Stefanie Penn Spear, a Cleveland-based environmental advocate, has just announced that she’ll join eXXpedition
’s upcoming voyage to raise awareness and explore solutions to the environmental and health impacts of single-use plastics. Founded in 2014, eXXpedition is "a global network of multidisciplinary women who can contribute to world-class scientific studies, explore solutions and use their unique skill sets to tackle the problem from all angles."
For eXXpedition Round the World 2019-2021, a series of 30 voyages, 300 women will sail around the world to look at the impact of plastic and toxics in global seas. In total, the group will sail 38,000 nautical miles.
In addition to Spear, the crew includes scientists, sailors, filmmakers, artists, product designers and teachers. Because women are so underrepresented in sailing and STEM careers, eXXpedition seeks to provide female role models in these fields.
Spear will participate in the stretch of the trip that goes from Panama City to the Galapagos Islands at the end of January, and she hopes the trip will inspire local high school students to take action and consider ways of reducing plastic pollution in the Central Lake Erie Basin and Cuyahoga River.
“When I first read about eXXpedition’s Round the World voyage, I knew it was something I wanted to be involved in,” Spear says in a press release. “I’ve been reporting on environmental and health issues associated with single-use plastics for decades, and it's time I see the impacts on our ocean ecosystem firsthand.”
Spear says that if we keep producing plastics at predicted rates, plastics in the ocean will outweigh fish pound for pound in 2050.
“The impact single-use plastics is having on people and the planet has reached a crisis point,” Spear says.
Spear will work directly with local high school students at Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Davis Aerospace & Maritime High School and the School of One housed at the Foundry, among others. She will also collaborate with Surfrider Foundation Northern Ohio Chapter and other local groups working on the plastics issue.
“I’m looking forward to bringing home what I learn on my voyage,” she says. “I want to help reduce single-use plastics in Cleveland’s precious waterways and work with high schoolers and others to come up with solutions that will move the needle on this critical issue.”
Local and national sponsors will fund her expedition, and Lake Erie Waterkeeper will serve as her fiscal agent.
"Plastics are a growing concern for Lake Erie's vulnerable waters,” Lake Erie Waterkeeper Sandy Bihn says. “I’m glad Stefanie will be working on this issue and engaging students in the fight to end single-use plastics.”
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