New Internationalist

Rax Interview with Surfers Against Sewage

Rax Active Citizenship book cover The Rax Active Citizenship Toolkit is aimed primarily at teachers and students of Citizenship Studies in UK schools but in fact it can be used by anyone seeking to engage more actively in the world around them.

The Toolkit is a landmark in textbook innovation, graphic style, approach to content and attitudes to learning. It also contains exclusive interviews with a range of voices, from popstars and politicians to young active citizens. Over the coming weeks we will be posting the full text of the Rax interviews

Surfers Against SewageSurfers Against Sewage (SAS) is a UK-based non profit-making organisation campaigning for clean,  safe recreational waters, free from sewage effluents, toxic chemicals, marine litter and nuclear waste. SAS also campaign to protect surf spots from environmental damage, negative impacts on wave quality and to safeguard recreational water users right of access

What is your campaign aiming to achieve?

Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) protects surfers, waveriders, waves and beaches from a myriad of environmental abuse. Historically, the sea has been used as a dumping ground with polluters repeating signing up to the “out of sight out of mind” mantra. We are challenging Governments and industry to change this tide of abuse enforced on our seas. We are surfers and waveriders wanting a clean and safe playground to do what we love most of all, surf.

What campaigning methods have you used?

SAS is constantly trying to make our message interesting and engaging and use humour well. Environmental NGOs are often accused (and rightly so) of being preachy and this can turn people off. SAS strive to be interesting by utilising a variety of campaigning techniques, from naked actions on the beach to crashing posh environmental media awards and shaming the sponsors (who were polluters in an SAS campaign).

Supporters and the press will get bored of the same action time and again so to get our message across effectively we need to constantly improve and evolve our campaigns. We make the campaigns accessible, utilising a variety of platforms to highlight the problems and promote the sustainable, achievable solutions.

What impact has your campaigning had?

SAS’s campaigns have changed industrial practices and influenced UK and EU legislations. As a small organisation we’ve taken on some huge campaigns and because, as surfers ourselves we are extremely passionate about clean seas, we’re able to punch above our weight and secure tangible improvements for the UK’s seas

  • Improvements in water quality and public information in the revised EU Bathing Water Directive (2006).
  • SAS & the British Plastic Federation unveiling the Operation Clean Sweep aimed at reducing plastic lost down storm drains after SAS highlighted the problems with plastic pellets on our beaches.
  • The inclusion of recreational water users in the Scottish Marine Bill’s Regional Planning Partnerships will mean that surfers have a say about what happens to the coast and offshore environments at the appropriate level and on the highest platform.

What would be your key advice for young people seeking to make a change in their world through campaigning?

The most important advice for a campaigner is to be persistent! Rarely are campaigns easily won and the opposing side will often rely on you giving up. Secondly, be thorough and ensure you are confident of your campaign goals before putting it out into the world. Once you have the message spot on, communicate it effectively. A good campaign gets the message across to the right people, at the right time, in the right format. Lastly, make sure you are in the right place at the right time, and when the opportunity arises, jump at it, be confident, clear and on message.        

To find out more, visit the Surfers Against Sewage site.

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