People 08 February 2017
Pollution. We all know what it is. We recycle, we buy fuel efficient cars, but do we really know how deep the problem goes? While pollution is probably not something that consumes your day-to-day thoughts--chances are you’re more concerned with happenings on dry land than oceanic environments because--the reality is that our oceans are in trouble.
Cue Emily Callahan and Amber Jackson. These two brave women with curiosities surrounding our carbon footprint decided that they were going to challenge policy and dedicate their careers to studying marine systems.
After meeting in graduate school in a diving program, Callahan and Jackson began researching old rig removal throughout their thesis project. At the time, there was momentum around Rigs-to-Reefs, a law passed in California in 2010 that, “provides an alternative to complete rig removal in which an oil company chooses to modify a platform so that it can continue to support marine life as an artificial reef.” The problem was that there were 27 offshore platforms off the coast of California and none had been converted, so was it actually viable? This question prompted them to push forward researching this topic and potentially influence change.
Emily and Amber describe themselves as environmental consultants. The pair now run a company called Latitudes that assesses offshore marine structures (think oil companies, art installations, or any organization that puts structures into the water) to understand their ecological values. They both emphasized that it’s “very impactful to remove these structures, so we figure out what would be the least impactful way to get them out.” Despite these realities, there’s not a singular culprit in this equation.
"Everyone causes pollution, we’re just as responsible for the oil platforms being there as the oil companies are.”
- Emily Callahan and Amber Jackson
Amidst Emily and Amber’s research, an ecologically-conscious California-native named Jaeson Plon met Amber’s mother while surfing at the beach. Stories were exchanged and eventually introductions were made between him, Emily and Amber. As it turns out, Plon is a surfer, ocean lover and an entrepreneur who co-founded a company called Sea Bottle that produces a natural hand wash, keeping the ocean’s health in mind.
“Thirty percent of plastic bottles end up in the ocean and harm marine life. I wanted to create a safe formula with sustainable packaging that wouldn't damage the environment. There’s a pump on the glass bottle that becomes sea glass then sand, and the pump is reusable so you can refill it.”
- Jaeson Plon
The congruencies between their missions were unavoidable and hinged on their shared passion for recycling, especially when it came to massive rigs, some of the size of the Empire State Building. According to Plon, the moment they’re planted on the ocean floor, marine life begins to flourish around them. Because he was so fascinated by how these two female scientists were turning a negative into a positive through their research, he decided to donate a percentage of every Sea Bottle sale to Emily and Amber’s efforts.
Even still, it’s an ongoing battle. In terms of challenges, the ocean-minded duo admitted that they are usually the only women in the room at conferences and are the youngest by 30 years. “A big challenge for us is that it’s very easy to be looked at as little girls and people don’t take you seriously," says Jackson. "They’ll say things like ‘the ladies of blue latitudes are here.’ So you need to present your information as a man would. Being a woman also has its advantages though. We seem to make more of an impact because people are more interested.”
The argument is always us against them and we hope that moving forward we can actually change that.” Emily acquiesced. We don’t want to promote off-shore drilling at all, we have to understand the reality of our situation and seek more renewables.”
With no pause in sight, this fiercely intelligent duo has seen a few examples of structures that have proven to be valuable, mostly in the Gulf of Mexico, and are planning a trip to Southeast Asia this spring to learn more about converted rigs around the globe.
5 min read
Except for 16, I have celebrated all of my milestone birthdays in New York City.
I turned 16 in Arnold, Missouri. Arnold is a small town (though not small anymore) 20 miles south of St. Louis. St. Louis is known for the Gateway Arch, a beautiful arch of shiny stainless steel, built by the National Parks Service in 1935 to commemorate Thomas Jefferson's vision of a transcontinental U.S. St. Louis is also known for its custard, a frozen dessert that is so thick, they hand it to you upside down with a spoon inside. Something else about St. Louis you should know is that there is a courthouse just steps from the base of the Gateway Arch where one of the most important cases in history was tried: Dred Scott v. Sanford.
I'm turning 50 during what I define as a miraculous time to be alive.
