The leatherback is one of the most unique creatures in the world. For its survival for so many eons has been driven by many unique adaptations. But one in particular is notable for this story: Its papillae, the rows of teeth-like structures that line its throat to make it one of the only creatures that is able to eat jellyfish as its favored meal... What a superpower!
Yet, this evolutionary marvel is among the most vulnerable species in our ocean ecosystem. For many reasons, from climate change & habitat loss, to human predation & more. But one threat really got to me: The leatherback's susceptibility to plastic pollution. Why? Plastic bags have an unfortunate tendency to resemble jellyfish, and having papillae means that any accidentally ingested plastic either collects in a turtle's stomarch or chokes its victim.
So, what do we do? When hearing the above story, my first feeling was one of utter powerlessness: There are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in the oceans (Nat Geo), many trillions more on land... One study finds that plastic will likely outweigh fish biomass in just thirty years (Business Insider). How could it ever be possible to make a difference?
But since hearing this story, I started to see garbage in a different way: No longer is litter a mere eyesore. It is a potential poison, a choking a hazard, a severe threat to marine life. And it was this mindset that led to a promise, an internal one: To pick up at least one piece of litter each day and also reduce my own use of single-use plastics. I had been part of the problem far too long and had to hold myself accountable.
But truthfully, I often felt such efforts were pointless: How much of a dent can any one piece of garbage, or the efforts of one person, really make? But then I would think: That if all this effort saves the life of even one turtle, it will certainly be worth it!
And it is here that I take inspiration of other movements, often started by a simple hashtag, that show the power of collective conscious. How ripple effects can be started individual acts: One high schooler in Sweden protesting climate change on the doorsteps of her parliament has inspired millions to join in the #FridaysforFuture movement.
The Project & its Goals
The OATHE Project rests on a very simple idea: That small acts add up. Put another way, that 1 + 1 + .... + 1 = possibly something incredible, with the only limitation being the 1's we have in between. And at its core, it is about making a commitment- to each other but most importantly ourselves- to do those little things that make a difference.
Indeed, there will be many who do not need an OATHE, for whom doing these acts will just be a continuation of their status quo. I certainly do not fall in this category: Although proud I may be of my record in litter-picking, this is just one dimension of lifestyle change, & there are so, so many everyday things that could help the environment that I do not do. And so, this project is as much a personal one, and a pledge of mine will be to try every proposed OATHE- well beyond that initial litter commitment- to become a more ecologically conscious being.
Yet, I encourage all to join the campaign: For those for whom such acts are the norm, #takingtheoathe may be more symbolic, and add your name to the collective masses whose small actions can be added to show demonstrable impact. And for those like me who want to live better, but who lack the requisite discipline, a pledge to act- however symbolic at its core- might motivate othersto get started on lifestyle change and be accountable for what they can do to be part of environmental action.
The Ask: Where We Need You
We end here with an ask, for this project cannot work without your help:
Photo Courtesy of @SoulArchitectJessina (Facebook)
Roy serves as coordinator of the OATHE Project, and is a believer in using community as a catalyst for large-scale change, with a background starting NGO's & social enterprises in the sports & environmental fields!