We’ve been told to reduce, reuse, recycle since we’ve been in primary school, and yet, for most of our lives, most of us — don’t deny it — have lived with an IDGAF attitude. But the tides have been turning, and we’ve seen a surge of young people giving a rat’s ass about what’s happening to our planet. Whether you’ve been taking your own metal bubble tea straw with you and turning down a plastic one, taking a reusable bag with you when you’re out and about, or even embracing the Beyond Burger with wide open arms, we see you.

And so does Philippe Cousteau Jr., an Emmy-Nominated TV host, producer, author, speaker and social entrepreneur. While his accolades are commendable on his own, he is inspired by his grandfather, the legendary Jacques Cousteau, a French undersea explorer, researcher, photographer and documentary host who invented diving and scuba devices — who also pioneered marine conservation. A lot of Phillipe’s work revolves around educating and empowering young people to do more and helping them understand that one person can make a difference.

Philippe Cousteau | Photo: Instagram (@lamer)

“Young people are leading the charge around the world. However, changing how society works is hard. Grassroots change is hard and slow, but the good news is that we are picking up steam, there is not a classroom anywhere in the world I walk into that questions the need for drastic action,” he says.

Phillipe adds that “Young people are waking up and demanding action on a scale that is unprecedented, and this is only the beginning. I have tremendous optimism that things are changing and that more change is coming.”

The plastic crisis, thanks to your IDGAF attitude is serious. Since plastic production really only took off around 1950, we have a mere 9.2 billion tons of the stuff that we do depend on, to deal with. Want some crazy numbers? According to an article on National Geographic, more than 6.9 billion tons have become waste; and of that waste, a mind-blowing 6.3 billion tons never actually made it to a recycling bin — a figure that stunned the scientists who crunched the numbers in 2017.

Unfortunately, so much of this plastic ends up in the ocean, the Earth’s final sink.

In 2015, Jenna Jambeck, a University of Georgia engineering professor, caught everyone’s attention with a rough estimate of how much of plastic junk ends up in the ocean: between 5.3 million and 14 million tons each year just from coastal regions. Most of it isn’t thrown off ships, according to Jambeck and her colleagues but dumped carelessly on land or in rivers, mostly in Asia. It’s then blown or washed into the sea.

Way to go, fellow Asians.

Phillipe, who spends a lot of time diving, whether for his shows, pleasure, or research, says, “Unfortunately, I have seen the ocean change dramatically in my life.  Close to half the world’s coral reefs have disappeared, up to 90 per cent of the large ocean fish like sharks and swordfish have been fished out and the climate is changing faster than anyone anticipated with devastating impacts on wildlife and nature not to mention the hundreds of millions of people who rely on the ocean for their livelihood and are now facing a scary and uncertain future.”

Think all the plastic in the ocean is not affecting you? Think again. According to WWF, an average person could be ingesting around 5 grams of plastic every week, which is the equivalent weight of a credit card.

How does that happen? The plastic that ends up in the oceans break down into tiny bits called microplastics, small enough to enter our food chain, along with other types of microplastics like those that are released when we wash our clothes. Fishes, and other underwater creatures ingest them, and they enter our food chain. Don’t eat seafood? Our drinks, including bottled water, tap water and beer all have microplastics in them.

So where does one start caring and making a difference as one person? Philippe explains, “As the lead singer of U2, Bono, once said, “shopping is politics”. Your wallet has tremendous power, support companies that make you and the planet healthier. You don’t have to live near a beach to influence companies. Also, no matter where you live, demand that politicians protect the environment and reject the false narrative that conservation is too difficult.”

That means, yes, giving your friend flak for taking a plastic bag, or encouraging meatless Monday lunches at your office. Patronise companies that encourage, reward or help people use less single-use plastic, or help ocean conservation or environmental issues. La Mer is working with Philippe, to continue their mission to help safeguard marine areas through awareness-raising initiatives and charitable donations from the La Mer Blue Heart Oceans Fund.

It’s time to give a sh*t — our lives depend on it.