Mr. Scott was born into enslavement around 1799 and, in 1830, was sold to a military surgeon who traveled back and forth between his military posts in Illinois and Wisconsin, where slavery was prohibited under the Missouri Compromise of 1820. In 1842 the doctor and Mr. Scott both married, and they, all four, returned to St. Louis. Still enslaved, Dred Scott filed a lawsuit against the doctor's wife for his and his wife Harriet's freedom. We don't know exactly why he chose this moment in time to file a lawsuit, however, he did. At the time of filing his, now, famous lawsuit, he was 50 years old. Ultimately, The Scott family did not gain their freedom, but their profound courage in filling this case helped ignite the Civil War and what we would come to know (or think we know) as freedom from enslavement for all human beings. Powerful then and even more powerful now.
My next milestone was turning 21, and I did it in the Big Apple. Having only moved to "the city that never sleeps" a few months prior, I knew nobody except my new friends, the bus-boys from the restaurant I was working at, Patzo's on the Upper West Side. And, yes, pazzo is actually the correct spelling of the Italian word, which translates to "crazy." Trust me we all had several laughs about the misspelling and the definition going hand in hand. I worked a full shift, closing out at around 11 PM, when, my kitchen team came out from the line with a cake singing, "Cumpleaños Feliz." It was fantastic. And the kindness of these almost-strangers was a powerful reminder of connection then as it still is today almost 29 years later.
I design the life I desire and the Universe creates it for me every day. I show up, keep the story moving, and work hard because I am relentlessly devoted to making the world a better place and this is how I choose to leave my legacy.
When I turned 30, I had just finished a European tour with Lucinda Childs dance company. The company had been on tour for months together and were inseparable. We traveled through Paris, Vienna, Lisbon, and Rome. We ate together, we rode on a bus together, we had drinks after shows together, and we even took turns giving company class to get warmed up before a show. It was deeply meaningful and dreamy. We ended the tour back in New York City at BAM, The Brooklyn Academy of Music. It was an incredible way to end the tour, by being on our home court, not to mention I was having an important birthday at the culmination of this already incredible experience.
So, when I invited everyone to join me at Chelsea Pier's Sky Rink to ice skate in late August, I was schooled really quickly that "tour" does not mean you are friends in real life, it means you are tour friends. When the tour ends, so does the relationship. I skated a few laps and then went home. This was a beautiful lesson learned about who your real friends are; it was powerful then as it is today.
Turning 40 was a completely different experience. I was in a serious relationship with my now-husband, Joe. I had just come off of a successful one-woman dance show that I produced, choreographed, and danced in, I had just choreographed a feature film, John Turturro's Romance and Cigarettes, with A-list actors, including Kate Winslet and James Gandolfini, who became a dear friend and had even been on the red carpet with Susan Sarandon at the Venice Film Festival for the movie a year earlier.
And I encourage all women to identify their power and choose to be fully in your power at any age.
This was a very special birthday, and I had, in those 10 years between 30 and 40, come to cultivate very real friendships with some wonderful colleagues. We all celebrated at a local Italian restaurant, Etcetera Etcetera (who is delivering for those of you in NYC — we order weekly to support them during COVID), a staple in the theater district. Joe and I were (and are) regulars and, of course, wanted to celebrate my 40th with our restaurant family and friends. We were upstairs in the private room, and it was really lovely. Many of those in attendance are no longer with us, including Joe's Dad, Bob Ricci, and my dear friend Jim Gandolfini having transitioned to the other side. Currently, that restaurant is holding on by a thread of loving neighbors and regulars like us. Life is precious. Powerful then and today even more so.
I write this article because I'm turning 50, still in New York City. However, I'm turning 50 during what I define as a miraculous time to be alive. And I could not be more filled with hope, love, possibility, and power. This year has included an impeachment hearing, a global pandemic, and global protests that are finally giving a larger platform to the Black Lives Matter movement. Being able to fully embody who I am as a woman, a 50-year-old woman who is living fully in purpose, takes the cake, the rink, and the party.
I'm making movies about conversations around race. I've been happily married for 11 years to the love of my life, Joe Ricci. I'm amplifying and elevating the voices of those who have not previously had a platform for speaking out. I choose who to spend time with and how long! I design the life I desire and the Universe creates it for me every day. I show up, keep the story moving, and work hard because I am relentlessly devoted to making the world a better place and this is how I choose to leave my legacy. Being 50 is one of the most amazing things I ever thought I could experience. And I encourage all women to identify their power and choose to be fully in your power at any age. I'm 50 and powerful. Dred Scott was 50 and powerful. This powerful lesson is for today and tomorrow. We have the power. No matter what age you are, I invite you to use your powerful voice to join me in making the world a better place.