6 Young Climate Activists Making Waves, Who Aren’t Called Greta Thunberg

The Independent
May 19, 2021

By Brady Clarke

Hi! My name is Brady Clarke, I am a 22-year-old Marine Biologist/Activist, Conservation Photographer, and the founder of the movement Our Voices on Our Ocean.

Last year, I co-founded the zero waste initiative Drive Away Waste out of pure passion for education outreach and raising awareness about marine plastic pollution. The initiative is still incredibly small, just my co-founder and I, but when we were invited to perform workshops at the Boy Scout World Jamboree, I realized just how powerful voices can be.

During my 11-hour drive down to the event, I came up with the idea to have the young adults write why they care about the ocean with the sole intent to send each and every one to the United States Congress. But I quickly realized I met more people from other countries than the United States.

With this in mind, I changed the idea to be an open letter to the United Nations. I wanted the young adults to understand that everyone has a voice regardless of where they are from and how old they are. I was not much older than most of them at the event, but they were there at our workshops and table listening to every word.

I heard many concerns about the ocean, new ideas towards how to reduce our impacts, and an unending flow of energy. I know this is a cliché, but I honestly feel like they taught me more than I taught them. I learned of the strides that other countries have been making towards, or away, from a more sustainable future. I also learned that living in the United States has not accurately helped me understand the circumstances citizens of these countries deal with. We would make suggestions like “buy a bamboo toothbrush” or “switch from bottle shampoo to bar shampoo” just to be informed that its too expensive, it’s not an option in their country, or that packages often get stolen in transit. The one thing that is never in short supply? Your voice. Feeling like your voice is being heard, however, is the struggle that everyone from our generation experiences.

When I mentioned this idea to a member of the United Nations Environmental Program, I was told that this was inefficient and a waste of time. They instead told me that they had a team research the most effective method of educating and causing change, and handed me a 30-page packet and told me that I should be focusing on my own government officials. In my view, this issue can’t be handled independent of other nations; we are dealing with a global threat with influence from every country. His response only fueled me to push for this further. I’m no stranger to the feeling of being ignored because of my age.

When our time at the Jamboree had concluded, I didn’t anticipate how many letters I would receive and how beautiful they would turn out. Each open letter left a lasting impact on me. The passion, energy, and hope that these young adults conveyed in their open letters deserve to be felt and heard by the world. I decided that this idea should not conclude because the event was over.

There are still plenty of voices to be heard, which lead me to start the “Our Voices on Our Ocean” movement. It’s everyone’s ocean, and we are connected by it regardless of your background. Whether your country is landlocked, an island nation, if you are young or old, the fate of the ocean impacts us all. I Invite you to join your voice with the rest of us and show the world that you are doing your part, and now it’s time for the world leaders to do theirs.

Add Your Voice

This open letter is your opportunity to be heard, so speak your mind! The individuality of this is the most important part, so feel free to write or draw in any language or style you feel best represents you. If you need help starting, you can phrase it “I care about the ocean because…”. Once you’re done please scan, or take a photo, and send it in. if you feel really passionate: make a video, no longer than 30 seconds, to talk about your open letter and thoughts on the ocean. This is your voice, you never know how loud it can be!

More than 125 students from 8 countries and 6 U.S. states gathered in Dana Point, CA, February 22-24, for Algalita’s POPS International Youth Summit. The 3-day empowerment experience held at the Ocean Institute has helped support 181 grassroots projects in 21 countries since its inaugural year in 2011.

This year’s teams represented the U.S., New Zealand, Africa, and Tunisia, in 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.

Experts and workshop leaders included: Dr. Wallace “J” NicholsThe New York Times best selling author, scientist, and ocean conservation enthusiast; Stiv Wilson, Director of Campaigns at The Story of Stuff Project; youth eco-conscious-raising powerhouses from Bahamas Plastic Movement Kristal Ambrose and Will Simmons; Dianna Cohen, CEO of and co-founder of Plastic Pollution Coalition, Jackie Nuñez of The Last Plastic Straw, 5 Gyres Institute, Surfrider Foundation, Bureo; and Algalita’s Captain Charles Moore, who won the Peter Benchley Ocean “Hero of the Seas” Award, and whose best-selling book Plastic Ocean has brought worldwide attention to the phenomenon.

