Sophie-Jaya debated with other primary students aged 7 to 11 and won one of three judges’ commendation medals at the event in the first week of July. “We debated about how businesses, scientists, governments and citizens help destroy our oceans and we came up with solutions we thought could make a difference from all sides,” she explained.
Karl Hansen, CEO of Trust for Sustainable Living told Delano that when the essay and debate competitions started in 2011, “the goal was to create a global platform for children and teachers to explore original solutions to some of the greatest challenges facing the world today.”
Having students involve themselves in discussions about sustainability, despite the complicated nature of the topic, is an important step in fostering greater inquiry and passion into the subject. “One of the best ways for young people to learn about ocean conservation and other complex sustainability issues is to just ask them what they think,” says Hansen. “We’re not interested in students regurgitating stock answers to typical exam questions. We’re looking for original ideas about how to save the planet and make society a better place.”
Luxembourg can help
Indeed, Sophie-Jaya has brought forth ideas of her own for saving the planet from right here in Luxembourg. While the issue of ocean conservation may seem like a futile one to address from a landlocked country, Sophie-Jaya believes otherwise. “Luxembourg can help by educating all their citizens that reducing plastic waste is important,” she suggests.
While this may seem obvious, a European Environment Agency report published in 2015 revealed Luxembourg as having one of the highest waste generation levels per capita in Europe. Even though much of this waste is recycled, there is still room for improvement. Plastic waste, no matter where it is generated, continues to be a major threat to marine life according to Unesco.
As August rolls around and many Luxembourgers head to beaches for holidays, Sophie-Jaya also cautioned travelers to stay environmentally conscious while away. “When people go to the ocean, they should keep the beaches clean and stop overfilling bins and remember the ocean belongs to all of us.”
To other like-minded children who wish to play a part in protecting the planet, she has a word of advice. “My advice for other kids is that we are the ones destroying the ocean and it is our responsibility to take care of it. The ocean takes care of us and it is part of our life and we cannot live without its resources.”