2016 brought a variety of challenges and triumphs for our oceans. While the world faced the hottest year on record and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef suffered from its largest coral bleaching event, we were still able to celebrate the establishment of the largest marine protected areas on earth in Hawaii and Antarctica, and cities and countries around the world put disposable plastic bag bans in place. As 2017 begins, there are still many goals to be met towards a healthier ocean. With high expectations to continue the trend of protecting ocean spaces and decreasing plastic use, there is still a need to fill a major gap in these processes: creating opportunities for youth engagement. With youth ages 24 and younger making up nearly 40% of the world’s population, it is imperative that we involve young people in creating a movement for a healthier ocean.
This past year, The Ocean Project prioritized youth engagement and youth leadership development in a few ways. We launched the collaborative campaign, Sea Youth Rise Up, and created the World Oceans Day Youth Advisory Council. We created the Council to expand the reach and impact of World Oceans Day not only on June 8th, but also year round. From dozens of applications, 11 youth were chosen from around the globe. This bright and diverse group of young people, ages 14-22, come from a variety of backgrounds and educations. They come together with unique sets of concerns and a passion for protecting our oceans. Among other things, the Council members helped decide the winner of the third annual World Oceans Day Photo Contest and also wrote a series of blog posts for the World Oceans Day website. In their blog posts, the Council members share stories of ocean issues which matter most to them, and their motivations for joining the Council.
In 2017, we will be looking to significantly expand our youth initiatives, with the collaborative development of Sea Youth Rise Up and expanding the scope of activities with the World Oceans Day Youth Advisory Council. The Council will be furthering their involvement through helping us develop culturally appropriate information and materials in multiple languages and collaborating with us to create a global alliance of youth for our ocean, including tweens, teens, university-age students and other millennials.
If you or your organization know young people who would like to get involved in World Oceans Day, subscribe to the World Oceans Day newsletter to learn more. We are excited to work with our partners to enable more youth take action for a healthy ocean, and together create a better future for us all.
Click on the names below to read each Council member's blog post from the Youth Making Waves series.