The Future of our Oceans Story: Panel
By Ana Richie
It’s not everyday one gets to be in the presence of a 25 year old rockstar. Well, maybe not a rock star but a champion of the oceans and Glamour magazine’s 2016 college woman of the year. Daniela Fernandez is the founder of Sustainable Ocean Alliance (SOA) while in college and just under 5 years, it has become the world's largest coalition of young people who strive to protect the ocean and create dialogue as well as action when it comes to preserving the planet.
As I listened to this passionate and inspiring woman speak about the work her organization is currently doing, I resonated with all of her key talking points in regards to how connected we are with the ocean. Some live in coastal cities, while some enjoy vacations at the beach or rely on the ocean as their main food source. Thus, the health of the earth's oceans directly impacts the lives of everyone. Fernandez told the large crowd at SXSW that, “more than half of the oxygen we breathe comes from the ocean.” Thus, the fight for clean oceans is literally life or death. In fact by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than wildlife. Let that sink in. In addition, the plastic that fish consume ends up on our plate and then travels into our bloodstream.
A red flag may have gone up while reading this, but Fernandez reassured the crowd present that there is work that can be done to prevent further damage to our ecosystems. Daniela and her team currently emphasize the importance of including young people in the dialogue surrounding innovative ways to eliminate single use plastics to prevent them from infiltrating our ocean waters. Furthermore, she explained that governments across the globe should be investing in young social entrepreneurs who are the key to making our future brighter and greener. Daniela gave an example of a young social entrepreneur who is using seaweed to create straws as solution to eliminating the 50 billion plastic straws that Americans let end up in the ocean.
The possibilities of sustainability in the eyes of Daniela swim deep beyond the depths of our beautiful water. The dialogue she created at SXSW perhaps is a microcosm for the conversations and activism that will continue beyond the doors of the festival in regards to impacting our oceans for a better world.