This Boot Camp Trains Young People to Fight Plastic Pollution
By Shaima Shamdeen
The impact of young people's activism has not gone unnoticed. From 16-year-old Jamie Margolin leading the upcoming Zero Hour youth climate marches in Washington, DC to the lawsuit Juliana v. United States filed on behalf of 21 youths suing the government for failing to address climate change—youth are leading the way on climate action.
And climate change isn't the only big environmental problem that youth are stepping up to address. They're also asserting leadership around the issue of plastic pollution.
The Ocean Heroes Bootcamp in New Orleans brought together nearly 1,000 youth activists ages 11 to 18 in early June. The camp gave attendees tools and knowledge to build new campaigns aimed at reducing plastic. It was organized by youth activists in collaboration with 10 national environmental organizations including the Captain Planet Foundation and Lonely Whale.
During the camp, participants were organized into teams, or squads. Each squad had a youth activist and an adult from a partnering environmental organization who led the team in planning and presenting campaign strategies to reduce single-use plastic straws in their home communities. Youth squad leaders also helped train the participants in campaign organizing strategies.
The production of plastics has dramatically increased over the past 50 years, according to a 2016 report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, from 15 million tons in 1964 to 311 million tons in 2014. The report estimates that at least 8 million tons of plastics leak into the ocean each year.
"All the data shows that if we don't stop this now and don't execute serious policies, then we are going to have surpassed the point where we can manage the plastic pollution," said Leesa Carter, executive director of the Captain Planet Foundation, a lead organizer of the Ocean Heroes Bootcamp.
At the rate that plastic is being produced today, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation reports, there may be more plastic than fish, by weight, in the ocean by 2050.
At the boot camp, youth and mentors led workshops and activities to build skills in things like clear and confident communication and how to pitch a campaign. The camp also gave youth the opportunity to collaborate internationally. Seven international on-site locations, including Vancouver, Canada, and Nairobi, Kenya, participated in the boot camp through a virtual summit organized by Ocean Wise, which took place concurrently with the on-site event in New Orleans.
"We've had so many youth activating around the plastic pollution issue, so being able to provide them with a forum to meet their counterparts on this issue was extraordinary," Carter said.
Youth like Hannah Testa, 15, who partnered with senators from her home state of Georgia to develop a resolution to educate members of their communities about the growing plastic pollution crisis. Testa served as a one of the squad leaders during the boot camp.
Ten-year-old Robbie Bond from Honolulu and 11-year-old Sophia Albalita and 12-year-old Liam Burns, both from Atlanta, were also there. During the boot camp, the three collaborated on a plan to approach Hawaiian Airlines about the removal of plastics from all flights.
On the last night of the boot camp, Bond—while out to dinner with his family near the French Quarter—convinced the restaurant owner to commit to transitioning from plastic straws to paper straws on the spot.
"They really began to understand their role in shifting awareness [and] building and shifting policy around single-use plastics," Carter said. "It just goes to show the power of radical collaboration and the energy around this crisis."
Eight of the participants presented their campaigns virtually to world leaders at the G7 Summit in Quebec, Canada, earlier this month. Among these were 17-year-old Carter Ries and his sister, 15-year-old Olivia.
"I asked the G7 leaders to make a legally binding global treaty that would end plastic pollution by 2020," Carter said. "We got them to commit in front of everyone to fight to stop plastic pollution."
Carter and Olivia started their organization, One More Generation, when they were 9 and 8 years old to help protect endangered species. They have since launched their One Less Straw Campaign to encourage businesses from around the world to eliminate plastic straws. The five-year program, which began two years ago, has already had over 600 businesses make this commitment, including the Hilton, which announced in May that they will be removing plastic straws from its 650 managed properties by the end of the year.
"We are starting to realize that we need to make a change now. If we don't, then the next generation may not have that chance," Olivia said.
Partners of the Ocean Heroes Bootcamp put together the event in a couple months.
