Teenage conservationist hopes to make a sea change

Issue: Volume 97, Number 14

Posted: 9 August 2018
Reference #: 1H9jvU

Following his winning essay on minimising plastic use, a Wellington student recently attended an international conservation conference in the Seychelles.

Jack Tetley has grown up around the ocean – he caught his first fish on his fourth birthday, had a party for his sixth at the Island Bay Marine Education Centre, and began volunteering there when he was 12.

Now 13, the Year 9 St Bernard’s College student has had the opportunity to share his love of the sea with people around the world. Jack recently attended the Trust for Sustainable Living 2018 International Schools Essay Competition and Debate in the Seychelles, where he worked with a group of international students to discuss whether the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals were achievable by 2030 and how to stop the negative effects of water traffic on marine ecology.

Jack’s essay discussed the overuse of plastic and the importance of everyday acts to stop single use plastic. His proposition was that small changes, through education, elimination and communal change, could make a big difference.

“If every boy in my school refused two plastic items every day, that would be 1,200 plastic items a day. If you put that together with all the 10 other schools in the Hutt Valley, that’s over 4 million plastic items in a year. It just shows how little changes by each person can make a huge difference,”  he says.

“At the Marine Education Centre, I taught this kid how to hold a starfish properly and then he went and taught all his friends, so now through one act of education there’s a whole group of people that know how to do it properly. If you reflect that back to plastic, I teach one person how they can stop use of plastic bags in everyday, they can teach everyone they know and then we’ve got this consciousness in this group of people that are fighting to help our environment.”

Jack was the only New Zealander to enter and win at the competition and received $8,500 of funding towards his attendance.

Different perspectives

As well as volunteering at the Marine Education Centre, Jack is also interested in other water-related activities such as water polo, snorkelling and diving. His heavy involvement with the ocean is what makes him so passionate about conservation, and what makes him determined to increase awareness about this issue.

“I was lucky enough to go to the Great Barrier Reef and swim these amazing coral reefs and just seeing that humans are doing so much to destroy these places, it makes me so sad. We’ve got these amazing marine environments that not that many people know about and then there’s people that are just throwing trash, so they don’t know how amazing it is but they’re also harming it.”

As well as the chance to meet others with similar interests, Jack’s trip to the Seychelles exposed him to different perspectives on conservation.

“These ideas that I could never think of myself were brought to us and we were also able to talk to people from Nigeria, Romania and countries where maybe the deal isn’t so big. Here in New Zealand we’re quite connected to the water, everywhere you can go you’re near the water, but these countries that aren’t even next to the water, [it was interesting] to hear their take about this problem.”

With the knowledge he has gained, Jack plans to talk to schools about ocean conservation and plastic in our oceans. He also intends to write to companies about how they can change to sustainable practices. He already has his first letter planned:

“We stayed at a hotel in the Seychelles that for all the bar drinks they use plastic straws. I was planning to write to them to see if they could either change to metal straws or no straws at all.”

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 11:13 am, 9 August 2018

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