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Environmental youth summit to empower tomorrow’s leaders

Environment 03 Mar, 2020 Follow News

Dejea Lyons, Lilly Langevine, Ben Somerville, and Steff McDermot

Diedre Edwards and Ben Somerville

Student eco warriors

More than 100 local students from both the public and private school sectors are expected to converge at Cayman International School on 25th and 26th April for a first-of-its-kind conference, called the Youth Summit 2020: A Cleaner Vision for Cayman, during which it is anticipated young people from across the islands will gain a far greater insight into the environmental issues facing Cayman and the world in general, and will find out how to go about mitigating them.

Organised by Plastic Free Cayman, the non-profit organisation dedicated to improving Cayman’s environment, the event will not only educate the young people about global plastic pollution, it will also encourage them to come up with solutions to improve Cayman’s environment and the wider world as well.

All students in the Cayman Islands aged between 10 and 19 are encouraged to apply to attend through the website: https://plasticfreecayman.com/youth-summit-2020/

Attendees can expect two days of educational talks delivered by key global figures from around the world. Students will be divided into environmental squads and rotate through environmental workshops. Squads will then choose a plastic pollution focus prior to the summit and select additional areas of interest such as management, marketing, policy, science or art, as they develop campaigns to battle this environmental crisis. Students will then pitch their ‘plastic pollution solution’ to a panel of experts who will select the top campaigns for recognition, support and funding. Students can expect two days of important networking to help them grow their ideas as they forge bonds with the wider community.

Plastic Free Cayman, led by teachers and students, has already seen notable successes in their environmental campaigns. The organisation, which completely relies on volunteers, has set up monthly cleanups since September 2017. They have also implemented the #345 Pledge across the Cayman Islands, hosted overseas voluntourism groups, partnered with local businesses and Youth Parliament, and motivated more than 2,000 volunteers to remove 23,371lbs of trash from Cayman’s beaches and community. Most recently, their campaigning has helped Government to recognise the need to halt the use of plastic in Cayman, with Environment Minister Dwayne Seymour’s recent announcement that Government is working on a plastic ban to begin in 2021, in line with other Caribbean nations.

Demonstrating the support Plastic Free Cayman already has from Cayman’s younger generation, the organisation hosted two huge clean up events last month, bringing the youth out in full force. Plastic Free Cayman volunteers and Protect Our Future students traveled to Little Cayman and partnered with CCMI and The Full Moon Clean Up to survey and sweep three major locations: Charles Bright, Owen Island and Spot Bay. Over two days, more than 30 volunteers and over 900 pounds of trash were removed, the organisation advised. On Grand Cayman, Plastic Free Cayman and Protect Our Future cleaned up West Bay Public beach, that had been suffering from the effects of substantial littering. Eighty-five volunteers removed over 650 pounds of local litter, consisting of thousands of cigarette butts and beer bottles.

Young people involved in the clean ups gave their opinion of the situation. Lilly Langevin, 18, of Protect Our Future, said that it was truly disappointing to see all three sister islands being affected by plastic pollution.

“As soon as we stepped foot onto the beach, there were miles and miles of never-ending bottles and micro plastics,” she said. “Living on an island with minimal recycling facilities, it's important for us all to be cognisant of the amount of waste we are producing everyday simply by refusing, reducing, and reusing!”

Dejea Lyons, 16, also of Protect Our Future, said that the clean ups were both “disheartening and fulfilling”

“There was so much plastic and Styrofoam. Honestly, plastic policy in the Cayman Islands has to be enforced or else the issues at hand will progressively get worse. The youth wants change and we want it now,” Dejea said.

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