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Campaigners says island nations must play role in tackling environmental issues

Environmental campaigner: Anna Oposa

Island nations must play a role on the world stage when it comes to the marine environment, according to environmental campaigner Anna Oposa.

Ms Oposa, co-founder of Save Philippine Seas, said that while island nations may not be able to make the same impact on the world stage as larger neighbours, everyone must do what they can when it comes to the environment.

“We are small, yes, but we have to put in the effort,” she said. “I consider myself an optimist – an impatient optimist.

“I think that everyone has a role to play and we can always push and use our momentum to change policies and make the other countries accountable.

“What we do in our ocean, we do to the rest of the oceans.”

Ms Oposa, who is scheduled to speak as part of the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute’s Island SOS event series, said some potential solutions to environmental issues have not been implemented because stakeholders are not willing to sit together at the table to address them.

She said: “There is a lot to tackle and we need to get everyone together to listen to each other.”

Ms Oposa said that she had not initially intended to pursue a career in environmental activism but was well aware of the challenges facing the world’s oceans.

She said: “My dad is an environmental lawyer so I grew up being exposed to environmental issues.

“I always say that I got my environmental education from the dinner table.

“It has always been something that has been a part of me but it’s not something I thought I would pursue as a career.”

Ms Oposa said that as she was preparing to graduate from the University of the Philippines in 2011, stories about the illegal wildlife trade were in the headlines and, because she had a lot of free time, she decided to get involved in environmental advocacy efforts.

She and others launched a social media campaign which evolved into SPS, a non-profit organisation dedicated to marine waste management and environmental education.

One issue SPS has tackled is plastic waste – specifically containers used for health and beauty products like shampoo and body wash.

She said the charity had hoped to encourage refillable bottles for such products, but had received some pushback on the proposal.

The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic caused additional challenges, but she said the charity still intended to move forward with the initiative.

Ms Oposa said the charity had also produced a range of online “tool kits” that cover a variety of environmental threats to help enable the public to better advocate for issues they care about.

The SPS also launched the Shark Shelter Project, which seeks to protect the nation’s thresher and whale shark population.

Ms Oposa said shark conservation in the Philippines is important not only for the environment, but also tourism with visitors travelling for a chance to swim with whale sharks.

Ms Oposa will lead a presentation at BUEI on February 26 at 2pm. Tickets can be purchased at BUEI on Crow Lane, near Hamilton, or by e-mail to info@buei.bm. They can also be bought by calling the BUEI gift shop at 294-0204. Tickets for non-members start at $20 and members can buy tickets for $15.

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Published February 14, 2022 at 7:49 am (Updated February 14, 2022 at 7:39 am)

Campaigners says island nations must play role in tackling environmental issues

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