For 2016, World Oceans Day established a brand new Youth Advisory Council. This new Advisory Council will help expand the reach and impact of World Oceans Day, on June 8th, and year round. Advisory Council members will be instrumental in helping shape the development of World Oceans Day as it grows, providing new and unique perspectives, ideas, and recommendations.
The council is made up of 11 members each coming from 11 different countries. In our latest blog series, "Youth Making Waves," you'll hear directly from council members to learn about their interests in ocean conservation, and how they got involved in the council.
Baylee Ritter is a freshman at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois and has been instrumental in establishing several international service-learning programs pertaining to water conservation issues.
Growing up living on a farm, with an environmental science teacher as a father naturally made me curious about the world around me. With no neighbor children to play with, my parents would send my sister and I outside to the river or grassy field behind our small farm house with the strict instructions to be back before supper time. Although it sounded like my parents just wanted my sister and I to stop terrorizing each other inside the house, their true intention was to ensure both of us had the chance to connect with the natural world around us. That freedom allowed us to become citizen scientists engaged within our community on our own. Overtime, those endless summer hours spent exploring the natural world made me into the conservationist that I am today.
As I grew older, however, I started to see the human impact on the ecosystems of our world. From the dumping of chemical solutions into drainage ditches to the outright throwing of trash into our local watershed, I was shocked to see something that supported our daily existence being destroyed.
I was furious and knew something had to be done. How could the people of my community not know what they were doing? Couldn’t they see the detrimental effects that their carelessness was having on the sustainability of our environment? It wasn’t until I spoke with my parents about my frustration that I finally began to understand why people in my community were polluting our ecosystem. It was not that they were careless, they just simply weren’t aware of the repercussions of their actions.
After doing a little research, I came to the same conclusion every time. Coming from the Midwest region of the United States, there is not a significant resource near me that is internationally known to be environmentally unsustainable. Clearly I do not live near the Amazon rainforest or the ocean, so I do not see my actions having a direct impact their quality. This makes it is easy for me, and others in my community, to go about our day not thinking of our actions affecting other communities around the world which are in trouble. In short, we are all unaware of the actual damage our actions play in the grand scheme of global conservation. In this simple explanation, I found my call to action and promptly applied to be on the World Oceans Day youth advisory council.
My passion and mission towards environmental sustainability has always been focused around water. Growing up with a river in my backyard and reading about the river adventures in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, I was entranced by the thought of a tiny body of water leading and connecting into something much larger than itself. I likened it towards myself, being from a small place but eventually traveling and becoming something much larger. Learning quickly through my quest that water was our most precious resource, and yet vastly abused in my community, I brainstormed possible solutions for changing this mindset.
I have been a practicing conservationist my whole life, leading youth in two international service learning projects to change the way that people think about the environment, and have found that the best form of activism truly is education. My call to action on the World Oceans Day Youth Advisory Council is to spread knowledge and education to those who have always taken a hands off approach towards the environment. I would like to inspire global community action through this board by providing small, yet tangible action items that anyone can do to make a difference. I want people all over the world to see that the sustainability of the ocean lies in everyone’s hands, not just the ones whose lives it touches on a daily basis. We owe it to our grandchildren, whom will inherit this Earth, to leave this planet better than we found it. My mantra in life is not why me, but try me, and I want to spread this motto around the world with those afraid of grasping the torch of change.