Natalie Fox is a surfer, yogi and activist who is passionate about protecting whales and dolphins. She is co-founder of Women for Whales, a Roxy Fitness ambassador and co-founder of Drift retreats. She writes for Surf Girl Magazine as well as her own website: www.ecoyogasurf.com
You’ll find her teaching surfing and yoga in Cornwall and Jersey in the summer, and in the French Alps during winter. Natalie is helping WDC raise awareness of how plastics are affecting whales and dolphins, and has been inspired to start a plastic detox to see how small changes in her own life can make a difference.
Why is marine plastic pollution such an important issue?
Now we know the facts it is crucial to take action. The consequence of plastic in the ocean is dangerous and irreversible, but we can learn from our mistakes. We have become reliant on a linear economy – where packaging of products is not taken responsibility by producers, and for consumers to think that something will just disappear if we throw it away.
We have become disconnected from our food sources and ignore the notion that natural resources are finite. Yet, every day solutions are becoming available. People are demanding better designed products, their choices are reflecting their ethics and renewables are becoming more economical.
It is an exciting time. It can be shocking to discover how plastics are damaging our natural world, but once this shock subsides hopefully people will feel a spark of passion. This is the key is to fuelling positive change in our own lives.
What sparked your passion for tackling ocean plastics?
I have been an advocate of whales and dolphins for many years, because I see cetaceans as fellow ocean dwellers who I shared wave and ocean space with. I was moved to become an activist in 2010, when Japan, Iceland and Norway proposed to lift the ban on commercial whaling. I wanted to stand up, because whales and dolphins can’t speak up themselves, and deserve to be respected and protected.
I believe we are moving in a more positive direction; protecting marine life through global conservation efforts and government policies.
The issue of marine plastic is something everyone can be involved in. This crisis knows no territory, political stance or tradition – there are no enemies, no right or wrong and no quick fix, there is simply a universal goal – to get plastic out of the ocean. It is tragic to see images of majestic sperm whales with bellies full of plastic and fishing rope. Knowing this could have been prevented is devastating.
Why should people be concerned about this issue, and the effects on whales and dolphins?
If people care about the oceans and love whales and dolphins, they need to know that no whale or dolphin is exempt from being affected. This is a global issue and it is #notwhalefood! How is a sperm whale able to distinguish between a squid and a plastic bag? How is a bottlenose dolphin meant to know the difference between a piece of shiny micro plastic and juvenile mackerel? Humans are responsible for creating plastic, for dumping it into the oceans. It’s time to clean up our mess.
Why should people get involved with #NotWhaleFood?
This campaign directly relates human activity to the state of the oceans; if we change our habits, we change the oceans. We can reduce, reuse, recycle and remove toxics from our oceans that cause a threat to ocean mammals and all sea life, we just need to channel our energy wisely and make a collective effort.
What we do, DOES make a difference. It may take a lot of us, and a bit of time, but things will reach a tipping point if we recover from our plastic addiction, change our behaviour and commit.
How can people make a positive difference?
It can be as simple as joining the #NotWhaleFood campaign and talking about these issues to friends, family and on social media. There are basic intentions that we can commit to, like giving up the big 4: plastic bags, bottles, straws and take away containers. By having alternatives for these such as a canvas bag for groceries, reusable water bottle, a reusable straw (metal or glass are great) and bamboo cutlery.
Water is such a key resource, it comes magically out of our taps and it hydrates us. Why do we need to by water that comes in a PLASTIC bottles, that is constructed out of oil and takes over 400 years to break down (if that!) It just makes no sense! If we want filtered water, just get a filter!
How do inspire others to get involved?
As a surfer, yogi and activist I feel a strong affinity with the sea and all ocean creatures. However, some people might not share that connection, and if they are looking to take tentative, guided steps I would love to be part of that journey. I help run DRIFT retreats in Jersey, Channel Islands and Cornwall, UK, where people can do exactly that. Drift is about exploring our connection with nature and includes adventures such as surfing, stand up paddle boarding, beach yoga and wild foraging. We encourage people to turn off their mobiles and forget about screens – it’s a about living in real time once again, no deadlines, no stress, in tune with natural cycles.
It is also a great way to build a community around the shared interests of creativity and conservation. We are looking at doing a whale and dolphin retreat in the future! I am also constantly learning about these issues; trying and testing ways to become a more eco friendly person, as I definitely do not have all the answers!
I find it is a struggle every day to initiate change but starting small and being aware of the minute changes that I do commit to really helps. The key is wanting to commit. If we have a level of doubt or a seed of resentment it lets us down. We need to put our heart and soul into it, and sometimes we’re just not ready. The thing is, that once we know, we cannot “unknow”. And we know so much these days, ignorance cannot be ‘blamed.’
I was in Costa Rica, having finished a meditation course and was just surfing my favourite break. It’s a picturesque spot; cabins in the hills, overlooking a perfect righthand point that reels for hundreds of metres. However, there was so much plastic waste washed into the river mouth I couldn’t ignore it, especially as there were whales, dolphins and turtles in the area. I began to do a beach clean every time I went surfing and I felt much better about being there. At first the locals gave me funny looks. But a week later they started helping me. The same in Morocco, Sri Lanka, France, Portugal.
So don’t think that by doing one small action, you’re not doing enough. By doing a #minibeachclean whenever you see rubbish on the beach, or even in an urban area you’re potentially saving the life of a sea creature. By saying no to a straw you are informing someone else about why you are choosing against a single-use plastic item. By taking out your reusable shopper and refusing a plastic bag you’ve become that little bit more conscious. All of these small actions are actually HUGE, and if you do them everyday, you also impact other people to see, think and join you.
Dr Sylvia Earl said “Never before has there been a time of greater opportunity, or need, for women in science, business, government, technology, engineering, art, and math. Women are needed to help solve the biggest problem of all for the ocean and for the world: ignorance.” and this truly resonated with me. Her deepness, is my greatest inspiration.
I have tiptoed around following my passions, but the more time I spent in the ocean, the more this path opened up to me. The more time I spent in immersed in water, the more I have become like it, flowing in the right direction, where my energy is most needed. As a woman I have used products without thinking about the consequences. Now I am aware of the plastics crisis, I’ve had to rethink what it is I really need and what is actually harming the environment. Natalie Fee is helping shift mindsets and attitudes towards sustainability in the UK with City to Sea’s #switchthestick and #dontbelievethewipe campaigns. There are now zero waste celebrities like Rob Greenfield (trash man) and Lauren Singer (trash is for tossers) providing evidence and tools on how to initiate changes, who I definitely look to for inspiration and support on this journey.
Surfers Dave Rastovich, Kassia Meador, Greg Long and Belinda Baggs are raising awareness about sustainability, as in the past, surfing has been quite a toxic sport, relying on materials that are not necessarily good for the environment and adding to the problem rather than providing a solution. Nowadays there are surfing products made from recycled materials. Wooden boards are becoming more and more sought after. I’m lucky enough to be sponsored by Roxy Fitness who have just released a surf bikini made from recycled plastic bottles, which makes me uber proud to be wearing it. I also have a beautiful wooden surfboard made from recycled driftwood, thanks to Woodshed Surfboards. But I am still waiting for the first recycled wetsuit to hit the market!