Conservation | December 1, 2023
Wave of Change
Article by Cole Koch
Wave of Change
The debut season of The Wave of Change Podcast focuses on The Ocean Cleanup project, how it relates to Albertans, and our concern for our provincial waterways. The first episode introduces The Ocean Cleanup project, examines the organization’s founder, mission, and goals, and discusses facts about water pollution. In episode two, the researchers discuss how our world today embraces a throw-away culture, drowning us in waste and harming our collective environment. In the third and final episode of the season, the researchers cover how concerned citizens can craft and implement strategic messaging that universally appeals to and helps audiences understand these issues more concretely.
The research for this podcast began with a question: how can we effectively change attitudes surrounding water pollution in Alberta? The researchers, located in Alberta’s capital city, searched for applicable data and examples of effective messaging. The researchers found and agreed to use The Ocean Cleanup as an example and potential resource to develop effective messaging. The Ocean Cleanup project is “a non-profit organization developing and scaling technologies to rid the oceans of plastic. [They] aim to clean up 90% of the ocean plastic pollution” (Ocean Cleanup, About Us). In addition, the researchers used various news articles and other supplemental data to support the development of the key messaging.
The researchers divided the podcast research and development equally, each taking the lead on one episode. Adrian Ting produced the first episode, Savannah Tilley the second, and Cole Koch the last. In this way, the researchers could build the season collectively and individually, each bringing their unique perspective. Throughout the podcast series, the researchers collectively deconstructed how The Ocean Cleanup conveyed its messaging, developed new insights from this deconstruction, and developed a practical framework to convey water cleanup messaging to Albertans.
With the ocean covering up to 71% of the earth’s surface (Nautilus Live, 2020), we might assume that humans could not pollute such a vast surface area. However, that is not the case. Waterways and oceans are affected by increasing pollution issues with toxic waste, garbage, plastics, microplastics, increasingly nuclear-irradiated water from Japan, and overall neglectful people who leave their trash in rivers and the ocean. These issues, seemingly insurmountable when perceived globally, are still being addressed. Invested global citizens are passionate about saving our earth’s bodies of water and taking action to solve these pollution issues in oceans and other waterways, including rivers and lakes. Through cutting-edge technology, The Ocean Cleanup organization is a collective action that educates the public and tackles ocean pollution issues.
The researchers aim to validate the importance of collective action and how to communicate these calls effectively on a micro level: plastic waste enters water sources through littering, poor waste management, stormwater runoff, fishing vessels, cargo and cruise ships, and more. Plastics degrade over time, breaking into smaller pieces and eventually becoming microplastics. These microplastics end up in the rivers and our drinking water, with wastewater treatment plants unable to remove all particles. Microplastics “attract and concentrate heavy metals and organic pollutants dissolved in water” (Sulpizio, 2022). Microplastics are present in tap and bottled water, and Albertans are unwilling consumers of this toxic byproduct: Scientists have detected tiny fibers and plastics in the North Saskatchewan River in Alberta’s capital city, Edmonton, “offering yet more evidence of the pervasive nature of plastic pollution” (Cruickshank, 2021).
However, rivers lead to oceans, and The Ocean Cleanup project’s technologies apply to other waterways like rivers and lakes (Boyan Slat, 2023). To expand the universality of the project, The researchers looked at the avenues for key messaging. They began constructing their messaging framework by considering what the average Albertan might value and how to appeal to that demographic.
For the podcast, the researchers discussed their views on the data and The Ocean Cleanup project and began to explore different possible avenues for engaging Albertans. The researchers also reflected on the sustainable communication university course they attended and developed this podcast series as their major assignment. The Ocean Cleanup‘s message may not resonate with average Albertans due to Alberta’s geographic location as a landlocked province, and the researchers suggested bringing rivers into the discussion in addition to lakes and oceans. Overall, the researchers aimed to cast a wave of change to the relevance of ocean-related issues.
Throughout the production of this podcast series, the researchers came to many profound realizations about the situation surrounding global water pollution issues and then crafted an effective communication strategy to change attitudes in Alberta. To be clear, it is not expected that everyone be able to identify these issues on their own in Alberta; the researchers found their own perceptions of these issues influenced over the course of producing the podcast series and uncovering facts that highlighted the severity of the issue. Anecdotally, all three researchers discussed how many friends, family and acquaintances in Alberta were unconcerned with either single-use plastics or how ocean cleanups affect landlocked provinces. While the researchers do not live near the ocean, they do live near one of the largest rivers in Canada and many lakes that they and other Albertans benefit from. The researchers were enlightened during the discovery phase of the podcast’s production, eager to share this knowledge to those unaware or concerned. The researchers produced the podcast in the hope of informing and changing perceptions surrounding the protection of our water. Clean drinking water is a necessity, and we have no way to produce it. We can only harvest it. This is why water, regardless of its location, should be protected at all costs.