Sarah Roberts is the founder of Creature, an environmental communication platform tackling complex environmental issues. She is an ambassador for LADbible (find out what that is below) and an Animal Behaviourist. We caught up with her to ask her a few questions:
Can you tell us about Creature and what the goal is there?
Creature is the name of my environmental communication platform. Its aim is to take complex environmental issues and make them relatable and understandable through story telling.
Since 2013 I’ve split my time working with wildlife in the field and sharing this experience and knowledge through educational outreach workshops, online video content and children’s stories. This is housed on www.thisiscreature.com. I named it ‘Creature’ as I wanted it to keep evolving. I used to work alone, with the help of different friends along the way. Now I work with in a team of three, including Alice Burden and Jamila Metran.
Things are already changing rapidly, my first children’s picture book, ‘Somebody Swallowed Stanley’, is about to be released in the UK by Scholastic on 2nd May. In the not so distant future we also hope to be able to expand our activities to TV and camps for young naturalists too.
Having read a few of your previous interviews, we know that you’ve seen a lot of stuff end up in river and oceans that shouldn’t be there. What was the most shocking thing?
There have been lots of shocking things over my career, I’ve even seen animals die from ingesting waste plastic as far away from the ocean as possible in the middle of the African bush!
However, most recently I returned from a trip to Florida, where I was lucky enough to spend some time with the awesome staff at Loggerhead Marinelife Centre. They have a shelf full of containers, each one containing the stomach contents from a dead sea turtle. On that shelf there are many tiny containers marking the deaths of hatchling turtles which have washed back up on the beach. As turtles have no maternal presence, they have to learn their food sources by trial and error. Now 100% of all the turtles passing through the doors of this centre, regardless of the species, carry plastic in their stomach. After looking at all the tiny pieces of plastic in these containers, I was then presented with a plastic straw with tiny tiny bite marks out of it.
In an interview with The Conservation Hub, you said “You cannot put your head in the sand after that, once you have seen it.” What is it going to take for more people to have this lightbulb moment which incentivises them to make positive change? And what was it that first made you stand up to fight?
For as long as I can remember all I’ve ever wanted to do was escape off the beaten track, get a husky and a surfboard and live a wild life amongst nature. As an Animal Behaviourist, every time I’ve lived and worked in remote locations, from tropical islands to temperate rainforest, the impact of human activity is indisputable. It was the realisation at the beginning of my career that, if I sat back and did nothing most of my favourite wild places and creatures would not continue to exist, which really spurred me into action.
I think it totally depends on the individual though and what matters most to them. Many people might feel totally disconnected from the turtles washing up on beaches on the other side of the planet, it’s so far away it doesn’t seem to affect their life. However, if they were confronted with the evidence of how this environmental issue threatens themselves or their family (directly by what they consume and indirectly by the collapse of an ecosystem), then there might be a sudden perspective shift. That is why I think it is so important to make sure all this information is communicated in a realistic and relatable way.
I also believe that our systems have to change to support these new mindsets, including: better recycling infrastructure, innovations in product design to cater for end of life and investment in the inventors designing and developing practical solutions.
Can you tell us a bit about your work with LADbible promoting the Trash Isles?
The Trash Isle campaign was released in September 2017 shortly before Blue Planet came out. The campaign was right up my street as it took an intimidating situation and turned it into something fun and appealing to raise awareness and create a movement online. Basically, LADbible decided to declare the amount of trash floating in the Great Pacific Gyre as a country and asked its audience to join them as citizens through a petition on change.org. With hundreds of thousands of citizens on board, their aim was to use this public support and media attention to add more pressure on the UN to do something about it.
My role was as an Ambassador. The initial emails to members of Change.org were addressed from me, I consulted on the facts behind the campaign, gave interviews on behalf of them and represented them on panels during Mindshare and the European Advertising week. I didn’t come up with the idea, but I was more than happy to support it in terms of experience, knowledge and authenticity.
In London a lot of us have jumped on the ‘ban plastic’ bandwagon, marching around with our keep cups and avoiding single use plastic where we can. Something you said in an interview with Blacks really made us sit up and listen though:
"Sometimes plastic is the best alternative and other substances could actually have a greater negative impact. For example, a cotton bag-for-life would have to be used 130 times to reduce the energy-production to less than that of using and recycling a plastic bag.”
It can be hard to know what the right thing to do is - can you give our readers 3 simple ideas to focus on that really can make an impact?
Use less - This mindset applies to all materials not just plastic, everything we do or consume comes at a cost. We’ve been born into a consumerist society, but that doesn’t mean it needs to stay that way.
Go outside more – simply spending time in nature, appreciating the outdoors and getting others to love it too, helps us to feel that connectivity that society has lost along the way. It also makes us realise why our actions are so important.
Do your research. Don’t buy into all the green washing going on right now and read up so you can make an educated decision rather than adding to the problem.
We started Stay Wild Swim because of our passion for the ocean. How would you describe your relationship with the ocean?
I learnt to swim before I could walk, I competed for years before going into scuba diving and specialising my degree in sharks. I love working with creatures all over the planet, but the ocean is home. It’s the magnet that draws me back and the reset button on anything going on in my life. I’ve still not given up my dream of a surf shack and a husky just yet.
Find Sarah on social @sarahrobertsofficial