025: Hugo Tagholm/Canaries in the Coalmine

Hugo on the campaign trail. Photo: Andy Hughes

“Single-use plastic is the biggest issue now. It’s even more of a threat to our oceans than sewage was back in the 1990s”.

Recorded during my visit to Cornwall in August 2017, my conversation with Surfers Against Sewage Chief Executive Hugo Tagholm is a vital listen.

Hugo opening the 2015 Global Wave Conference

Surfers Against Sewage are the marine conservation charity who first came to prominence in the 1990s when they spearheaded the campaign to improve water quality in the UK and around the world. Since then, they have diversified into one of the country’s best-loved marine conservation charities, primarily concerned today with the issue of single-use plastic.

Hugo eyeing up his next move

As Chief Executive and leader of SAS, Hugo has a hand in shaping these campaigns and as a result he is hugely insightful on the environmental challenges we face as surfers and in society as a whole. There’s no question that the work SAS do is of vital importance, and in Hugo, as you’ll hear, they have an articulate, visionary spokesperson who is leading from the front.

Hugo with Tom Curren at the Global Wave Conference

Listen out for Hugo on:

  • How his career developed.
  • What ordinary people can affect change in the face of a seemingly overwhelming problem.
  • Why people deny the existence of climate change.
  • How you can get involved with SAS and make a difference.

This is an inspiring conversation that will have you rethinking your own relationship with plastic and the environment in general.

Thanks for coming on the show and sharing your passion and insights Hugo!

If you only have five minutes…

Listen to this section - Hugo on the simple day to day changes that can make a difference

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Show Notes

  • Hugo’s Danish origins.
  • The SIMA Waterman’s Ball and how it works.
  • The importance of representing SAS on this stage.
  • Grabbing a few SoCal waves.
  • The importance of travelling to raise awareness for Hugo’s job.
  • What being Chief Executive of the organisation actually entails.
  • How Hugo originally got involved.
  • SAS’s origins as a single-issue pressure group, and how the organisation has diversified.
  • The various ways in which SAS volunteers contribute.
  • The influence of Chris Hines.
  • How guerrilla storytelling is in the DNA of the organisation.
  • Working with vested interests.
  • Today’s biggest issue: single-use plastic.
  • The scale and complications of the issue.
  • Small victories.
  • The SAS Wasteland Campaign.
  • Harnessing moral outrage to effect change.
  • The current pace of change.
  • Creating a sustainable change legacy.
  • Working with the Climate Coalition.
  • Dealing with environmental naysayers.
  • The post fact-era.
  • The ideological basis of much climate change denial.
  • Contextualising necessary change.
  • Squaring the contradictions with small positive choices.
  • Hugo’s TED talk.
  • “I was a nature enthusiast before a surfer”.
  • How surfing connected Hugo’s love for sport and the environment
  • The influence of Capbreton and Gallic surf culture
  • How SAS unified each of Hugo’s interest’s into one positive whole.
  • Working for Sarah and Gordon Brown in the charitable sector.
  • “Fundamentally I’m somebody who wants to try and so some sort of good.”
  • Programme Director at Piggy Bank Kids.
  • The role of a trustee at a charity.
  • Hugo’s multi-faceted role today.
  • “It’s not just about the planet or the people. Its about how people interact with the planet”
  • How Surfer’s Against Sewage is funded.
  • Operating in the corporate lobbying world.
  • Corporate tactics to deflect blame onto consumers.
  • The difficulties of Hugo’s jobs.
  • Not being overwhelmed by the hugeness of the task.
  • The Global Wave Conference.
  • The tactics ordinary people can use to get involved and help.
  • Coaching the Truro Tiger Sharks.
  • Hugo’s favourite wave.
  • The dependability of the autumn.

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