This past week I had the pleasure of meeting multiple inspiring ocean heroes at the Inaugural Ocean Heroes Bootcamp hosted in New Orleans. The boot camp was initiated by The Lonely Whale, a non-profit organization that focuses on radical collaboration, working as a team to get the public involved in conservation efforts and empower the next generation. I joined the very important party for only the last day, but I still left feeling encouraged and empowered by everyone present. Coast to coast youth of the United States and a handful of international ocean heroes came together to create pitches to help Beat Plastic Pollution. I gratefully listened to inspiring speeches from the adults and pitches from a handful of brilliantly motivated youth. In this review I’ll highlight some of the awesome people and organizations I encountered (disclaimer I did not meet or listen to everyone, check out the website for more ocean heroes!). Careful, you might feel so inspired you change the world.
The Emcee Michael Doshi (Education Coordinator of Algalita) started the day by sharing fantastic anti-pollution videos under his ocean hero pen name Gnarly Beach Cleaner that encouraged youth to clean up pollution and #makeitfun. Then Dune Ives, director of Lonely Whale, reminded the adults in the room that the youth teach us every day, and we need to do more for them and with them. They are our future after all. The keynote speaker was Adrian Grenier, cofounder of Lonely Whale. He started his speech encouraging youth to think outside the box, and help our adult brains fix the problems we created with new ideas. In a very relatable moment, he reminded youth to take care of the environment of their mind, body, and heart -- protect your vessel. This statement is one college students and adults could use hearing over and over. Conservation can be an uphill battle; therefore anyone looking to make a difference needs to take time for personal mental and physical health. Adrian reminded us that with the right balance, anyone looking to improve the planet we live on can help create business solutions, be sustainable, and provide solution for change.
Later in the morning, 5 Gyres presented a plastic pollution jeopardy game to review many of the facts and numbers the youth had previously learned through the weekend. The group transitioned into Love Letters to the Sea, writing and drawing work for local and international representatives. This activity brought kids a step further, putting passion into art that could help motivate positive legislation changes. In the afternoon Erin Schrode gave a passionate, highly inspirational speech, encouraging youth to broaden their understanding of different areas to make their help more direct. On answering an audience question about being a female in a male dominated world she didn’t even hesitate on her answer. She emphasized that females need to be prepared for questions never asked of men, (Why is your hair up? Why is it down? You’re wearing heels? You’re wearing flats? You aren’t wearing makeup? You’re wearing makeup?),but reiterated that women can make a larger impact by powering through. She reminded us not be afraid to show our emotion or intellect, something that can be tough in any field. No matter how you identify yourself, your emotions are part of who you are and create those connections for changing the minds of others. I had the pleasure to talk with Erin after, and I felt motivated to make any change I could to reduce my plastic footprint, decrease the amounts of chemicals I use, and work to improve the world not for myself but for others. In the time periods between activities and speakers I also got to chat with Danni Washington, a beautiful powerhouse that cofounded Big Blue and You. Doorae Shin with Kokua Hawaii was also a positive vocal influence for making sustainable food choices and reducing plastic usage. She was supremely kind and delightfully honest, plus even shared a super cool bamboo spork when I didn’t have my reusable utensils! My accomplishments are nowhere near those of these wonderful women, but they made me feel included and added value to even my small steps. If you’re looking for strong role models to help you “walk the talk” without feeling belittled or unworthy, they are inspirational resources.
The camp ended with a handful of youth pitching their ideas to the audience and a panel of judges. All of them were truly inspiring. Based on the theme of Beating Plastic Pollution, ideas included having airplane presentation videos to make fliers eco-aware, gaining international support to keep beaches from being developed and destroying reefs, to tying plastic cleanups into a more mentally healthy prison reform. From small-scale to global, kids received input from the judges to help put their passion into action, and Lonely Whale provided a monetary donation to kick start their conservation campaigns! The event ended with Barbara Hendrie complimenting the youth on their impressive and inspiring passion and ideas (Barbara was also present for the UN Environment Pollution Pick up on June 5th, and she was extremely personable and motivating).
Although I was unable to join the whole weekend and missed plenty of important speakers and leaders of the Beat Plastic Movement I still value the words and resources I gained from one day. If you are a youth looking to improve your outreach skills and increase your positive environmental impact I would definitely keep an eye on Ocean Heroes Bootcamp and where the next event will be held. Surrounding yourself with others that care deeply and are constantly moving towards improvement is beneficial in so many ways. If you are an adult looking for the next leaders in ocean and environmental conservation keep an eye out because these kids know change begins with us. In Erin Schrodes speech she reminded us of Helen Keller’s strong words, “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” Erin condensed this beautifully, ending her speech with words impactful for anyone feeling hesitant to vocalize about making a difference. “I am but one, but I am one.” Be you, be confident, and go forth to save the planet.
GUEST BLOGGER AND TFUI OFFICER CARISSA THIEL
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TFUI Founder Melissa C. Marquez is author of all animal bios and "Behind the Fins" segments.
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