With the busiest part behind us, the delegation and I were ready for the third and final day. All of us were exhausted by this point, but we woke up early, got dressed in the blue Sea Youth Rise Up t-shirts we were given, and headed out for the day anyway. Our first destination was the Luna Grill and Diner, where we were able to have our second sit-down meal of the trip. Of course, with the meal came the straw challenge, and this time I, as well as another delegate named Annie, volunteered to talk with the manager. While the manager herself wasn’t there at the time, we were able to talk with the woman underneath her, and she agreed to discuss the restaurant's straw policy further with the actual manager. Success!
The Ocean Plastics Lab
And with that, our day began. After finishing breakfast, we walked to the Ocean Plastics Lab, situated on the green between the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. There, we were met by Dr. Julia Scnetzer, one of the coordinators of the lab. She was kind enough to give us a tour of the exhibits, as well as provide some insight into how it was created. The Lab itself was incredible, showcasing a variety of different interactive areas where visitors can learn more about the plastic that enters our ocean. If you'd like to learn more about the travelling exhibit, you can click here.
Heading Out to March: The Blue Marble Project
After the tour, we headed back out to the green by the Washington Monument, which served as a gathering place prior to the march as well as a rallying point afterwards. The group and I introduced ourselves to many of the people there, as well as passed around some stickers and, of course, took a whole bunch of pictures. Chief among the people we met was Wallace J. Nichols, creator of the Blue Marble Project
For those of you who haven’t heard of the Blue Marble Project before, it’s a movement aimed at increasing awareness about the importance of our oceans through the passing of small, blue marbles. If you hold the marble up in front of your face, it looks like what the Earth would from space when seen from one million miles away. It’s meant to showcase the fact that not only are the oceans part of our Earth, they ARE our Earth. If we don’t take care of, clean, and respect them the way we should, then the ENTIRE Earth will suffer. These marbles are meant to be passed around from person to person, gathering each individuals’s unique energy, and inspiring people to take action for our oceans. I was lucky enough to get three of them, and will be passing them on soon. You can support the organization's Patreon and order your own marbles by clicking here.
After gathering, the participants, as well as the SYRUp delegation and I, began the first ever March for Our Oceans. We walked around the area chanting, waving our signs, and encouraging others to join in. If I had to guess, I’d say there were almost a thousand people in attendance at that march, and thousands more marching around the world. It really was an incredible experience, with so many like-minded people coming together in support of our oceans. I even got to talk to and meet Paul Watson, a long time hero of mine who founded the Sea Shepherds, a group that has been protecting whales from Japanese whaling vessels for years now.
With the march finished, the participants gathered once more at the meeting point, and the delegation and I waited for our turn to speak. I, as well as another delegate named Madison, had the opportunity to be interviewed by HispanTV, a Hispanic news network covering the event. With them, we discussed the event as a whole, as well as why young people like us should be further involved in issues of conservation. Afterwards, the delegation and I got a brief chance to rest backstage, but not soon after we were called up to speak. We each introduced ourselves, gave a reason as to why young people should be further involved in conservation, and ended our time with a chant.
If you’d like to see the full video of the event, you can click here.
And, really, that was it. That final rallying cry marked the end of the Sea Youth Rise Up trip. We were originally planning to stay for the rest of the rally, but unfortunately the second half of it was cancelled due to lightning strikes in the area. We ate a quick lunch, no time for the straw challenge, took a few final pictures, said our goodbyes, and then all headed out to our respective transports home. An abrupt ending for sure, but not necessarily a sad one.
So, I arrived at the airport, boarded the plane, and took off for home. I had a lot of time to think flying back, and I couldn’t help but really reflect about what I had just done. We talked with senate staffers, marched, and did all sorts of things I never imagined myself doing. I messed up in a few places (none of which were talked about in these posts) but I had improved upon what I was most lacking: personal connections. Throughout the trip, we talked to heads of organizations, activists, scientists, all incredible people doing incredible work. Even though they might live far away, they were fighting for the same things we are: a healthier planet, and a healthier home. Who knew that so many people could care so much?
And on top of that, I met quite possibly the most driven, inspirational, hard-working group of young adults I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. They all came from backgrounds of astounding work, including both research and activism, and even though I felt a little bit out of my league in that regard, we were still able to generate some worthwhile change. I made new contacts, new acquaintances, but most importantly, new friends, and ones that continue to fight for the same things I do. It was a quick trip, yes, but one that allowed the delegates and I to put ourselves out there, to get involved with our community, to generate tangible change, and really make a difference that we could feel proud to have been a part of. It was an experience that pushed me out of my comfort zone, allowed me to do things I never would have thought possible for myself, and it’s one that I'll remember for the rest of my life. Thank you so much to all those who helped make this trip a reality.
All credit for (most) of the images used in this post go to Dupont Studios (thanks George!)
Paper Straws: https://shopsweetsandtreats.com/paper-straws
Blue Marbles Held Up to Sky: http://naturejournals.blogspot.com/2012/09/blue-marble-project.html