ROAR: First of all, your a quiz master!? How does one become such a master?
Anthony: Yeah, I get that question pretty much every time someone asks me what I do. It’s such an aggrandising title as I guess any title with the word master in it seems to be.
I actually just fell into the role as quizmaster at a pub I was running in Bergen, Norway. There were no pub trivia nights in the city (or country that I later found out) so we started one up and after our first quizmaster quit, I was it, as no one else wanted to do it. I’ve always been a bit of a showoff - so here was a chance to act the goat on a weekly basis in front of a captive audience. Making the quizzes was the hard part - you have to include a bit of everything whilst not making it too difficult for the average punter. I think that’s where a lot of quizmasters go wrong. When the questions are far too hard, people are not having fun and maybe feel a bit dumb. I also chucked in a bunch of other little side-competitions to spice it up a bit. I ended up also doing trivia shows for private parties, student groups, corporate events, TV and radio - it’s been a pretty wild ride. That was 20 years ago and I must say, it’s been a pretty fun way of earning a living.
ROAR: You have chosen to use your creativity and energy to connect with communities and raise awareness about plastic pollution. Tell us how you achieve this.
Anthony: I attended an international conference on marine debris in Oslo last year and it was agreed by the end of the conference that the biggest "problem about this problem" was that most people do not realise the extent to which plastics are now infesting our oceans, affecting marine life and ultimately us. Maybe if enough people became aware, we could affect change on an individual, community and legislative level.
But people are being bombarded with doom and gloom 24/7 and this was yet another crisis that I was about to bring onto their radar. There’s a fair amount of apathy to environmental crises out there but I think this is partly due to this sheer bombardment by environmental groups and the media. I reckon that many people who also have their own day-to-day issues to contend with, end up just burying their head in the sand.
Around the same time last year, I attended a seminar on The Psychology of Activism by a very smart kiwi, a professor of Psychology from the University of Auckland called Niki Harre. Niki also wrote a book called Psychology for a Better World. Her main message is that if you want people to follow your cause and be activated, you have to find a fun way of getting your message across and engage them.
So a little light bulb went off in my head and the concept of "trivia nights around Australia to raise awareness about plastic in our oceans" was born. Aussies love their trivia, hopefully as much as they love their ocean so here was an opportunity to get lots of them in a room together, slam them about the plastic issue, have a bit of fun but most of all, learn about how we can combat the problem.
I don’t want these nights to be about doom and gloom and they definitely aren’t. It’s mostly about solutions, tips, community projects and encouraging creative ways to use alternatives to plastic. I don’t want people to forget about the issue when I’ve left town so I usually spend over a week there trying to get initiatives started that will help build a non-plastic movement.
A big part of the tour is about going into schools, holding talks for the kids and suggesting projects that they can get behind. The kids are amazing - they’re really engaged, concerned, immediately understand the problem from top to bottom and are full of questions and ideas. I think it’s the kids engagement that drives me most.
ROAR: What bought about your choices to focus on the ocean and plastic pollution? What have been some highlights through your travels and connecting with communities?
Anthony: I talk about this at the trivia nights. It’s about love and I think we need people to fall in love with their natural environment. I’m an ocean lover. I think it began when as a baby, my mum took me baby-swimming in the ocean baths. I grew up in Coffs Harbour, was in nippers, had a surf mat, boogie board and eventually a surfboard. I also sailed, fished and was just always at the beach. I have an affinity for the ocean that is shared by many surfers and others. Having lived in Norway for a really long time, I didn’t get to surf so much but ended up kayaking on the fjords in summer. More and more I was picking up plastic floating around in this seemingly pristine part of the world. As a quizmaster I was always researching different topics so I decided to research plastic in the ocean. It was then that I found out about The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (The North Pacific Gyre) - a rotating area of concentrated plastic as big as NSW and one of 5 such patches in our oceans. Humans dump 4.6 million tonnes of rubbish into our oceans every year, up to 80% of which is plastic. Unlike other human waste, plastic doesn’t break down and disappear back into the web of life. It just breaks into smaller and smaller pieces becoming what is now termed micro plastic. Plastic also attracts other water borne contaminants like DDT, PCBs that stick onto it. It’s being ingested by creatures at every level on the food chain from Zooplankton to birds and large marine mammals. With us being at the top of the food chain, you can see what’s happening. Not to mention millions of creatures dying from entanglement.
I couldn’t just sit on my hands and do nothing so this is the “something" that I can do.
Driving around Australia in a camper has always been a dream. This project has made it far better than I ever imagined. I originally thought that it would be surfing, sight-seeing and doing some trivia nights but the project itself has become the main thing, taking up 90% of my time. People are inviting me into their homes, not only for dinner or coffee but to stay (in some places for 2 weeks!) which has saved me uncountable bucks in campground fees. Talking and connecting with like-minded people and experiencing the engagement and concern from people of all ages many of who are already actively doing something about the issue is something that I never would’ve experienced on a simple road-trip. We’re also engaging public figures, politicians and creating solutions as we go. I highly recommend to anyone who’s thinking of an extended road trip to find a cause that they’re passionate about and just get out there and connect on the road.
I’ve enjoyed every trivia night so far (there’ve been 21 plus about 35 other events). Some have been well attended and others not so but in little Inverloch, South Gippsland over 200 people turned up which was just overwhelming and I reckon I was on a high for a week after that. But it’s funny when you ask about highlights, it’s like the whole thing is just one big highlight. It’s going so well that I’ll be spending about 2 weeks applying for funding and grants to continue as my money is fast running out.
ROAR: How can people get involved with what your doing and get initiatives happening in their community?
Anthony: If people would like to have a Family Trivia Night in their town or suburb, they can contact me and I’ll send them the info. I have everything they need, they just need to have the passion and energy. This will also lead to them initiating other projects in their community that will hopefully last forever. People can also join or support other groups like Surfrider Foundation or The Australian Marine Debris Initiative and get involved with other likeminded people. Or, just simply start picking up plastic whenever and wherever they are and lets start a movement where it’s cool and admired to clean up your environment.
ROAR: Your life sounds very adventurous which inspires us! What do you love most about getting on the road and exploring new places?
Anthony: It’s funny, I’m a very social person but I also love being alone for long periods. Being alone on the road or in nature whether it’s the beach or the mountains has become really important for thought and reflection. But not only that, in nature there are no distractions, no expectations - it just “is" and you can just "be”. It can also be inspirational and bring on lots of crazy ideas. Some of these ideas I’ve used, some I haven’t but half the fun is dreaming them up. Living on the edge financially is also part of the fun - you’ve gotta be very careful with your shopping and creative with your cooking, maybe go without a meal sometimes which is actually good for you. I’ve found that having few or no expectations seems to be the key to personal fulfilment - just moving organically on this journey and seeing where it goes.
ROAR: What are you most excited about in 2015?
Anthony: As well as trying to get funding, I’ll be changing the concept slightly towards the end of the year so stay tuned for more info about that. It’ll be exciting to see how it goes. I’ll be moving the tour to Qld until it warms up a bit in Vic so, heads up everyone for some Family Trivia Nights on the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Brisbane Aug, Sept, Oct! Then back to continue the tour of Victoria on the Surf Coast and Melbourne area from November. If anyone would like to get involved in Qld or Vic, just email or contact me on Facebook (The Family Trivia Tour).
The Family Trivia Tour - Saving Oceans from Plastic Pollution
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