The internet came as a shock when I was twelve. As I’m nineteen now, in my second year of university at the University of Queensland (UQ), it’s hard to imagine life without it. But growing up on West New Britain Island, Papua New Guinea in a small town called Kimbe, meant that days were spent kayaking to distant reefs, snorkelling with bustling schools of Moses Perch as they cascaded down with the currents, feeding our pet croc and spending Sundays in Paradise – specifically, Restorff Island, a white sand island protruding from the South Pacific, carpeted by the entangled threads of lush leaves and entwined epiphytes. Evidently, Google and all things with it were a world away.
Discovering the internet in my first year of boarding school in Brisbane brought to life the bigger picture in terms of what was happening around the world, and how our good Earth was reacting to the onward march of humankind. Back home I had spent early mornings paddling over navy depths and azure shallows, and always coming back with a bag full of discarded plastic. I was aware that plastic was harming our small, paradisiacal bay and only wondered if every coastline community saw similar struggles.
It didn’t really come as a shock, but more a sad reinforcement of what I had expected – that our oceans world-wide are choked with pollution. Knowing that the Earth’s currents are converging a vast bulk of this plastic into eight prominent gyres, however, was a promising fact which led me to discover the Ocean Cleanup Project. Based in the Netherlands, they are designing a passive system which works with these currents to collect accumulated plastics. Although they’re based in Europe, the internet brings their work very close to home.
Currently in my second year of Chemical Engineering at UQ, I had come in to my degree wanting to discover a way to contribute to this project, to learn how we can recycle the plastics after they have been collected. Chemical engineering predominantly focuses on the process of turning one thing into another, and often we look at questions based on coal seams, working out ways to turn crude product into liquefied natural gas (LNG). But like any degree, by looking at the problems with a different perspective, you can begin to see how solutions and processes here can be used to approach challenges elsewhere – challenges like cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
The challenges in this new age are no more difficult than those of the past – they are just different. And it’s exciting to know that thanks to a network which broadcasts the bigger picture, unforeseen challenges are coming into light, with equal demand for graduates and professionals sporting new perspectives. Looking at the Lead Chemical Engineer position in the Ocean CleanUp team reinforces that today, your passion and purpose can become your profession. Since you’re on board with Wild Ark’s work, it’s safe to assume that your passion is a noble cause; a cause in the name of our good Earth. In an age which is unpredictable and exciting, and we have a plethora of opportunity ahead of us – to turn your noble cause into a career.