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Stop being environmentally selfish

Published on October 29th, 2019

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
It has been a significant initiative of World Sailing to heighten the awareness of sustainability, a topic we were reminded of at the 2019 World Sailing Annual Conference. Their leadership of the organization in this area has been recognized at the highest level of international sport, and given the importance of the ocean to both our sport and the planet, this involvement is a no-brainer.

While I am fully behind the idea, I struggle with the word sustainability. The use of the term for the environment is not its primary definition, and feels a bit preachy to me. Nobody likes preachy, and having a program which seeks to have people recognize their habitual faults, and highlight the need for them to be better citizens, is nearly the definition of preaching.

I prefer just saying “Stop being environmentally selfish.” When we throw trash away, where is “away.” The mouth of the earth is filling, and we currently are not recycling ourselves out of this predicament. While there have been notable shifts in sailing, such as re-useable water bottles and non-plastic straws, the current generation has been so habitually shaped that moving the boulder remains formidable.

Because the Conference was in Bermuda, nearly every attendee witnessed the immense impact of air travel. Plastic bottles, plastic cups, plastic food containers… let alone the pollution of airplanes in the sky. Aside from the immense expense of this venue, World Sailing stumbled by antagonizing the sustainability issue by selecting a resort hotel on this island territory.

The issue is not without promise. Our heightened awareness has given support for new technologies offering cleaner power and propulsion, and put in the spotlight harmful discharges, run-off, and environmental disturbance, but I see the hope to measurably move the needle is in the youth.

The habits of young people are not overly formed and good citizenship is common parenting, but the risk is whether children will be better than us because of us. Most children hear what we say, some even do what we say, but all children do what we do. They are always watching and follow our example. We must be better for them to be better.

A forum at the Conference led by Mike Golding OBE, Chair of World Sailing’s Sustainability Commission, provided an update on the progress of this initiative. Here’s the livestream from the session:

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