The following post was written by World Oceans Day Youth Advisory Council member, Kehkashan Basu. Kehkashan is 17 years old and lives in Toronto, Canada.
Life on our planet began in the oceans and our future depends on the well-being of our oceans. However, rampant pollution and acidification are causing untold damage to our oceans and its resident marine life. Large communities which depend solely on the oceans for their livelihood are also at risk as they face prospects of poverty and migration. Therefore, taking care of our oceans is no longer an alternative but an urgent task which each and every member of civil society needs to undertake. As a young person, I believe that youth have a greater responsibility to preserve our oceans since it is our future that is at stake. No longer can we wait for others to solve problems for us — rather, it is the youth who should take the lead in environmental conservation. This has been my goal as a Youth Advisory Council member for World Oceans Day and the Founder/President of the youth sustainability organisation, Green Hope Foundation.
My initiatives for World Oceans Day combined advocacy with ground level community action to preserve and conserve our oceans. The theme of this year’s World Oceans Day was “Preventing plastic pollution and encouraging solutions for a healthy ocean” so my workshops sought to educate children and youth about the urgent need to eradicate plastic usage and clean our beaches in order to aid ocean conservation. My activities spanned several weeks and began with two workshops for school children in Ottawa and Cambridge, respectively, in Canada. The workshop in Ottawa educated and engaged over 100 children in the primary sections. The workshop in Cambridge empowered scores of Grade 12 students. All these students pledged actions to aid ocean conservation and promised to reach out within their communities to stop using plastic.
Green Hope members also conducted a successful beach cleanup campaign in Dubai, collecting several bags of litter which would have otherwise polluted our oceans. We conducted a workshop for over 200 primary school students in Dubai and the response of these young eco-warriors was truly inspiring. To highlight the importance of conserving marine life, our members released baby Hawksbill turtles into the ocean on World Oceans Day. Green Hope also created an awareness video which was circulated widely on social media to raise awareness. View it here.
The highlight of my campaign was a “Global Twitter Dialogue” on ocean conservation which had eminent panelists joining in from across the globe - from Suriname in the West to Australia in the East. Panelists included experts in marine conservation and youth representatives from the United Nations and civil society. They discussed various related issues including solutions for healthy oceans, the role of young people play in preventing plastic pollution, the importance of legislation in preventing plastic pollution, and alternatives to plastic. Our twitter campaign reached out to over 11,000 users and the dialogue brought out several amazing solutions and responses from different parts of the world. The unanimous view was that all sections of civil society, policy makers, governments, and non-state actors need to work in tandem to address the issue of plastic pollution and ocean conservation. Legislation needs to be stronger, implementation must be effective, and young people need to play a larger role in this process.
In conclusion, I would like to urge all young people to take action within their own zones of influence to shun plastic and spread awareness about preserving and conserving our oceans and the environment. We are running out of time - now is the time for definitive action. World Oceans Day is not a one day celebration but rather a year round state of being and it must have our central focus. We need to succeed — failure is simply not an option.