Why Youth are Critical to Marine Conservation in Limbe
Ewi Lamma, a long-time partner with Creative Action Institute, believes that children hold a key in environmental conservation.
This past month, after coaching with the Creative Action Institute team, Ewi held her own Council of All Beings clinic.
In the Council of All Beings activity, participants choose an animal or habitat to embody. Using the perspective of their selected species, the participants brainstorm the various challenges that they would face because of damage to their habitat. The goal of the activity is to strengthen the connection that the participants feel to the natural world and spread awareness of the effects of climate change on their communities.
The clinic educated a community in Limbe, Cameroon on the urgent need to protect the marine ecosystem. Limbe is located on the southern tip of Cameroon and is a prominent fishing community. The promise of a strong economy brings an influx of immigrants to the area. Yet, as more people pour into the region to take advantage of the rich biodiversity, overfishing and illegal fishing is threatening the delicate balance of the marine ecosystem on which they rely.
As a result of rampant overfishing, both the economy and the once diverse marine ecosystem of Limbe are facing irreversible damage.
In an interview with Ewi, she recalls a jarring experience in which she saw the implications of overfishing and bycatch. “A few weeks ago a whale shark washed up dead on the beach. Aside from the fishing net wrapped around it, the shark appeared perfectly healthy. It was killed by a fisherman, and there was no way to save it.” Ewi continued, “It pains me to say but the whale shark is a rare species. If this continues, generations to come will not be able to see it.”
The Council of All Beings caught Ewi’s attention for this very reason. Ewi holds a special belief in the ability of children to aid in the environmental conservation movement. When asked why she stated plainly: “Children are the leaders of tomorrow. They need to be empowered for tomorrow, today.”
Ewi sees that the young people in her community are the ones who are most connected with nature. Adults are distracted with their jobs and families, but children have the capacity to notice occurrences in nature that might signal environmental distress. It was a group of young people that pointed out to Ewi that there was a sea turtle nest on one of the busiest port beaches. Ewi didn’t even realize that sea turtles were part of the Limbe ecosystem!
Motivated to protect the sea turtles from habitat displacement and inspired by the young people who led her to the nest in the first place, Ewi centered children in her latest skill-building clinic.
In Ewi’s experience, marine conservation has usually centered on educating those who are destroying the habit: participants in the marine economy. But while the adults are working, it is children who are the ones exploring and engaging with nature’s great mysteries. They are the ones forming emotional bonds with the land and Ewi hopes that this empathy towards the land will catalyze them to become protectors of the environment. Ewi hopes to empower Limbe’s youth to connect with nature more deeply by equipping them with the knowledge of the ecosystems. The accessible artistic activities used in the Council of All Beings allowed Ewi to engage both adults and children to do so. Through this educational training, Ewi has brought together a stronger network of activists and bridged the gap between adults and children.