The following post was written by World Oceans Day Youth Advisory Council member, Wenqin Zhang. Wenqin is 19 years old and lives in Shanghai, China.
This is my first year on the World Oceans Day Youth Advisory Council and it’s been really exciting to see youth from different parts of the world work together for a better ocean!
This year we focused on plastic pollution and tried to mobilize more young people to take action in their communities. So, I planned two ocean plastic pollution lessons and one beach cleanup around World Oceans Day. I taught the lesson in two primary schools on May 28th and June 5th. Though the kids there were young, once they realized the problems our ocean is facing they really wanted to do their part to make our ocean healthier. It was a very meaningful experience for me. I learned how to help children understand a problem which seems abstract and complex and encourage them to take action. I found that although numbers are persuasive, they may seem unfamiliar and far away to young kids. Instead, we should start with the stories around us to help them understand the harm plastic pollution does to the ocean and how it relates to plastics in our daily life. For example, kids love animals, so starting with animals and telling them how plastic pollution hurts them would be effective.
On June 8th, I joined a beach cleanup in Shanghai. There were around 220 people in this event and we cleaned 1.5 km of coastline that day. While cleaning the beach, I found the majority of plastic items came from fishing net, plastic foam, and plastic bags from fishing industry and tourists. Volunteers in this event learned what types of garbage end up in the ocean and were determined to use less of those plastic products. This was great to see because having a more environment-friendly lifestyle after the cleanup is more important than how much waste we cleaned. I’m looking forward to involving more youth in World Oceans Day activities in the days to come.