Dianna Cohen - Moving Toward a Plastic-Free World - Pt 1

06 Jan 2017 Dianna Cohen - Moving Toward a Plastic-Free World - Pt 1

On a recent trip to North America, I decided to drop an email to one of my favourite organisations, The Plastic Pollution Coalition (PPC). To my delight there was a quick response and within days their CEO and inspiring co-founder, Dianna Cohen graciously set up a meeting with me on my last day in the US. We sat a few kilometres from Hollywood and discussed where we had journeyed and what our plans were in achieving a world without plastic. 

About Dianna - As a UCLA student, Dianna Cohen had a love of the arts, switching from Biology to Visual Art, she began creating her own pieces made of deconstructed paper bags collected at markets using the symbols, language, numbers and text printed on them. Eventually this lead to the incorporation of a plastic bag, and the rest is history. 

Dianna has since displayed her work in galleries and travelling art shows around the world, spoken at TED, TEDxThessaloniki,  produced (with PPC) TEDxGreatPacificGarbagePatch in 2010, spoken at INKTalks (TED In India) and to the UN. She has done a multitude of television and online interviews to educate the world on the harming effects of plastic in our food chain. In 2009 she co-founded the Plastic Pollution Coalition and, with her team, brought together some 400 plus organisations to fight plastic pollution globally.  

Some of Dianna's art. -Shot taken in her studio.  Titled: "Los Yankees" 2003

Paul - What started you on your quest to reduce plastic waste?

Dianna - I studied painting at UCLA, oil paintings and water colours then started using paper bags, creating collages. One day I added an image from a bag, a plastic bag from Belgium, with an image of a plant printed on it. I felt a deep conflict. A beautiful image of a plant on something ultimately harming the environment. Well I didn't know for sure at the time, so I started to research plastic and its effects on the planet and our health. 

Plastic became prevalent in late 70’s, with the mantra that it would save trees by reducing paper use. I started collage in 1983-4, I remember it because plastic bottle vending machines arrived in 84. Evian had these huge campaigns that fooled everyone into believing they needed bottled water. I look back on that moment in time when we started believing this mythology that somehow plastic bottle water was better. It was a pivotal moment in time as it turns out.

Fast forward to now and people are working with us in Ghana, Tanzania, South Africa, Australia, its incredible, so many wonderful groups and individuals. To name some in your part of the world.

BYO bags New Zealand

Tim Silverwood / Take 3

Two Hands

Tangoroa Blue

TED Talk on Mission Blue in the Galapagos 

Paul - What do you most love about what you do? 

Dianna - I love that Plastic Pollution Coalition is able to exist in a nexus between activists and NGOs from around the world, with businesses that want to make a difference, using youth ambassadors, the power of media and social media, visual art, chefs, sports people, film makers, actors and musicians. Surfers were among the first to join us with Mark Cunningham, the Malloy brothers, Kelly Slater and Gerry Lopez.

I am inspired by big thinkers and change makers like Jackie Nunez of “The last plastic straw” – urging Restaurants and cafes to get rid of plastic straws or replace with reusable ones, changing protocol and looking to recreate the system that created the obsession with plastic in the first place.

Paul - Fair Food Forager is looking to change our behaviour around the consumption of food and the issues associated with it. What do you believe we should be doing to ease the problems caused by food?

Dianna - Where my focus lies, plastic pollution and the chemicals that leach into our food,  looking at a system change in the way we source and serve people their food.

We need some strategy to present to governments around the world. We need economical solutions to fix the current SICK system. It just doesn’t make sense to keep poisoning ourselves by continuously adding plastic to our food chain. We must look at a multitude of changes, from educating consumers to changing the way food is sourced and packaged and I love what Fair Food Forager is doing by the way. Making it easier for people to choose better options is fantastic and publishing articles like the one on reducing plastic consumption while travelling in Asia is great.

Until next week, you can see what the Plastic Pollution Coalition is doing at www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org and check out "Open Your Eyes" featuring Jeff Bridges here.

If you aren't already, cut single use plastic out of your life.

Paul Hellier talks to Dianna Cohen Part 1. 

The Chicken, South Africa, - I love it.

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