"It was amazing how many folks came forward and wanted to participate. It was crazy fast," Carter said. "We are so fired up by what we saw [that] we are already on board for [another boot camp in] 2019."
In anticipation for next year's event, the Ocean Heroes Action Toolkit has been launched to help young activists develop a campaign in their local communities to keep single-use plastics out of the ocean and request funding for their projects. Youth who submit campaigns through the action toolkit will be prioritized for participation in next year's boot camp.
"Anybody can make a difference. You just have to show people that you are passionate. That's what our entire Ocean Heroes Bootcamp was about," Carter said. "The real change happens when you educate people and find other passionate people. It makes you more passionate and creates a ripple effect."
Reposted with permission from our media associate YES! Magazine.
Correction: A previous version of this article had the name wrong for the Captain Planet Foundation. This article has been updated with the accurate name of the foundation.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Jeff Masters, Ph.D.
Tropical Storm Josephine Also No Threat to Land<p>Meanwhile, the season's record-earliest tenth named storm, Tropical Storm Josephine, was also struggling with high wind shear as it traced out a path over the open ocean.</p><p>At 5 a.m. EDT Saturday, Josephine was located about 310 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands, moving west-northwest at 15 mph with top sustained winds at 45 mph. Josephine is expected to bring one to three inches of rain over portions of the northern Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico over the weekend. Josephine will encounter steadily rising wind shear through Monday, peaking at a very high 30 – 35 knots. This high shear is likely to destroy Josephine's circulation by Monday, before the storm can affect any other land areas.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://yaleclimateconnections.org/2020/08/tropical-storm-kyle-forms-unlikely-to-affect-land/" target="_blank">Yale Climate Connections</a>. </em><em></em></p>
By Ute Eberle
In May 2017, shells started washing up along the Ligurian coast in Italy. They were small and purple and belonged to a snail called Janthina pallida that is rarely seen on land. But the snails kept coming — so many that entire stretches of the beach turned pastel.
The Ligurian coast has been swept by snails turning its color pastel.
A World Between Worlds<p>The neuston comprises a multitude of weird and wonderful creatures. </p><p>Many, like the Portuguese man-of-war, which paralyzes its prey with venomous tentacles up to 30 meters long, are colored an electric shade of blue, possibly to protect themselves against the sun's UV rays, or as camouflages against predators.</p><p>There are also by-the-wind sailors, flattish creatures that raise chitin shields from the water like sails; slugs known as sea dragons that cling to the water's surface from below with webbed appendages; barnacles that build bubble rafts as big as dinner plates; and the world's only marine insects, a relation of the pond skater.</p><p>They live "between the worlds" of the sea and sky, as Federico Betti, a marine biologist at the University of Genoa, puts it. From below, predators lurk. From above, the sun burns. Winds and waves toss them about. Depending on the weather, their environment may be warm or cool, salty or less so.</p>
Sea snails can make up the neuston.
