Vancouver June 29 2019. Squad leaders Ramneek Dhunna and her sister Avneet Dhunna check their schedule for the Ocean Heroes boot camp at UBC, Vancouver June 29 2019
Gerry Kahrmann / Postmedia News
As a boat carrying trash arrived at Deltaport on Saturday, 300 school-aged “ocean heroes” from around the world huddled at UBC to create campaigns to combat ocean plastic pollution.Students from 33 different countries took part in sessions led by environmental groups teaching them how to pitch ideas, create campaigns and interact with media.The timing of the conference, which took place as a load of trash that has been rotting in the Philippines for more than five years returned to Canadian soil, was not lost on organizer Dune Ives. But the executive director of Lonely Whale, a non-profit that works to save oceans, said she was inspired by the optimism and energy of the students attending the second-annual boot camp.“They are learning how to collaborate,” she told Postmedia News. “It’s easy to say, hard to do, but collaboration is going to be the way forward.”The students were taught how to reach and talk to corporations and governments, which along with individuals, will be key in the fight to reducing ocean plastic pollution, she said.Among the students attending the boot camp were Ramneek and Avneet Dhunna. As kids, the twin girls would pull garbage from a creek near their Surrey home.Taught by their parents to “take care of the land that takes care of us,” they joined environmental groups at their school and eventually volunteered for the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup in White Rock and Bear Creek Park. They were encouraged to apply for the boot camp by the volunteer coordinator.Earlier this year, they were selected to be squad leaders and travelled to Seattle to learn how to facilitate discussions and answer questions attendees might have.
Squad leader Avneet Dhunna high fives Gabriella Figuero as they participate in the Ocean Heroes boot camp at UBC in Vancouver on Saturday. Gerry Kahrmann/PNG photo
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Recent high school grads, the girls plan to pursue environmental studies and corporate sustainability at university in the fall.“We shouldn’t be ignorants and say that what we do doesn’t matter,” said Avneet, who is supportive of a single-use plastic ban. “One straw might not seem like much, but it we are all using them, it does accumulate.”Ramneek said she’s learned the importance of collaboration and hopes to “make a bridge” between individuals and corporations and government.“We really need to work together,” she said.On Sunday, the students will pitch their campaign concepts for the expert judges panel, which includes UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador Adrian Grenier, international environmental advocate Laura Turner Seydel, Ocean Wise CEO Lasse Gustavsson and Lego group senior manager of environmental responsibility Andrea du Rietz.
Squad leaders Ramneek Dhunna and her sister Avneet Dhunna attended the Ocean Heroes boot camp at UBC in Vancouver on Saturday. Gerry Kahrmann/PNG photo
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