By 2025, it is estimated there will be one ton of plastic in the ocean for every three tons of fish.
One young Caymanian has joined the ranks of those striving to make Cayman plastic-free.
Twenty-year-old Estefania McDermot from George Town was inspired to target this form of pollution in the Cayman Islands after attending New Orleans’s annual Ocean Heroes Bootcamp in June.
Created by environmental organizations such as Lonely Whale and Captain Planet Foundation, the boot camp is designed to equip young people with the tools and knowledge to take action against single-use plastics.
The Weekender spoke to Estefania about her newfound passion.
What drew you into campaigning?
I was vocal on the issues that bothered me throughout my time in high school; now I am learning how to harness my power and use it correctly. I’m simply a girl who is brave enough to speak about the issues that torment my love, and that love is the ocean. I wouldn’t call myself an activist but rather an aware citizen who investigates [the] facts and [is] not afraid to speak up. I believe real activism and change is through education and uniting the community. Instead of getting mad at people, I try to guide them and open their eyes to the truth.
Why did you gravitate towards the issue of plastic waste in particular?
To be completely honest, I didn’t always care about plastic pollution. I was used to seeing plastic everywhere, and I knew it was bad, but I didn’t realize to what extent – and, boy, it is very bad. After watching the film “Albatross” [Chris Jordan’s 2017 documentary highlighting how much plastic sea birds are ingesting], I was pushed to learn more. I learned about what plastic pollution is and the negative impacts it causes in the world but also here, on the three little rocks and surrounding sea, my home, the Cayman Islands. I knew I had to do something. The longer we ignore it, the more difficult it will be to solve.
What can you tell us about your experience at the Ocean Heroes Bootcamp?
I decided to participate to learn as much as possible, network and make friends with people my age who share the same passion. I was able to attend the conference thanks to Save Cayman, who sponsored my airfare. I got what I wanted and a lot more from the boot camp. Everyone had the same passion and goals. I felt like I was a part of a family, where I was wanted and needed. My biggest takeaways were the campaign strategies, business perspective and the reality of conservation work. Oh, I also found out that I may be a nerd! I do not care about celebrities or famous people but when I met [environmental scientist and author] Dr. Marcus Ericksen I went a bit gaga. I read a lot of his publications and it was just amazing to meet such an intelligent man who has achieved true positive change.
How do you now plan to put these learnings/experiences to use in Cayman?
My plan is to pass on the knowledge to fellow Caymanians. What I learned can be used in a variety of career fields; I want to show my peers that there are plenty of career options in conservation work that pay well. I want the next generation of Caymanians to be aware, educated and compassionate about environmental problems, so when it is our turn to lead the country, the environment is not forgotten. The environment is all that we have here in the Cayman Islands: it secures our tourism, food, and safety. I plan to be a bridge for those who want success for our community, environment and future, and will help in any way that I can.
What can other people do here in Cayman if they care about this cause?
There’s a lot an individual can do to become a part of the solution, such as reading articles or watching YouTube videos on plastic pollution; the first step is education. Refuse single-use plastic straws, bags and cutlery, take part in cleanups such as the monthly Plastic Free Cayman beach cleanups, and support local eco-nonprofits such as Save Cayman and Plastic Free Cayman.
Would you say someone is never too young to make a difference?
To all the young Caymanians out there: I want you to understand that age is just a number, and it doesn’t define your character. If you want people to truly listen to you, make sure what you say is the is truthful and factual. You are the future, you have rights and a voice, never forget that you matter.