Journalist and filmmaker Craig Leeson is the Director and Producer of A Plastic Ocean, one of the most influential documentaries to highlight the extent of the ocean’s plastic pollution crisis. It has been screened in over 70 countries on six continents, subtitled in 15 languages, premiered at the UN General Assembly, and features interviews with David Attenborough and former US President Barack Obama. It also held a place as the number one documentary on iTunes in the US, UK and Canada.
On the back of the documentary’s success, Leeson set up and has taken up a position as “Global Evangelist” for Plastic Oceans Foundation, a charity dedicated to “ending humanity’s single-use plastic addiction within a generation.” He appears at high-profile speaking events — including a well-respected TED talk, stressing the need to move to a zero-waste society — and also reaches into the corporate and financial world through a role as Global Sustainability Officer for BNP Paribas.
“I am in a very privileged position to be able to speak to people – be it the government leaders or corporate honchos,” he said in an interview with the Economic Times, where he stressed that brands that ignore the plastic menace “won’t exist in a decade.”
“I try to collate all that information and use it to bring awareness to everybody in terms of the problems around the world and what people are doing about it.”
‘A Plastic Ocean’ begins as an adventure to film the blue whale, before the team came across a slick of detritus in an otherwise pristine location — old fishing nets, bait boxes, plastic bottles, used lighters. Leeson realised that any nearby whales were probably resting and feeding near the mountain of plastic, prompting an international study about how much plastic could be found in the more polluted areas of the world — and what this plastic was doing to marine, environmental and human health.
The team spent four years travelling to 20 different locations to answer these questions. After learning that 70% of plastic sinks, and that they’d initially only therefore seen the tip of the iceberg, they went down to the bottom of the Mediterranean in submarines to see what happened to plastics without light and oxygen. Back on land, they dissected birds that were dying in large numbers near a particularly polluted island, finding their stomachs full of pieces of plastic.
Before this work, Leeson started his career as a journalist for newspapers, before taking up a position as a news correspondent and anchor. He’s worked with organisations including BBC, CNN, Bloomberg and ABC in Australia. He became an international correspondent for Al Jazeera English.
He’s had a long connection to TV. He worked with the National Geographic Channel on documentary films, and founded Leeson Media International and Ocean Vista Films. He’s also the founder of Shot Hong Kong Film Festival.
“The only way to address the problem is to ban single-use plastic,” he adds in the interview with the Economic Times. “You just need to take the hard road.
“Politically, it’s going to be difficult. The message you need to companies is that you won’t exist if you don’t adopt a new methodology. If we destroy the life systems that we all rely on, where is the future going to be. Governments are always reactive, they need to be proactive.”Tags: Australia, Documentaries, plastic pollution