From Issue 1
“I am here today to sell you the perfect world. A world in which we can all breathe pure air, in which we have clean oceans, roads, and cities; where governments, companies and people are fighting plastic pollution and climate change, working together towards a better and brighter future.”
With these words I spoke under the gaze of businessmen, scientists, and dedicated activists from all over the world, at the final ceremony of Ocean Heroes Bootcamp 2019. As soon as I concluded my speech there was a single thought on my mind: “There’s no way out: plastic pollution, I’m coming for you.”
For me, the journey to becoming an Ocean Hero started in the summer of 2011, when a younger version of myself encountered his first big challenge: a turkey-catching competition!
Catching turkeys is a traditional activity of Oaxaca, the state in Mexico where my family is from, that goes back hundreds of years. Kids are required to chase a certain number of turkeys and guinea hens that are covered in mud and then released in a huge garden full of obstacles, testing all the participants’ speed and endurance. There are some prizes and then after the game the animals are released back into the prairie.
Even though I was the youngest, smallest and less-experienced child on that field, I was so excited to participate. I spent hours chasing those elusive birds, losing them to bigger and more experienced kids; I refused to give up. I knew it deep in my soul: the next turkey would be mine. I was terrified, but I embraced that fear and grabbed it by the legs… literally!
I could see the surprise in my family’s eyes. For them I had just done something unbelievable.
That’s the day when my life’s journey of “catching turkeys” began.
I returned to school triumphantly, eager to test my new tenacity, and found the perfect opportunity at the annual declamation contest, where I overcame the second big turkey in my life: a stage fear so immense it made me sweat and stare into the ceiling until it was over.
I prepared myself with diligence, and with the help of my mom, who has also been my mentor, my self-confidence and communication skills improved. When the day of the contest arrived, I was truly amazed by the look in everyone’s eyes; it was the same look my family had on that summer day in Oaxaca.
From that moment on, I was constantly chosen to represent my school in oratory, declamation, and debate competitions, where I achieved national success and gained recognition as a skilled orator. What once was my biggest fear became my greatest passion.
Soon my parents’ and teachers’ cheers turned into cheers from thousands, as I achieved many new goals: speaking in front of great audiences, proposing solutions for climate change, and inspiring people to take action in favor of justice and environmental conservation.
When I found the application for Ocean Heroes Bootcamp (OHBC) it was like a dream come true: coming together with like-minded young people from all over the world, collaborating for ocean conservation and against plastic pollution; learning how to create campaigns, build awareness and inspire more people to live a “zero waste” life. It was just what I was looking for and still it was beyond my imagination. I didn’t know it would change my life forever.
After OHBC I began to think about all the things I could do to fight plastic pollution in my hometown. Soon, I had created awareness campaigns with my friends, convinced my principal to progressively ban single use plastics from school facilities, and focused my senior research project on the development of Eco-Brooms made from recycled plastic bottles.
At my mom’s academy I had the opportunity to organize recycling activities with kids, give lectures to adults, and motivate teenagers to care more about environmental justice. It was here, realizing the enormous potential of young people, discovering their creativity and interest in environmental conservation, that I decided to create Green Speaking, my non-profit organization.
Using a combination of science and impactful communication, Green Speaking gives children and youth the tools and the confidence necessary to become advocates for earth’s well-being, so they can use their talents and acquired knowledge in favor of our planet. Working to fight plastic pollution, climate change, and in favor of environmental justice, as of May 2021 we have active campaigns across South America, Kenya, New Delhi, the US, Canada, and Europe.
Since attending OHBC 2019 I’ve used my voice to shape the change I wish to see in the world. Whether it is talking to 50 people from Nigeria on a Zoom call; 300 kids during a lecture; 10,000 people through social media; 100,000 listeners during a radio interview, or simply my friends during a social gathering, my vocation is inspiring people to become the best versions of themselves so that we may all contribute to the positive development of society.
That was my duty while participating at the Conrad Challenge alongside four other amazing Ocean Heroes, creating a tracking system for ghost nets and derelict fishing gear — a huge problem within plastic pollution.
It was also my motto while representing Mexico at the Global Youth Climate Challenges, hosted by the Republic of Korea’s National Council on Climate and Air Quality; and it will continue to be my inspiration this year, when I attend South Korea in person to participate at the GYCC 2021, being part of the Marine Debris Team to create an ocean conservation plan that will go directly to the P4G leaders.
When I reflect on my path and remember that first real turkey I caught at the age of six, I can’t help but think our meeting was not a coincidence. For me, that traditional activity of Oaxaca’s culture became a precious life-lesson and the first step in my life-undertaking. The courage and bravery that emerged from that adventure have stuck with me ever since, helping me accomplish my goals, and helping others accomplish theirs.
Now, if you think that plastic pollution is a giant “turkey” that seems just impossible to catch, close your eyes and remember you’re not alone:
You have an experienced “turkey catcher” right here, ready to help you.