexperience of some local structures. Substantive work needs to be undertaken. The most shocking are those mountains of small plastic bottles that you can see at the entrance of most supermarkets, a disaster waiting to happen, a truly irresponsible behaviour from western industries who are not accountable with recycling in those areas.
Last step: children are offered SUP test sessions, and it is a total success: girls on one side & boys on the other, this joyous world bullheads for hours. The smiles & the laughter say it all.
Isabelle Poitou is a marine biologist and one of the first French scientists to have addressed the issue of marine waste as a real study subject. Along with François Galgani and Laurent Colasse, she wrote "A clean sea, mission impossible? ». She created the association Mer/Terre to help reduce litter at sea. She lives in Marseille where we’ve met, she talks about her passion and her work.
Where did you get this passion for the sea ?
I was born in the suburbs of Paris, but I spent my childhood in the waters of Brittany. My dad was a sailor, I started sailing very young, I constantly bathed and I knew very young that I would devote my career to the marine world, it was an evidence.
How did you get interested in the issue of marine waste? it is a brand new subject.
The sea told me. I was a student in marine biology in Marseille. After my Master, I did some social sciences and urban planning. I was looking for a thesis topic that would be relevant. Beyond the purely animal research I had done before, I felt the need to add a social dimension to my work, to build bridges between human & marine life. Following the advice of one of my teachers, I went for a walk along the beach, hoping to find inspiration. While I was observing floating waste, I started to get some ideas. They looked like they would always pile in the same corners. Was it pollution? Was waste an environmental degradation? was it a threat to biodiversity? did we have datas, quantities, figures? I had found the subject for my thesis, and at the same time a subject that would give a real meaning to my career.
How did your researches evolve ?
The first thing I realized was that we had no data nor statistics on the issue, either qualitative or quantitative. Everything had to be done. At that time, in the late 90s, no institution had worked on the subject of macro-waste yet, there was no laws. The sinking of the Amoco Cadiz had led the French government to create an association - CEDRE - supposed to organize a "fight against accidental pollutions." But there was still no real thinking on public waste management.
François Galgani was the first to think of a proper census and to characterize waste. That helped get the interest of the media & the public.
Things continued to develop under the influence of certain European countries. The OSPAR - Paris-Oslo - convention was the first to propose a protocol in 2006. This initial work led to the « European Marine Strategies" in 2008. This was the beginning of a global thinking.
Working on my researches, I started to get closer to local communities in the hope of collecting figures. I conducted surveys on 37 towns in Provence, Monaco & 2 Italian municipalities. I worked with technical services to get estimates. At that time, I was working in the CEDRE which was hosted at the Ifremer Center in Toulon. I had done some great work on developping a local census protocol. 5 towns would send me daily feedback that I could link to the weather. Those datas have proved extremely powerful! They allowed me to establish a fairly clear reading of waste movements. For the majority of them, they came from watershed & would move towards the sea. From there, the opportunity to act & to propose political solutions appeared. It was also at that time that I decided to create my association Terre/Mer to share this knowledge.
How was your work received ?
Not always very well. I often felt very strong resistance - mostly emotional - from some of my institutional partners. Paradise is associated with the beach - we speak of heavenly beaches, we’re going on holiday to the water. Waste has a negative connotation. St. Augustin had the idea of hell while watching the dump of Jerusalem Gehenna. If we go further in the analysis, the sea represents the unconscious. To go and seek for waste means revealing a dark side society does not necessarily want to see. Although the ultimate goal might be positive, diving in this world is terrifying.
Remember this very strong image used in Surfrider Foundation campaign: it shows a little girl who’s lifting the sea as if it was a bedsheet so she can see what lies underneath. Waste is taboo, dirty, we prefer to ignore it. Hence the strong reactions from people I have addressed in the hope of an overall and collective thinking on the subject. The ocean has an indigestion, it "vomits" waste on beaches. It sends back the waste that we do not want. It is very educational but disturbing.
Do you notice some improvement in the environmental situation? or is it worse than before?
There is a real improvement. 40 years ago, treatment plants did not exist. We have made much progress in the last 40 years. But there's a force that drives us to produce unnecessary things. Because it is creating jobs and generating wealth, we overproduce, we make everything and anything. Full employment justifies all productive drifts, and that leads to deleterious extremes represented by Monsantos. The widespread brutishness encouraged by certain medias and the misuse of their power do not help.
Nature carries a very strong self-regeneration ability in itself. We did not invent recycling, we only borrowed this great renewing skill. Oil for example is derived from the decay of algae. This is a tremendous source of energy that knows how to regenerate. But mankind, using oil, has managed to manufacture plastic, which can’t rot, and can’t regenerate!! From a living, scalable and recyclable matter, we made our own block to the cycle!
I am always surprised that we learn so little from what nature has to inspire & teach us. Humanity is an ecosystem. Why don’t we study it as such? Why not observe the functioning of natural ecosystems and learn from their balance to develop new social models?
What are your new priorities ?
My new task is to ensure that manufacturers inform about the consequences of waste. Just like it is written on cigarette packs that "smoking kills", it would be wise to mention what happens when you throw a cigarette butt in the water. I hope to work more and more with multinational companies, with manufacturers.
It is also important that water policies - which are managed by agencies - and waste policies are integrated and work together.
What is your strongest aquatic memory ?
A truly mystical experience: I was 20 and I was travelling in Senegal. After jogging and meeting with a marabou in the evening, I went to swim alone with a mask. That is when I discovered fluorescent plankton ... I thought I’d gone crazy! There were stars up in the sky, and then stars down in the water! I had no landmarks, I was in the cosmos, it was an incredible experience that has deeply rooted my relationship with the sea. Since then, I try to bath at night with a mask as much as I can!
What does the sea bring you ?
I remember my first dive. It was in the Mediterranean sea, though I had spent my entire childhood swimming in Brittany. I felt like I was in a cradle. No, I've never done any paddling, but I swim a lot. I feel a very strong need to be in the water. It is a source of profound joy, a connection with vastness and beauty. I feel like I’m coming into another dimension, I'm weightless, I feel harmony and confidence. I found myself in very dangerous positions several times, but each time, the water carried me away.
What would you like to say to future generations?
Keep the faith. Have the courage to be aware and responsible. Use your intelligence!
Photo Patrick Gherdoussi