environmental awareness

‘Nature has no ego’: Connection is key for these Gen Z ocean advocates

Jee Y. Geronimo

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‘Nature has no ego’: Connection is key for these Gen Z ocean advocates

GEN Z ADVOCATES. Marie Ysabelle Lesava, Vanessa Gabrielle del Rosario, and Mary Jane Lamoste join the Youth Leadership Summit at the Our Ocean Conference in Athens, Greece, on April 15, 2024.

Jee Y. Geronimo/Rappler

The youth can offer 'new understanding of how to communicate and network between themselves,' says Greek Environment and Energy Minister Theodoros Skylakakis

ATHENS, Greece – The world’s oceans may be physically dividing countries and regions, but for Gen Zs advocating for their protection and conservation, the cause is bringing their generation together at a crucial time.

Young leaders gathered at the Our Ocean Conference’s Youth Leadership Summit in Athens, Greece, on Monday, April 15, to strategize on issues that affect oceans, such as pollution reduction and sustainable maritime economy, among others.

For Mary Jane Lamoste, Sustainable Ocean Alliance’s regional representative for Asia, it’s important to create emerging leaders in marine conservation who help each other and not compete against one another.

“Yes, competition is there, but [at] the end of the day, it’s your idea na mananalo naman, di ba (that wins, right)? It’s not you yourself. It’s the idea,” Lamoste told Rappler on the sidelines of the conference.

This culture of community building can be seen in the coastal communities Lamoste works with as founder of the Tagpi-Tagpi circular economy initiative. She helps the women in the communities upcycle old clothes and turn them into plush toys to help augment their households’ income.

“They’re not earning that much. Hindi naman sila sobrang yayaman pero (They’re not that wealthy but) you can see that there’s the community being built and…I think the sense of community, the sense of having a sustainable business that can be replicated,” she added.

Another Filipina youth delegate, Vanessa Gabrielle del Rosario, said the summit was a venue for different voices, including those from the Global South, where solutions are not always black or white.

For instance, during a brainstorming session at the summit, Del Rosario said many suggested to “just ban [single-use] plastic.”

Sabi ko (I said), ‘You know, in our country, most of the people…can only afford the [single-use] plastic.’ They can’t imagine that…. But I was telling them, ‘No, that’s kind of like hard to implement, especially in developing nations.’ So, ‘yung suggestion ko, kailangan talaga (my suggestion, it’s really needed that)…the developed nations have to help the developing nations,” she recalled.

“That’s the push that has to be right now. And we can only do it if everyone will help, works together.”

Del Rosario is the founder of Alon and Araw Club, a nonprofit organization that uses sports to motivate disadvantaged children in coastal communities to help take care of the environment.

Marie Ysabelle Lesava, a diplomacy major from the Lyceum of the Philippines University, said it’s become her mission to use diplomacy in advocating for the world’s oceans.

“I want to continue with negotiations, discussions, because once we stop that, once we stop sharing discussions, negotiations, that means that naka-end na po tayo (we’ve hit a dead end). And that’s really bad. Since these nations, nako-connect na po tayo [ng] oceans eh (oceans connect us). We are bound to share [the ocean], so we must [really] do negotiations,” she said.

With only six years left to achieve the goal of protecting at least 30% of the planet by 2030, young people “are absolutely necessary” in the fight for the world’s oceans and climate, according to Theodoros Skylakakis, the minister of environment and energy of the Hellenic Republic.

“I believe that what they can offer is also new understanding of how to communicate and network between themselves. The biggest power that this new technology is bringing is the power of communication, networking, creating huge numbers, billions of people that move toward the same direction. This is a power unprecedented, and it can be used for the better or for the worse,” Skylakakis said.

Bodhi Patil, a Gen Z ocean climate solutionist, said there is a “crisis of connection” that must be addressed by reconnecting young people and empowering them to be part of the blue economy.

“What gives me hope is not just that we’re all here, it’s the fact that we’re all innovating in our communities,” Patil said, addressing the youth delegates at the summit.

“Nature has no ego, so why should we?” – Rappler.com

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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.