When our Leg 3 Round the World crew members visited Antigua in November 2019, they were excited to have the opportunity to meet the students at Cobbs Cross Primary School.
An educated audience
Living in an island nation, plastic pollution is a topic that the students are already knowledgeable about. It was great to be able to build on this by sharing what the crew had uncovered in their research and ideas that could be immediately implemented to reduce plastic pollution in their local environment.
Clinical Psychotherapist and crew member Kirsten Antoncich says: “I was humbled to hear just how aware these young people were. We heard from pupils who did their own mini beach clean ups, who carried metal straws and who understood the threats to their ocean. It’s so inspiring and hope giving – when a problem feels so large – to meet children who have grown up knowing the problem and are already solutions focused.”
Antigua banned single-use plastic bags in 2016, so it is an established part of the island way of life. A factor in the early adoption of these bans is the reliance of Antigua on their beautiful beaches for tourism income.
“One of highlights for me was when one of the older girls told Kristen and I that she wanted to do an eXXpedition mission with us,” says educator, entrepreneur and crew member Lindsey Turnbull, “but only if all 10 of us were on board! She showed us her metal, reusable straws and we talked about marine biology. I work with girls that age at home so it was a special moment for me.”
A musical connection
Each crew brings their own personality to the onshore outreach and the leg 3 crew were no exception. As well as their presentation, they included an interactive musical element which they enjoyed as much as the children did!
Lindsey says, “We made a version of ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ about having a clean beach and sang it with the kids. Steph (Stephanie Weel) spearheaded that, and everyone was involved. It was a bit like being in the Partridge Family, I think!”
Lessons in communicating with young people around the world
There can be an assumption that there is a lack of knowledge when talking about the plastic problem, but Cobb Cross is just one example of how the base-level knowledge about plastics is changing – especially amongst young people. Kirsten says, “I think children are already very aware and it is for us to build upon that foundation, harness their motivation and show them that they can make a difference and be part of the solution.”
“I already work with Generation Z and I learn more from them usually!” says Lindsey, “When sharing, I think the information can be presented honestly: there is a lot of plastic in the ocean, it gets into the food chain and it can hurt us and other animals. Children are smart and creative, they’re full of ideas about how to solve the issue. We don’t need to scare them, we can equip them with the information they need to make smart choices.”
And, of course, it’s not just about the kids
It has become increasingly popular to talk about how the next generation will be taking up the battle of creating a new, more sustainable world. But they cannot and should not be doing it alone.
Lindsey says: “The bigger challenge for me is convincing my fellow adults that we can make a difference. For many people my age and older, it seems like fighting an uphill battle we’ll never win because this is just ‘how things are done’. It’s difficult to imagine a world where we are not up to our eyeballs in plastic.
“It’s a multipronged approach: encourage all cities to adopt recycling programs, create domestic uses for recycled plastic, and stop new plastic from entering the waste stream. This change HAS to include these big corporations as well as individuals, because 1. Individuals can only make choices from what they’re given, and MOST of the choices include single use plastic and 2. Corporations are producing the plastic products and waste.”