More than 125 students from across eight countries gathered together on February 22 to advance global solutions to plastic pollution at Algalita’s POPS (Plastic Ocean Pollution Solutions) International Youth Summit.
POPS is a three day empowerment experience held at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point, CA that has helped support 181 grassroots projects in 21 countries since its inaugural year in 2011.
Coming from all over the US, Canada and as far as New Zealand and Africa, these committed students already grasp the severity of the ocean plastic crisis, having won places at the Summit based on their innovative ideas on how best to combat plastic pollution in their own communities. The event offers youth – ranging from 11 to 18 years old – a chance to learn about current scientific research and political action on plastic pollution, share their action projects with their peers, and work directly with mentors to help improve their projects’ next steps.
This year’s teams represented both coastal and inland, rural and urban, communities. From providing food banks with reusable bags to instituting reusable utensils in their school cafeteria, these teams are addressing plastic pollution locally and with culturally and regionally specific solutions.
Our local Pender Island team, the Salish Sea Stars, are four environmentally conscious students, Lauren, Taeven, Meredith and Quynn, who proudly represented our own Salish Sea! Here, in their own words, they share their experience with us.
We, the Salish Sea Stars, from Pender Island, BC, participated in the 2019 POPS youth summit on ocean plastic pollution. At the summit we participated in group sharing sessions, listened to speakers, participated in workshops and interactive challenges, and had the opportunity to work with a mentor to improve our project. It was an inspiring experience enhanced by getting the opportunity to meet the teams from all around the world and learn about what they are doing to solve the oceans plastics pollution problem.
To reduce our carbon footprint we decided to travel to California by train. We enjoyed watching birds from the observation car windows, a brief stop in Portland and the thrill of traveling by rail. For two members of the team, it was their first time in the United States of America and the train ride from Oregon to Los Angeles was a great way to experience the country. The train ended up being four hours late, and we had a little adventure getting to our hotel at 3 am involving a lack of cabs, a coyote, and an hour’s walk down a riverside bike trail with the bright moon shining down on us.
It was amazing and a bit scary how the clear and serene looking ocean could have plastics in it we don’t see.
Our time at the summit was packed full of activities. Our favourite workshop was ‘peeling the team onion’, where we learned more about teamwork and how we best work together as a group. We also enjoyed getting to go on the catamaran Alguita with Captain Charles Moore. We spent an hour on the boat, watching pelicans and using the microscopes to look at the samples of plastic that had been trawled up from the water. It was amazing and a bit scary how the clear and serene looking ocean could have plastics in it we don’t see.
The summit featured multiple speakers as well, including Wallace J. Nichols, Stiv Wilson, Captain Moore, and peer advisers with their own stories to tell. It was amazing to hold up the small blue marbles we got and imagine how small the world is, and to hear the people who are doing what they can to take care of it.
We have come back with a multitude of new ideas for our own summit. Though plastic pollution can be overwhelming and seem impossible to overcome, we are inspired to spread awareness through art, positivity, and youth activism. Instead of focusing on speakers and talks, we are planning on having more hands-on workshops and activities, including using music and art. We aim to give participants reachable goals that they can take home to their own communities and islands.
Though plastic pollution can be overwhelming and seem impossible to overcome, we are inspired to spread awareness through art, positivity, and youth activism.
Our long term goal is the elimination of single use plastics on Pender Island, our home, by 2020. We hope the companies and businesses of the island will be helpful and willing to help with this change, and we know our community is willing and will be supportive of this shift towards a plastic pollution free future.
The Salish Sea Stars will hold their own summit on Pender Island May 30 – June 1st.