Submitted by leannem on Wed, 06/16/2021 - 16:24
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June 16, 2021 by leannem
General News

16 June 2020, Apia, Samoa“We are part of the solution.”

These words were driven home to the 150 students, teachers, and dignitaries who converged on the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme’s (SPREP) Vailima campus for an Open Day.  The special event celebrated the 28th Anniversary of the signing of the SPREP Treaty, which established the Secretariat as a fully autonomous body in 1993. 

The 2021 SPREP Open Day, was also an opportunity for students from around Samoa and the region to learn about the important work the Secretariat has done and continues to do to protect our unique Pacific environment. 

Speaking at his last SPREP Open Day as Director General, Mr Kosi Latu welcomed the students, teachers and dignitaries from the Diplomatic Corps to the SPREP Campus and acknowledged those who participated virtually in the virtual elements of the Open Day.  

“Today is all about our young people, as they are the future of the Pacific, and also the future of this organisation,” Mr Latu said.

“We wanted to make this Open Day different and special from all the Open Days we have had in the past. This year we decided to extend ourselves virtually, so we also have schools and students from four member countries of SPREP joining us virtually from American Samoa, Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu,” Mr Latu added. 

A virtual station was included as one of the different stations the schools were to go around and visit, which enabled people to interact and engage with the students who were joining the Open Day virtually from around the Pacific. 

For the past 28 years, SPREP has been the leading regional organisation charged with the protection of the Pacific environment, working to realise a resilient Pacific environment which sustains Pacific people’s livelihoods in harmony with their cultures and natural heritage. “Much of the biodiversity we have here in the Pacific is endemic, meaning you cannot find them in any other place around the world. The problem we have right now is we are seeing a lot of those beautiful aspects of our region being destroyed and impacted by the actions of mankind.” 

Mr Latu encouraged the students who were present to pursue a career in Science, as either a scientist, marine biologist, climate change expert or waste management expert, in the hope that they would one day come back to work for the Secretariat, and ensure the ongoing protection of the Pacific environment. 

“This morning is a great opportunity for young people to engage with our staff at our different stations set up by each of our four programmes – Climate Change Resilience, Environmental Monitoring and Governance, Islands and Ocean Ecosystems, and Waste Management and Pollution Control, as well as our Finance, Human Resources, Information Technology and Knowledge Management team,” said Mr Latu.

“Today as you spend time around our SPREP campus with our SPREP team, you will learn about the environmental problems we face, as well as some things that you and I can do, to help solve these problems.”

The students were presented with demonstrations from the different programmes on challenges such as climate change, plastic pollution, invasive species and the impacts of urban developments on the environment, as well as solutions to these. 

The students were determined to play their part in becoming part of the solution to these challenges for a better environment for us all.

Mr  Tobias Mercier from Marist Brothers Primary School, when asked how we can all be part of the solution to our environmental problems, said, “We can be part of the solution by stopping the cutting down of trees, and encourage the planting of more trees instead.” 

Mr  Theodore Paulo, also of Marist Brothers Primary School, learned from Director General Latu earlier that morning that according to a study, scientists have revealed that there will be more plastics than fish in our oceans by 2050 if we do not find a solution to plastic pollution. Mr Paulo, eager to become part of the solution, said, “We need to stop littering. We must stop throwing rubbish on land and also into the ocean.” 

Ms  Catherine Mikaele of Vaimauga College pledged to become part of the solution by encouraging people not to burn plastics, as it releases harmful gases into the atmosphere. 

Director General Kosi Latu and the SPREP staff were optimistic that the future of the Pacific environment will fall into good hands, seeing the enthusiasm the students had to learn about different environmental issues. 

He concluded by offering a pearl of wisdom to the students, teachers and all who were present. 

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”