The event was held at the N.V. Massaquoi Elementary and Junior High School. It brought together 150 young people from various communities within West Point alongside the Principal, M. Gleh Mason, II with other faculty members.
Madam Lilieth Whyte, Economic Officer of the U.S. Embassy Monrovia delivered an inspirational speech on the topic: “Why are Oceans Important?” She disclosed that oceans are the lifeblood of planet Earth and humankind.
“Oceans flow over nearly three-quarters of our planet and hold 97 percent of the planet’s water. They produce more than half of the oxygen in the atmosphere and absorb the most carbon from it. The ocean also covers 72 percent of the Earth” the U.S. Diplomat indicated.
Madam Whyte warned that the ocean as our planet’s life source system is in danger and it faces major threats ranging from the global climate change to pollution to habitat destruction to invasive species and a dramatic decrease in ocean fish stocks.
“These threats to the ocean are so extensive that more than 40 percent of the ocean have been severely affected and no areas has been left untouched. Consequently, humanity is losing the food, jobs, and critical environmental services that a healthy ocean generates” the U.S. Embassy Monrovia Economic Officer pointed out.
Madam Whyte continues: “No matter how far from the shore you live, oceans still affect your life and the lives of your families and friends, classmates, and colleagues. The air that you breathe, the water you drink, the food you eat, the products that keep you warm, safe, informed, and entertained – all can come from or are transported by the ocean”.
“The sheer number of people who use and depend on the ocean, and sometimes the unwise practices we adopt, have created problems such as over-harvesting of resources, reduction in biodiversity, and degradation of marine habitats and species among others. We risk the very ecosystems on which our survival depends” Madam Whyte noted.
The U.S. Diplomat further call on everyone to become stewards of our oceans, because according to her every breath we take, every drop we drink, we’re connected to the ocean. Our planet depends on the vitality of the ocean to support and sustain it.
She further stated “Just because you are poor does not mean you have to be nasty. You can save the ocean and make West Point one of the cleanest communities in Liberia”.
For his part, Stephen B. Lavalah, founder & executive director of the Youth Exploring Solutions urged young people to become Ocean Champion and avoid dreadful practices such as open defecation, waste dumps, marine pollution, illegal beach sand mining, and inadequate assessment of fish population, unsustainable fishing practices, and uncontrollable discharge of municipal wastewater.
“More than half of our population lives along the coast and their survival is directly linked to the ocean. Over 90 percent of consumable and other goods are transported to Liberia by means of the ocean. From our stable food—rice—to the petroleum product we use to everything that keeps our commerce running are associated with the ocean” Lavalah asserted.
Lavalah revealed that the ocean is the engine of Liberia’s national growth and revenue generation. He called on the Government and people of Liberia to concentrate on the health of our ocean because according to him it has the proclivity to shape our country’s future and even threaten national security.
11-year-old, Freena Koikoi of the 7 grade who did one of the group presentations on behalf of her schoolmates pledged to collect plastics and other garbage from the beaches and coastal areas in West Point.
“We will carry out publicity to inform the people of West Point to stop throwing waste on the beach and in the ocean, end open defecation along the beaches, and organize a local task force to regularly patrol the beaches in West Point and report practices that are destroying the ocean and marine habitats” the young Ocean Champion declared.
The Ocean Engagement Dialogue informs, inspires, and involves young people and other segments of the Liberian population to listen, learn and lead grassroots-based community action initiatives to protecting the ocean. It encompasses a multi-generational, interdisciplinary “Think+Do Tank” that mobilizes and motivates people through crowd-sourcing approaches to derive local solutions in making the ocean cleaner, safer and healthier.
Ocean Engagement Dialogue also incorporates motivational speech on the importance of the ocean, short films depicting the continuous destruction of the ocean, and a crowd sourcing solutions that formulate action plan to address global ocean problems utilizing local solutions.
The Ocean Engagement Dialogue is jointly implemented without funding by Youth Exploring Solutions in collaboration with IDEAS For Us, an Orlando-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and accredited NGO of the United Nations. It is a part of a flagship pilot project named “Liberian Ocean Matters Initiative”. This project hopes to nurture more ocean champions, intensify coastal cleanup, multiple coastal tree planting, and increase ocean advocacy and outreach activities.
Liberian Ocean Matters Initiative was developed and designed as a result of Youth Exploring Solutions participation in the third Our Ocean Conference hosted by the Honorable John Kerry, Secretary of State of the United States of America.
Working together with individuals, families, schools, businesses, religious institutions, elected officials, and other stakeholders, the project will establish Liberia’s first Ocean Action Day.