Sounding The Sea: An Interview w/ Jo Ruxton (Plastic Oceans)

Posted on 08.05.2017

On June 15th & 16th Invisible Dust will be hosting a symposium, Sounding The Sea, with artists, activists and scientists all delivering talks on their work and discussing the ever worsening issues affecting the world’s oceans. Visit the project page here for information and tickets.

In the lead up to the symposium, we are asking some of the speakers a few questions. Today it’s Jo Ruxton, who is co-founder of Plastic Oceans and producer and ambassador of the much acclaimed film ‘A Plastic Ocean‘.

ID:  How long have you been involved with Plastic Oceans? 

JR:  I decided to produce the film about this issue just over 8 years ago.  As I started to research the topic and having managed to travel out to the centre the North Pacific Ocean with a team of scientists,  I realised that the problem was much worse than I had anticipated and that the message of the film was vitally important. I Co-founded the Plastic Oceans Foundation the following year to help raise the funds I needed to make the film and to make sure that the film had a legacy so that its message would continue to spread well beyond its release.

ID:  Were you involved with ocean conservation before?

JR:  I worked for WWF in Hong Kong, where I lived for 14 years.  I started their marine conservation programme there and ended up heading the conservation department.  I returned to the UK in 1997 to work at the BBC Natural History Unit for another 12 years working mostly on underwater wildlife films, until I left to make this film.

ID: Are you seeing a greater response to environmental issues than in previous years? 

JR:  There is certainly more awareness now on very many issues but I do not think that conservation is being addressed as it should be in most countries.  Certainly the United States is doing a complete U-turn on environmental protection and that is a huge concern for scientists and conservationists around the world and should be for all of us.

When I started working on this film there was very little interest in plastics out there from other NGO’s, TV channels and filmmakers, it just wasn’t on peoples’ radar at all.  I think the hard work is beginning to pay off, not just the work of our foundation but others who have since started working in this area, the time seems to be right and awareness is growing.  Rightly so – I feel that with plastics, we are at tipping point now, we cannot keep behaving as if plastic is ‘disposable’ when we know it is indestructible. Our oceans are choked up with it our food chain is now at risk.

ID:  Do you feel that documentaries and films, such as Plastic Oceans, are the most effective form of environmental awareness? 

JR: Humans are very visual creatures, we take in  more information through our eyes than our ears and stunning visuals will tell us so much more than simply hearing or reading about a topic.  Films are perfect for clearly showing the situation and enabling audiences to engage right from the start. I do believe that documentaries can certainly shortcut information and have the power to reach so many people.  However, many environmental films are simply ‘preaching to the converted’ only those who already care about the environment are likely to watch environmental films. My hope for ‘A Plastic Ocean’ is that the buzz it is already creating will spread and that others will be intrigued to come and see what people are talking about.  Having Adam Leipzig (March of the Penguins) come onboard as our other Producer, has helped enormously as he is able to look at documentaries and turn them into films with storylines that are much more appealing to a very wide audience.

My hope too is that the film will be shown widely in schools around the world, from the talks I have given in various countries to students of all ages and backgrounds, I know that this is a subject that resonates will all of them and that they are quickly engaged with the topic and eager to help turn the tide on plastics.

ID:  In your opinion what has been the biggest breakthrough in the fight against plastic pollution?”

JR:  Increasing awareness, without doubt.  The growing realisation that single-use plastic does not just go away, is already changing behaviour.  People who have seen our film had said that it has changed their lives, it is a wake-up call. I would like to say that our film is part of that ‘breakthrough’!

Thank you Jo!

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