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Audio: Harnessing the ingenuity and resilience of global youth can help save the Ocean

July 23, 2020

Solving for a clean ocean starts on land

The world has a profound waste problem. As global citizens, we generate at least 3.5 million tons of plastic and other waste in just one day. What’s more, we know that at least 11 million tons of plastic waste leaks into our ocean each year. If we want to stem the tide of waste into the ocean, we need to start on land. 

At McKinsey.org, we are solving for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 14, Life Below Water, by tackling the waste ecosystem and mobilizing every player in the process – from waste pickers to global multinational companies, from village leaders to state governors – to work together to rethink recycling.  And while that’s become more complex during COVID-19, with lockdown orders and economic slowdown buckling supply chains, we see hope in the innovation and ingenuity that today’s youth are using to tackle the challenge of protecting our ocean.

Highlighting young people innovating for change

To highlight the crucial role youth play in protecting our ocean, last week we hosted, Reimagining Ocean Action, in partnership with the United Nations and GreenBiz to showcase youth global innovation. During the event, we welcomed four inspiring young innovators that are developing new solutions to protect our ocean and our planet: Dhia Fani, whose work on Rethinking Recycling focuses on re-engineering local waste systems and training waste workers, Lalita Junggee, whose work focuses on the connection of clean oceans to gender equality; Sarah Travers, who uses GPS and data to track and encourage sustainable fishing; and Chiagozie Udeh, who studies climate’s connection to the Ocean through investments in biodiversity. The innovators were also joined by leading conservation experts, UN Special Envoy for the Ocean Ambassador Peter Thomson and our Global Executive Director of Sustainable Communities, Shannon Bouton. Together, the group shared their hopes for a future clean ocean and how individuals and organizations could continue their commitments during COVID19. 

Throughout the conversation, one thing became abundantly clear: human ingenuity has a way of overcoming obstacles to create new solutions for issues and COVID19 is no different.

“While the way all of us collectively deliver impact has taken a new form over the past few months, I have been inspired by what has emerged— our ingenuity, our resilience and our continued commitment to saving our ocean,” said Shannon Bouton 

All four of the young innovators illustrated Bouton’s point as they shared their continued commitment to find new solutions. We invite you to listen to a recording of the event above and learn about their work through their presentations below. 

Meet the innovators 

Sarah Travers is solving fishing’s sustainability problem.

Sarah Travers is the Conservation and Outreach Manager at ConnectOcean and a United Nations’ Reboot Ocean Winner. According to Ambassador Thomson, sustainable fishing is “the future of food” and Sarah is working to make that possible through an innovative approach using GPS and data to track and encourage sustainable fishing. You can learn more about Sarah’s groundbreaking work here.

Dhia Fani is designing new ways to divert waste from landfills. 

Growing up in Indonesia has shaped Dhia’s view of the global plastic problem, as she noted she sometimes mistakes plastic for jellyfish when swimming in the ocean. Her passion has led her to work with McKinsey.org as a Senior Associate on our Rethinking Recycling program. Dhia recently spoke about her work on the Sustainable Asia podcast with others from the team. You can listen here

Lalita Junggee is reimaging consumer goods so they are more sustainable.

Lalita is the Founder of Eco Hustle and is one of the Obama Foundation’s Young African Leaders. Lalita’s first sustainable innovation was the creation of Sakili – a line of upcycled bags that uses sustainable printing practices. Her newest project, Recycle Moi, is creating the first natural and biodegradable sanitary pads in Mauritius. She encourages entrepreneurs to explore new ideas, because you never know what will be successful until you try. Learn more about her work through the Obama Young Leaders’ program here

Chiagozie Udeh is making it easier for all of us to support biodiversity. 

Chiagozie was the 2019 Global South Focal Point of YOUNGO, the Youth Constituency to the UNFCCC. He is now focusing his time on a new app, Plant for the Planet. As Chairperson, he is working to expand the reach of the app and inspire others to get involved. As he says, “anybody can plant a tree.” During the event, Ambassador Thomson noted that mangrove trees can store twice as much carbon on a per-area basis as salt marshes. Chia shared that the app will soon allow for individuals to support planting mangroves. Stay tuned and plant a tree here

Ambassador Peter Thomson, also inspired by the youth innovators, called on all the young people on the call to get involved and take a stake in protecting our ocean. 

“Political will builds up from individuals, to families, to communities, to cities, up to the national and global level. But everybody needs to get involved, especially young people, you have more skin in the game than anybody else.”  –  Ambassador Peter Thomson

A special thank you to our innovators, Heather Clancy from GreenBiz for moderating the panel, and Ambassador Peter Thomson. 

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