Velella velella jellyfish living on the surface of the ocean.<p>But now, they face another — manmade — threat from nets designed to catch trash. A project called <a href="https://theoceancleanup.com/" target="_blank">The Ocean Cleanup</a>, run by Dutch inventor Boyan Slat, has raised millions of dollars in donations and sponsorship to deploy long barriers with nets that will drift across the ocean in open loops to sweep up floating garbage. </p>
Collecting With the Current<p>"Plastic could outweigh fish in the oceans by 2050. To us, that future is unacceptable," <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/green-entrepreneur-sets-sights-on-great-pacific-garbage-patch/a-38855785" target="_blank">The Ocean Cleanup</a> declares on its website.</p><p>But Rebecca Helm, a marine biologist at the University of North Carolina, and one of the few scientists to study this ecosystem, fears that The Ocean Cleanup's proposal to remove 90% of the plastic trash from the water could also virtually wipe out the neuston.</p><p>One focus of Helm's studies is where these organisms congregate. "There are places that are very, very concentrated and areas of little concentration, and we're trying to figure out why," says Helm.</p><p>One factor is that the neuston floats with ocean currents, and Helm worries that it might collect in the exact same spots as marine plastic pollution. "Our initial data show that regions with high concentrations of plastic are also regions with high concentrations of life."</p>
Waste collection in the Pacific Ocean heralded by The Ocean Cleanup.<p>The Ocean Cleanup says Helm's concerns are based on "misguided assumptions."</p><p>"It's true that neustonic organisms will be trapped in the barriers," says Gerhard Herndl, professor of Aquatic Biology at the University of Vienna and one of project's scientific advisors. "But these organisms have dangerous lives. They're adapted to high losses because they get washed ashore in storms and they have high reproductive rates. If they didn't, they'd already be extinct."</p><p>Helm says they just don't know how quickly these creatures reproduce, and in any case recovering from passing storm is very different from surviving The Ocean Clean Up's systems which could be in place for years.</p>
Communication Breakdown<p>The Ocean Cleanup invited Helm to a symposium on the topic in December, where both sides presented their points of views and didn't seem to find much common ground. Since then, direct communication between them has stopped, says Helm. "They're not interested in talking to me anymore."</p><p>Both sides agree that much is still unknown about the neuston. But one thing that has been established is that most of the oceans' fish spend part of their lifecycle in the neuston. "More than 90% of marine fish species produce floating eggs that persist on the surface until hatching," Betti says.</p><p>The Ocean Cleanup has undertaken one of the few studies into this ecosystem, collecting data on the neuston on the relative abundance of neuston and floating plastic debris in the eastern North Pacific Ocean during a 2019 expedition to the Pacific Garbage Patch, an area where plastic pollution has accumulated on a vast scale. But it is not yet sharing what it has found. The information was being prepared for publication in an as of yet unspecified journal, probably some time next year, an Ocean Cleanup spokesperson said. </p>
Inshore Solution?<p>Helm believes the best way to tackle the marine plastic problem would be to position the barriers closer to land — across river mouths and bays — to catch garbage before it reaches the sea.</p><p>"Stopping the flow of plastic into the ocean is the most cost-effective — and literally effective — way to ensure that it's not entering our environment," she says. </p><p>As for the plastic already floating in open waters, she does not believe it is worth sacrificing parts of neuston and wants to see more research first. </p><p>The Ocean Cleanup has made barriers across rivers a part of its mission. But it is also going ahead with its original vision of pulling trash from the open water. In late 2018, the project deployed a 600-meter, u-shaped prototype net into the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/environment-conservation-plastic-oceans/a-54436603" target="_blank">Great Pacific Garbage Patch</a>. </p><p>The system ran into difficulties, failing to retain plastic as hoped, and needing to be brought shore for repairs and a design upgrade, after which Ocean Cleanup says it gathered haul of plastic that it will recycle and resell to help fund future operations.</p><p>Over the next two years, the project hopes to deploy up to 60 such barriers to collect drifting flotsam. Helm isn't the only one concerned about these plans.</p><p><span></span>"We should think twice about every action we take in the sea," Betti says. "In nature, nothing is as easy as we think, and often, we've done a lot of damage while trying to do a good thing."</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/environment-conservation-plastic-oceans/a-54436603" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.<a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2646992655#/" target="_self"></a></em><em></em></p>
By Hope Dickens
Molly Craig's day begins with feeding hungry baby birds at 6 a.m. The birds need to be fed every 15 minutes until 7 at night. If she's not feeding them, other staff at the Fox Valley Wildlife Center in Elburn, Illinois take turns helping the hungry orphans.
By Douglas Broom
"Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people," said former U.S. president, Franklin Roosevelt.
So the FAO is using Twitter to remind the world of these five hidden benefits of forests.
A Michigan bald eagle proved that nature can still triumph over machines when it attacked and drowned a nearly $1,000 government drone.
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