“We believe responsible solutions to plastic pollution are within reach, and we believe youth will accelerate the process,” said Katie Allen, Executive Director of Algalita. “Our team is 100% committed to preparing this new generation to take on the challenges ahead.”

Watch more videos of the Summit here.

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Environmental activist Hannah Testa, age 15, founder of Hannah4Change, partnered with Georgia State Senators for the second annual Plastic Pollution Awareness Day on Feb. 15, 2018. Hannah, a PPC Youth Ambassador, has used her voice to speak up for animals and the environment since kindergarten. 

In preparation for the second annual Plastic Pollution Awareness Day, Hannah worked with Georgia State Senators and environmental advocates Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta) and Renee Unterman (R-Buford) to develop and co-sponsor a resolution which educates Georgians about the growing plastic pollution crisis. The resolution was read on the Senate floor on the morning of Feb. 15, and Hannah delivered an impassioned speech to all 56 senators about the need to continue to work together to solve the planet’s most daunting challenges.

“The average American uses 500 plastic bags each year, and the U.S. uses 500 million plastic straws each day that end up polluting our oceans,” said Hannah, whose goal is to educate her community about how simple changes can greatly reduce the state’s plastic footprint on the earth.

Her call to action is for Georgia residents and businesses to reduce their consumption of single-use plastic products and switch to reusable bags at the grocery store, reusable water bottles, and using paper, glass, or stainless-steel straws at restaurants.

“We are honored to support Hannah as she takes Plastic Pollution Awareness Day and turns it into a call to action,” said PPC co-founder and CEO Dianna Cohen. “Bravo, Hannah!”

Senator Orrock called Hannah an example of a caring citizen taking action. “Our Plastic Pollution Awareness Day is an effort to step up the education of the public and show people how they can make a difference. I want to encourage and support young activists like Hannah who bring their talents and commitment to protect our planet for future generations.”

See also: 14-year-old Hannah Testa Initiates Plastic Pollution Awareness Day

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Over 100 students and teachers from around the world gathered for the Algalita 2017 Plastic Ocean Pollution Solutions International Youth Summit Feb. 10-12 in Dana Point, California. The three-day summit activated youth leaders to launch and lead action-oriented solutions to reduce plastic pollution in their own communities.

Students, who won the opportunity to participate in the summit based on their innovative project submissions, received training in leadership, public speaking, community engagement, art, science, and film-making throughout the weekend.

Speakers included Danni Washington, an ocean activist and founder of The Big Blue and You; Dr. Wallace ‘J’ Nichols, a marine biologist and PPC founding advisor; Kristal Ambrose, founder of Bahamas Plastic Movement, Anna Cummins, co-founder of 5 Gyres, and Hannah Testa, a 14-year-old environmentalist and founder of Plastic Pollution Awareness Day in Georgia, USA.

Students’ project ideas covered many areas of plastic pollution from single-use plastic bags to straws, utensils, water bottles, and more. Projects included: student Abeer from India, who advocates for using reusable bags made of jute instead of plastic; high-schoolers from Santa Fe Springs, California, who are working with the school district’s director of food and services on reducing plastic waste at their school; kids from the Bahamas, who demonstrated how to make reusable bags; kids from Los Angeles and Missouri who created art projects with plastic; and students from Cambodia, who are raising awareness in their schools about plastic pollution suffocating freshwater dolphins, of which only about 100 remain.

A group from Lebanon has started awareness programs and recycling efforts at their elementary schools: “Our Earth has the right to live without pollution,” said Nadine in her presentation, and 16-year-old Ruby from Santa Cruz, California, has started an organization called Trashtastic to help kids make art out of discarded plastic and to “inspire kids to be environmentalists.”

Jenna from Huntington Beach, California, came to the summit as a peer advisor, and left with an idea to change the way people think about plastic straws with a campaign called #SteelMyStraw.

In her speech, 14-year-old Hannah Testa, a PPC Youth Ambassador, talked about teaming up with organizations to take action against plastic pollution. “Don’t wait for everything to be perfect,” she said. “Stay motivated! If we all use our collective voice, we will change the world!”

At the conclusion of the summit, attendees came up with a mission statement: “We are activist ocean-earth protector plastic-free warriors working toward a world free of plastic pollution… We are the unstoppable change. We are heirs to the ocean. We are the solution to plastic pollution.”

Watch students talk about their projects in the videos below.

See more photos on Instagram. 

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