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The Mass Media

Don’t just admire the ocean: Learn how to protect it

MassPIRG holds first New England Youth Oceans Summit
MassPIRG members gather on Carson Beach for their campaign to protect Cashes Ledge. Photo submitted by MassPIRG.

The first of its kind in Massachusetts, MassPIRG is holding a free conference centered on ocean conservation and protection here at UMass Boston. As the title suggests—New England Youth Oceans Summit—part of its goal is to bring together young people and provide tools and education to turn their passion into advocacy and action. 

While the event will hold four panels and a keynote speaker, participants have the opportunity to attend different workshops that focus on varying skills, including “Artivism,” which combines art and activism, and “Telling your Ocean Story,” which focuses on digital storytelling and will be taught by UMass Boston Professor Shirley Tang. According to Jadyn Kuah, MassPIRG’s campus organizer, the hope is that the conference is “as interactive as possible” for its attendees. 

Panels will include several topics, such as how to save right whales, putting the planet before plastic, stopping deep sea mining, and the protection of Cashes Ledge.

Part of the inspiration behind the event is MassPIRG’s Protect Our Oceans Campaign, which advocates for the protection of Cashes Ledge, an underwater mountain range 90 miles off the coast of Boston that functions as a biodiversity hotspot. According to Kuah, the protection of this mountain range is vital for species like whales, seabirds and North Atlantic cod—the cod fish having particularly suffered from overfishing. 

This urgency is reflected on the event’s website—www.youthoceansummit.orgwhich states, “With the Gulf of Maine heating up faster than almost any other part of our ocean, now is the time to take action to conserve sensitive habitats, protect whales and other marine mammals and fight plastic pollution.” 

While the conference’s schedule of events covers major problems facing our oceans, Kuah is hopeful that the event will be anything but. 

“We are bombarded constantly with all the doom and gloom that is facing our environment at large,” she said. “Being involved as a student brought about an awareness, and it’s something I’ve wanted to commit my life’s work to.” Kuah believes the conference will help teach young people to “actually do something about [conservation issues], rather than sit in existential crisis.” 

Furthermore, the event is hoping to inspire a youth movement. 

“This is our future; we need to act now and raise awareness,” said Andrew Alswanger, president and event coordinator of UMass Boston’s chapter of MassPIRG. “Our campus is right on the water—it’s a big part of what makes UMB, UMB.” 

Kuah also believes there is a special strength involved in youth advocacy. 

“Youth have such a strong voice in being able to make change happen,” she said. “We see and interact with the ocean every day. We do have the power to do something about it. As a generation, at this point in time, it’s so critically needed to protect all this amazing life.” 

In addition to the keynote speaker, panels and workshops, the conference will function as a networking opportunity to connect attendees with ocean advocates across the region and country. For those interested, an entire session devoted to networking will take place from 3 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. 

Anyone is welcome to attend, not just UMass Boston students, and free lunch is provided. Both Kuah and Alswanger stressed the event will be fun as well as educational, and there will be opportunities to win prizes—including items donated from the outdoors company Patagonia. 

For those interested in attending the conference, which takes place April 7 at University Hall from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., it is highly encouraged to register online beforehand at www.youthoceansummit.org/register. Once registered, travel stipends are available to apply for, which include coverage for expenses like Amtrak tickets, bus costs, gas and parking. 

To stay up to date with MassPIRG and events like the New England Youth Oceans Summit, Alswanger recommends following their Instagram @masspirg_umb.

About the Contributor
Skylar Bowman, Managing Editor