Young environmentalists awarded for green efforts

| 25/06/2019
CNS Local Life
(L-R) Richard Weber, teacher Bill LaMonte, Mikayla Corin, Olivia Zimmer and Jack Paolini

(CNS Local Life): A group of young people, united in their commitment to protecting and conserving the environment, was one of the winners at the recent Governor’s Conservation Awards, organised by the National Trust for the Cayman Islands. Environmental advocacy group Protect Our Future Cayman, led by four students from Cayman International School (CIS), took home the Lois Blumenthal Youth Conservationist Award.

The four other award winners announced at the 20 June ceremony at Government House were Dwayne Frederick for conservationist of the year, Hurley’s Marketplace (corporate conservation), Anne Stafford (heritage preservation) and Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment (tourism industry conservation).

The CIS students – Richard Weber, Olivia Zimmer, Jack Paolini and Mikayla Corin – began Protect Our Future with a photo campaign to protect environmentally-sensitive land and native species that were most important, and eventually moved up to organising a school “walk out” to publicise their green message to the Cayman Islands government and the community at large.

Claire Hughes, the founder of Plastic Free Cayman where the four young environmentalists first volunteered, noted the significance of the efforts of Protect Our Future. “It’s so important that our young people have a voice when raising awareness about plastic pollution and other environmental issues,” she told CNS. “Conservation efforts are vital, both locally and globally, and this young group is really making an impact.

“Caring about the world around us is part of a normal, healthy upbringing and sadly too many young people are disconnected nowadays. Protect Our Future are making environmentalism cool.”

Paolini, 18, described the recent accolade in a manner that belied his youth. “The award given to us was a milestone. It reminded us the power of collectivism and the ability for youth to spark change on an island we care so deeply about, our home. These problems will not go away if we do not tackle them head on and we are seeing that the demand for a cleaner, sustainable island by ambitious students is truly enabling a paradigm shift in how we view environmentalism and resource stewardship.”

Though Protect Our Future was the lone nominee in its category, the accomplishments and drive of the young people stand on their own.

Bill LaMonte, who teaches the students science at CIS and is the educational coordinator for Plastic Free Cayman, noted how much they have achieved. “I have witnessed each of these four individuals’ environmental journey. They each bring a different set of skills to the table, which allowed them to create a campaign that will have lasting effects for this island.

“Their actions are a result of direct experiences they have encountered with pollution and environmental destruction. Instead of being passive or looking away from their problems, they have inspired a new voice in a conversation that has been dominated by ignorance and greed. Watching them accept their well-deserved award was one of the highlights of my career. I am proud of their authentic message and actions.”

For more information about Protect Our Future go to its Facebook page and website

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Category: Environment, Local News

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  1. Fiona Foster says:

    What beautiful looking young people. We may survive, if they are anything to go by.