The Priory Upper School AP Environmental Sciences students took a private tour of Greenpeace USA's "Arctic Sunrise" vessel while it was in port at Brewer's Wharf in Honolulu on October 16.
The 13 students, along with Science and Math Teacher Brian Turano, took the 20-minute walk from campus to the waterfront to board the ship and learn more about its purpose and mission.
Greenpeace is an international organization that uses peaceful protest and creative communication to bring awareness and promote solutions to environmental issues facing the world. The students learned about life on a ship for a three-month stint, the history of the vessel, and Greenpeace's current environmental challenges.
The students were led by Greenpeace Tour Guide and Activist Gabrielle Leyden. Oceans Campaigner Kate Melges and Global Communication and Mobilization Coordinator Myriam Fallon also shared information and answered questions from the students.
Greenpeace crew members shared about the organization's current campaign to raise awareness of the damage single-use plastic is doing to the ocean and environment. The vessel recently visited the Great Pacific garbage patch and returned with examples of debris found deep beneath the water.
The Priory students learned that recycling is not enough and that 90 percent of plastic is not recycled. They also learned that many large corporations – including Kao and Coca-Cola – were among the top offenders in contributing to the current plastic crisis in the world's oceans.
The students watched video clips highlighting the issue, which the organization uses to raise awareness and mobilize citizens in the places it visits.
Greenpeace's Oceans Campaign Director John Hocevar shared more about Greenpeace's current effort is to raise awareness about single-use plastics. He said that the organization is asking people to take action and demand that companies impose regulations, such as ceasing plastic production and investing a portion of profits into coming up with solutions to create alternative delivery methods for their products.
Hocevar said that the organization has already mobilized 2 million people worldwide to stand against large corporations that are mass producing single-use plastics.
"That's what we are asking people to do – to imagine a world without plastic," he said. Hocevar acknowledged that this is no easy endeavor. "Some of the companies and politicians we talk to don't have an imagination to think about what that looks like," he said.
The students were fortunate to have the private tour and learn from the vessel's staff while Artic Sunrise is in Honolulu for two weeks. Turano learned of the opportunity when St. Andrew's Schools Director of Educational Programs, Sophie Halliday, sent an email to all staff about Greenpeace's ocean plastic awareness lectures. The announcement mentioned private group tours and he immediately responded.
"I pounced on the opportunity to get a tour for my class and I sent in a request to Greenpeace," he said. "Luckily, Kate responded that they could accommodate our day and time."
Turano says it's his hope that his students now understand that we need to change the way we use and dispose of plastics despite living in a culture that favors convenience over responsible stewardship of natural resources.