Youth are the leaders of change. Youth engagement is critical for solving environmental problems around the world. During the early time in our lives, we are not only the most impressionable but also the most available to act as sponges to the information and wonders of the world around us. It is important to connect with the environment and foster a sense of appreciation at a young age. It has been seen time and time again that once youth form a connection with a cause, they are more motivated to protect it. Youth having a united voice in the world, is more powerful than we think. Governments and international bodies need a youth perspective and push to at times open their eyes or convince them to take action on an issue.
For as long as I can remember, I have held a passion for the ocean and the amazing wealth of life that thrives within, and have engaged myself both inside and outside the classroom. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to be a long-time volunteer and staff at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, present a scientific poster on Ocean Noise Pollution at the Coastal America Student Summit on the Ocean’s and Coast’s at the Smithsonian, acted as a marine biology mentor to a passionate young student, and been part of the inaugural ‘Sea Youth Rise Up’ Student Delegation. Each of these experiences have helped me foster my passion for the oceans, for the welfare of the animals that call the oceans home, and for the role of youth in initiating change. My passion for animals and welfare has permeated my education as well. I am currently in the last term of completing my university degree at the University of British Columbia in Applied Animal Biology with a focus on animal welfare, and have had the wonderful opportunity to explore topics such as animal welfare policy, animal behavior, ocean conservation and sustainability through a variety of self-directed projects and papers. In addition, I have decided and applied to pursue a law degree following finishing my bachelors, and hope to practice animal law in the future specifically targeting animal welfare policy and legislation with a focus on marine mammal welfare. All in all, you could say that I am fiercely passionate about the welfare of marine animals.
It is clear that the oceans need our help. There are many issues that I could rattle off and list for you that are directly related to human use, such as overfishing, agricultural run-off caused dead zones, by-catch etc., but in all honesty, there is no use to simply wallow in the list of issues facing our oceans. Often, these issues become white-noise to much of the population and therefore, action in a large scale is rarely taken. Rather than simply acknowledging and accepting that the oceans are in peril, identifying the issues, brainstorming and processing tangible solutions, and acting to implement them is what is needed today.
It has become increasingly apparent that we cannot leave the fate of the health of our oceans and its inhabitants to government or international bodies alone. Each and every action made by members of the general public affects not only the oceans directly, but the perceptions of other members of society. It is much easier for many people to leave ‘action’ up to another person or simply detach themselves from the impact their actions are having on the environment – this kind of mentality needs to be shifted and youth have much more power than one might think.
The Youth Advisory Council has a chance to act as a conduit for change for youth around the world. So far, my participation in the council has demonstrated that there is a united international sense of passion for the oceans that exists amongst the amazing and inspiration youth that are part of this group. I am honored to have been asked to be part of such as passionate group. I look forward to creating positive change through international channels with my fellow group of youth!
It is important to remember that despite the fact that issues facing the oceans are huge in scale and many steps are needed by many stakeholders to create change on a global scale, small ripples of change and progress made by youth around the world in their communities is just as and if not more meaningful!