We All Have To Fight The UpStream Battle

A blog post by Doug Allan

Doug Allan
Upstream Battle Ambassador and BBC Wildlife Cameraman

Posted 07/07/2019

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I’ve been lucky. I’ve had many face to face encounters with some of nature’s most beautiful creatures. As a wildlife cameraman on programmes such as Blue Planet, I’ve seen first-hand how animals live in the natural world. From the deep ocean to the icy Antarctic, I’ve filmed animals big and small that rely on their natural habitats to sustain their families. I’ve even been grabbed by a walrus that wrapped its flippers round my legs while I was in the water swimming and filming. If I hadn’t bashed it on the head with my camera, it might have finished me off the same way that walrus kill seals, by sucking my brains out. Wow – there’s a scary thought!

I was excited to tell stories like that as part of my live lesson with primary and secondary school children in collaboration with Keep Scotland Beautiful’s Upstream Battle campaign. Pupils sent questions in advance about animals and marine life, and I shared my experiences of exciting situations - like finding a seal sleeping in my tent, and a polar bear standing to reach in through the window of a bus for food!

Many children were worried about the dangers of being up close and personal with some of these large mammals. But I told them that rather than the animals themselves, it has been far scarier for me watching the gradual destruction of their natural habitats.

I showed my photographs of a seal entangled in a fishing net and a turtle with its tummy full of plastic, explaining how many animals are at the mercy of human actions that are having a huge impact on their ecosystems and their lives.

The children asked where marine litter and plastics come from. The answer is simple: humans.

A small piece of litter in your local stream is carried to the sea, where it becomes part of the 750 tonnes of plastic that reaches our oceans every single hour (the equivalent to 23 double decker buses!). Its impact? Well once in the sea it ends up in the stomachs of our precious wildlife, or may simply destroy the very place they make their home.

Young people are asking questions that we need to answer. As awareness of climate change and environmental issues grows, it’s absolutely essential that we’re all taught how our actions have a direct impact on the bigger picture.

The worst marine litter is not natural, it comes from we humans. It’s our responsibility to keep our oceans clean.

We know that 80% of marine litter comes from land; Upstream Battle aims to prevent this at the source. Simple solutions like binning your litter, recycling, and using reusable cups and bottles all make a difference.

I hope these live lessons emphasise the importance of sustaining marine life for generations to come. It’s time for us all to take action against litter before it chokes our seas and oceans.

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