“What if I told you that a single abandoned fishing net could last up to 400 years in the ocean, killing and entangling marine life and coral reefs? They call them ghost nets. What I call them, silent killers “.
This is how documentary filmmaker Christine Ren starts her video introducing her latest work: Silent Killers. This underwater photography work focuses the attention on the issue of plastic pollution and “ghost fishing,” the unintended capture and killing of marine life by lost and discarded fishing gear.
We share a common concern about this topic, so we decided to contact her to discover more about the project and see how people were responding to it.
What are the reactions of people to this project?
It was meant to be a polarizing campaign. I don’t create work that will resonate with everyone because if you try to please everyone, you end up diluting your message to the point it is meaningless. This was the most widely shared and spread campaign I’ve done to date, with approximately 10,000 collective views across social platforms and hundreds of shares. 90% of people’s reactions were positive — the message resonated, and they were shocked to hear of the issue, as it’s something that really gets such poor visibility. Unfortunately, the other 10% it either didn’t resonate with or straight out made sexist comments about my attire. Putting yourself in the public eye is never easy, but it doesn’t deter me.
What do you do daily as a consumer to change things? Where would you recommend to start?
As it relates to my recent series, Silent Killers, as consumers, we have the ability to ensure the incentive for economic solutions related to ghost nets. Because here’s what works really well for this issue: net buyback programs. There are companies hard at work training and paying fisherman to reclaim lost gear, and then regenerating the nylon waste from ghost nets into new materials to create products — everything from swimwear to skateboards.
For this series, I’m asking consumers to commit to a 30-day challenge to use hashtag #SilentKillers and spread the word through social media about businesses and initiatives that are helping to turn reclaimed ghost nets into sustainable products. Because together, we can champion ocean heroes. And become them ourselves.
Choose to share any or all of solution partners I’ve highlighted on Facebook as well as below:
· Global Ghost Gear Initiative — explore ghost net solutions around the globe
· Healthy Seas — comprehensive list of products supporting net buyback programs
· ECONYL® — pioneering processes to regenerate ghost nets and other waste into fabric and textiles
And as it relates to other ocean or conservation issues, start by being curious, educate yourself, talk with others and start slow and small with your daily habits to make a change and slowly find more ways to scale and magnify your sustainability impacts.
In the beautiful letter, you wrote to your hypothetical daughter, you talk about hope (“without it, we are lost”) and about the fact that “magic is still possible”. Is it? Why is it important to keep hope alive?
As with most things, it depends on your definition. When I refer to “magic” in this piece, I’m speaking about serendipity, about dreams being made manifest, about unexpected love, adventure, and opportunity. Are all of these things possible? Absolutely. I have experienced them. But only by submitting myself to thinking outside the box, to surrendering to things happening on their own time and not as I expect them to show up. When we talk about hope and keeping it alive, I think the foundational pillar upon which hope survives and thrives most certainly is this belief in magic as I define it.
You cannot hope if you do not love the world, if you do not see beauty, love, empathy, and compassion overarchingly through the darkness.
Most mystics and scholars much wiser than I have said for as long as man existed that we cannot survive without hope. It is the one thing I feel certain in knowing to be true. And it would be my primary mission to ensure any daughters I may or may not have in the future know it as well.
Where do you see humanity in 20 years?
I’m hoping we are not where the scientists predict we will be. I’m holding a vision of hope that we come together for the energy and political revolutions we need in time to give nature her chance. It’s our generation that gets to change the world forever, so I focus on that directive in the presence of today, and hope my actions, and my art, inspire others to believe we can change before it’s too late.