The tide is turning: Paige’s visit to the International Marine Conference

22 year old Paige Bentley from the Our Wild Coast project in North Wales travelled to Glasgow last month to attend the Scotland International Marine Conference and British-Irish Council Marine Litter Symposium. Here’s what she learnt.
The Scotland International Marine Conference was held at Strathclyde University and was focused on national and international actions to protect the marine environment. This is done through identifying new threats and finding solutions to reverse the current damage. After a five hour train journey from Wales to Scotland, we perused the displays, learning about projects that reduce marine pollution and increase awareness of marine ecosystems. These projects included; The Cotton Bud Project, The Great Nurdle Hunt, Scrapbook and SeaSearch.
When I’m at Our Wild Coast, I spend a lot of time clearing beach litter and assisting with family activities focusing on marine conservation. This conference was the perfect opportunity to delve deeper into these issues and learn what is being done at a political level to tackle such a vast problem. We attended the ‘promoting behaviour change’ session, which emphasised consumer choices drive manufacturing and ultimately, pollution. Encouragingly we learnt about #WildBottleSighting, Upstream Battle and LiveHereLoveHere, all of which are aiming to sway social norms towards sustainable lifestyles. Each of these projects is pushing the environmental agenda and using emotion to drive the public to change.
In the afternoon the session focused on under 13s and we brainstormed ways to normalise environmentalism. We were inspired to hear 10 year old Lilly speak about her campaign, ‘Lilly’s Plastic Pickup and how she is calling young people to challenge their parents, schools and Government to act faster. After this we had a Q&A session which touched on many issues including; producer-responsibility, future-proofing innovation and emotional targeting. There were so many new viewpoints and opinions that I hadn’t heard before, so it really was a feast for thought! It made me even more determined to drive for a new system and meaningful change.
In the evening we attended the Ministerial Dinner at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery. It was the perfect opportunity to get to know other young representatives and swap advice on making our voices heard amongst the roar of politics. The venue was beautiful and I loved the natural history displays. Dippy the Dino was a particular highlight!
Next, we headed to the British-Irish Council Marine Litter Symposium. The Governments of Scotland, Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man were all in attendance. We were very fortunate as the discussions are usually done behind closed doors, but this year an audience was permitted! The focus of the event was fishing gear, pre-production plastic pellet loss and education. We attended the breakout session on education. As North Wales Wildlife Trust, we strive to promote behavioural change and improve the planet, so this fit the bill nicely! It was a very pro-active session, focused on solutions rather than simply dwelling on the problems. All the ideas and suggestions were notes and put to the Government to begin the process of expanding environmental knowledge and awareness.  Our ideas were:
  • support projects and young activists with correct materials
  • environmental modules for professional fisheries training
  • incorporate environmental awareness into current school modules
  • incorporate separate projects under a bigger blanket scheme
We both put forward our suggestions, (although it took me 20 minutes of adrenaline and nerves before having the confidence to speak!). Who knows, in a small way, maybe we helped to inform policy change.
Going to Scotland was an opportunity like no-other! I will certainly be using everything I learnt to add to my fuel and fight for change. I’m more eager than ever to help with this battle and it seems that I’m not the only one feeling this way. The tide is turning!

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