Sailor, actor and environmentalist Phil Somerville is a confirmed speaker for the Flick Electric, Conscious Action Let’s Talk Rubbish event on 23 July 2019.
Interview Cathy McKeown
A native of New Zealand, and a life based in Los Angeles for the last 30 years, has led Phil to be citizen of the planet. Now based in New Zealand with his wife and two seaworthy children, he has dedicated his life to philanthropy, a connection to people and the Earth.
For Phil, protecting our planet for future generations isn’t just a desire – it’s a living truth. A vast range of experiences across different industries have taken him from starting an empowerment programme for disadvantaged kids, to being part of the Hollywood dream. His film credits include Zero Dark Thirty, Iron Man, Captain Phillips and Mission Impossible. Phil’s true passion is the ocean. He is a Master Diver, holding his United States Coast Guard Captain’s Ticket. His motivation to spread sustainability awareness and ocean conservation are unwavering. This, coupled with belief and commitment to the cause, led him to sail his 54ft sailboat ‘TODAY’, across the Pacific to collect data with the 5 Gyres Trawl Share programme. For four months, Phil and the crew documented the voyage for educational purposes to be shared in the classroom, through non profits and/or at global events. As captain of the Eat Less Plastic mission, it was one of the biggest responsibilities of his life and he couldn’t have been prouder to give back to the Earth and all it provides.
Good: Plastic is one of the deadliest threats to the sea and its marine life, what did the Eat Less Plastic voyage achieve?
Phil Somerville: Our main objective was to bring as much awareness to this critical issue as possible. Connecting the dots with NGOs supporting this vital issue throughout the South Pacific island chain and bringing awareness through schools non-profit programmes, as well as deploying our [donated Manta Trawl by Algalita and 5 Gyres] along the way and gathering the vital data to put towards the global estimate of microplastic that is polluting our beautiful waters. Education brings awareness, which leads to action.
Why are you personally involved with the mission sailing across the Pacific?
Once I found out how critical of a state the ocean is in I had no choice, as my heart told me to step up and do something about it. It’s as simple as that. I want my kids to experience what I have in the water, and with their kids also. At this rate they won’t.
How do you think New Zealand can make a difference to reducing plastic pollution?
New Zealand claims to be a super green country but I believe we can do way better. We should ban all plastic bags, straws, styrofoam and single-use plastics! There are many solutions out there to replace the single-use plastics. It’s time we stepped up and showed the world how green New Zealand really is.
What are you doing personally to reduce plastic in your everyday life?
Personally I don’t use plastic bags, plastic forks/knives and try not to use any single use plastics although this is challenging. We use reusable bags, reusable drinking bottles and we are also spreading the word as you know. It’s a process but all we have to do is start acting on it in a positive way.
What was one memorable moment from the Eat Less Plastic voyage?
For me it’s all about teaching the kids. They are the voices of reason and it’s through them that the changes will come … If they decide it’s wrong they have all the power to change it as soon as they realise this. An example was when two eight-year-old girls in Bali managed to get all plastic bags banned, so education is key. Teaching the kids is a highlight for me as being on this vessel today is tough at times, and costly, but I know it will all be worthwhile. Our oceans and living creatures in it simply can’t wait for change.
You clearly love the sea. What does the ocean mean to you and how does it make you feel?
Ocean is life force. Its electric energy is healing in so many ways. It brings life to many beautiful things and helps support humans with food, in fact a third of the world depends on its resources! It also supplies our ecosystem with 45 per cent of the oxygen we breathe! We need it and it needs us to wake up. Every living human has an obligation to do their bit, unfortunately many won’t, or can’t, so that means some of us have to really step up to the plate and get things moving in the right direction. Organisations like Sea Cleaners, [or] Hayden Smith — our very own Kiwi warrior leading the way — Sustainable Coastlines, Love the Sea, five gyres, South Pacific Algalita Foundation – the more people sharing the message, the better.
You can hear more from Phil Somerville at Let’s Talk Rubbish on 23 July 2019 at The Workshop in Auckland. Get tickets now