We’re sharing this piece as part of our #GirlsTakeover initiative, on International Day of the Girl. Here’s how Lauren Sandeman pursued her passions to become a modern day activist.
I never thought I would make a habit out of walking a beach in rip-off spandex, elbows deep in trash trying to save the planet. Yet now I get people to do it with me all over the world. It was my childhood love for superheroes, and an uncommon passion to save our oceans, that got me to this point and completely altered my perspective on modern day activism.
What is it about superheroes that resonates with so many of us? Superheroes are one of those rare few things that transcends cultures, generations and time. As children we picture ourselves as these heroes, flying around saving the world with a spare sheet streaming behind us. Growing up, we might dread going to work, but seeing that batman logo on our socks (or jocks) gives us that extra kick to get through the day. We can disagree with Grandpa on which party to vote for but agree that Superman is the best hero ever. Period.
It’s such a shame then that we stop picturing ourselves as the superheroes of our own stories as we get older.
We need everyday superheroes more than ever before. Because, at its heart, what makes a superhero? It definitely isn’t the spandex (rip-off or otherwise). Rather, it’s the ways in which they use their own unique powers to make a difference in the circumstances they live in day to day. We love them for it, and for all the ways they imperfectly fail and try again. Despite sometimes impossible odds, they strive to be that little bit better than yesterday and make their actions count. This world needs real life superheroes – it needs the rise of the everyday superhero.
For me personally, plastic pollution is one of the simplest problems we can address today as individuals. In fighting plastic pollution, I see superheroes. Whether it is at an event of my shared initiative (Cosplay Clean Up Global) where a 4 year old Spiderman tells me he uses a reusable bottle to save turtles, to a 63 year old man who stops on the streets of Bali to help me pick up discarded wrappers – even though at this rate they’ll be replaced by morning.
Superheroes live in the governments overseas who are implementing bans on single use plastics, to the tradie that invests in his own KeepCup to use for his daily coffee with colleagues. I see superheroes in the people that choose to use their voice to engage others and sign petitions from making the Great Barrier Reef a citizen to banning single use plastic in Victoria. By not using our voice, business as usual continues and we now live in an era where our silence is no longer silent.
As a society, we tend to significantly underestimate the impact and influence we have as individuals. We forget that our own actions and voices matter and have far-reaching potential. In the face of so many global issues, acting on problems like climate change and plastic pollution can seem overwhelming. Yet, ‘overwhelming’ is just another way to say that there are innumerous ways in which you can make a difference every day exactly as you are. We have power in changing our every day business as usual to be that little bit better than yesterday.
Much like the vast variety of superheroes that exist on the pages of comics or in the pixels of our screens, there are innumerous ways in which you can make a difference in your everyday to save the planet – or just your own friendly neighbourhood.
Our power lies in our actions and our voice. How we choose to use them shapes the superhero that we could be. It’s time to stop waiting for someone else to swoop in and save the day, because on this planet, saving the day starts with you.
Today, my superhero happens to look like a spandex rip-off wearing blonde walking around beaches all over the planet with arms full of plastic, trying to convince the world to embrace their own individual powers to make a difference and start saving the planet today. She isn’t perfect, but I reckon she’s pretty badass.
What does your superhero look like?