The first-ever Ocean Heroes Bootcamp, hosted both virtually via Ocean Wise and at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans June 2 to 4, is bringing together nearly 1,000 youths ages 11 to 18 to collaborate with each other and to develop ideas for reducing plastic pollution in their communities.
The bootcamp, which is supported by 10 environmental organizations that have committed to reducing plastic, are challenging youths to come up with effective and efficient solutions for the reduction of plastic straws, which pollute the world’s waters and harm marine life.
“We are asking the youths to focus on straws for their campaigns because they are winnable, and we want the kids to have success,” says Dune Ives, executive director of Lonely Whale. “The youths will be led by leaders who have experience working with campaigns focused on the reduction of straws. In coming years, we may have the youths focus on plastic bags, single-use utensils, etc., but this year is really all about straws, which ties in nicely with our flagship campaign Stop Sucking.”
During the bootcamp, the participants will have the chance to meet with Nickelodeon actor Aidan Gallagher, the youngest ever UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador for North America; learn the tools needed to build a successful impact campaign to rid of single-use plastics in their own communities; and join forces with leading youth environmental activists to create their unique campaign concepts. On June 4, some participants will pitch their campaigns to actor, UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador and Lonely Whale Co-Founder, Adrian Grenier, and receive direct feedback from him.
“Our oceans supply up to 70 percent of Earth's oxygen. If they die, so does everything and everyone that needs oxygen,” said Aidan Gallagher, environmentalist and actor, in a statement. “Protecting our oceans' health should be our top priority. I believe we can create a generation of like-minded advocates to conserve marine life and Ocean Heroes Bootcamp is doing just that.”
Ocean Wise is making it possible for youth activists who cannot attend the in-person Ocean Heroes Bootcamp program in New Orleans to participate virtually through their customized sleepover program taking place in areas like Vancouver, Canada; Nairobi, Kenya; India; and more. Youth participants worldwide will be taught the same material that’s being shared in New Orleans and connect with each other by live video conferencing, providing an opportunity for youths to learn from each other globally.
“The youths will also have the opportunity to be connected via the Planet Heroes platform, where they can share lessons learned, cheerlead each other and express challenges they may be having so that others can provide advice on how to overcome those challenges,” says Ives. “All of the participants will walk away with a campaign that they can implement. Some will be able to implement their campaigns on day one, while others may need more time and support to get their campaigns off the ground.”
Immediately following the bootcamp, the UN Environment will host an event in celebration of World Environment Day on June 5 in New Orleans to promote global awareness and action for the environment. Mayors from along the Mississippi River, state legislators, Adrian Grenier, private sector leaders and other organizations will present their commitments to tackle marine litter. A select group of Ocean Heroes Bootcamp participants will share their campaigns virtually to the Canadian government to encourage world leaders to join them in the fight against plastic pollution. UN Environment will then lead an urban cleanup for all event participants using the innovative Litterati app to track the plastic waste that gets collected.
“The plastic pollution crisis is one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time,” said Barbara Hendrie, director of UN Environment for North America, in a statement. “We’re proud to support Ocean Heroes Bootcamp to inform our youth activists about how they can create change in their communities, starting with the elimination of single-use plastics.”
Statistics show that there will be more plastic in the ocean than there are fish, by weight, by 2050. In New Orleans’ own backyard, the Gulf of Mexico is loaded with one of the world’s highest concentrations of plastic due to fibers pouring in from the Mississippi River, making it relevant for Ocean Heroes Bootcamp to take place in the city.
“At a time when our ocean’s health is in jeopardy, it’s critical we empower the next generation of activists to take a stand and leverage their authority to make a difference in their communities,” said Ives in a statement. “We’re thrilled to be working alongside such influential organizations as we build off of the successful campaigns led by each of our individual teams to expand our reach globally and drive systemic and persistent change.”