Goals achieved, time for next stage to begin

By E. Heinrich-Sanchez

2013 Blue October participants from both the Okinawa NGO Asia-Pacific Environmental Forum and the UNEP Regional Seas Programme’s Northwest Pacific Action Plan (NOWPAP) workshop participants in Onna Village (OIST Lecture Hall). The screen behind reads: “My Island: My Earth” Charter. Wookblock print by Naka Bokunen.

Beaches have opened, school has started and Okinawa is getting ready for Golden Week.  The season for beach parties, outdoor fun, diving and beach cleanups has begun.

From 1992 until 2012, the I Love Okinawa Campaign® of monthly beach cleanups took place every third Sunday of the month (timed after the Welcome Okinawa monthly 22nd NIKO NIKO – Smile-Smile Campaign) from March 5 (Coral Day in Okinawa) to November.

The Japanese fiscal year from April 1st to March 31st had us caught straddling both fiscal years as one ended, we were beginning, and as the new fiscal year started, we were ending the campaign.

Since last year the dates were changed so now the I Love Okinawa Campaign® starts on June 8th, the “World Oceans Day” with activities introduced until November.

This November, we will be submitting the final draft of the “My Island: My Earth” Charter to the closing events of the United Nations Decade for Education on Sustainable Development (ESD) to be held in Nagoya.  The Island Charter is based on the Earth Charter with a focus on sustainable islands.

The Blue October forums and workshops we organized last year, marked 20 years of the campaign.  We are finalizing reporting last year events and will take a break. Million thanks to our part-time staff, sponsors, mentors, friends and especially to the thousands and thousands of volunteers who have made a difference.

This year’s cleanup activity will be focused on two major campaigns:: June-July for OCCN’s MARUGOTO and the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) from September in partnership with Ocean Conservancy.

We encourage everyone to join the Okinawa Clean Coast Network (OCCN) we co-founded with the 11th Division Headquarters of the Japan Coast Guard for the “Island Wide -MARUGOTO (whole) Okinawa Clean Beach Campaign” starting on June 8th (World Oceans Day) and ending with an event on Japan’s Marine Day the third Monday of July.  Details will be up in May for maximum participation by the international community.  Get your group signed up and participate.

The I Love Okinawa Campaign® was started in 1992 by Okinawa International Clean Beach Club™ members who also co-founded OCCN in 2002 and NPO Okinawa O.C.E.A.N. (Ocean Culture & Environment Action Network) in 2003.

The E in O.C.E.A.N. is being changed to EDUCATION with a focus on ESD.

So after all this, are cleanups still necessary?  Yes!  We made a pledge that until we find the solutions to marine litter, we need to guarantee our children right to grow up with clean beaches and healthy oceans.

Our 20-year goals have been achieved which was to expand cleanups and create multi-level partnerships.  As much as possible with limited resources, we worked on educating by promoting local action and regional partnerships. The action of volunteers island wide motivated local municipalities to create the framework for facilitating beach cleanups by providing an organized system of support and accountability.  Coordination, local “volunteer” trash bags and trash pickup has been streamlined in many municipalities.   Now that the cleanup effort has become organized, we will put full focus on the E’s of ESD, which include English and Economy.

The Asia-Pacific region will see major international cleanup campaigns working closer together in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Major cleanups are led by Clean Up the World originated in Australia, the International Coastal Cleanup base in Washington D.C., the “Let’s Do It – World Cleanup started in Estonia and finally, the World Oceans Day June 8th movement.

Now is the time for us to figure out how to fix the problem.  Trash on the beach is not the problem but the symptom of un-sustainable consumption patterns.  We need to work more on prevention and deal with trash and litter “before” it makes it into the ocean.  We need to take the refuse, re-use and re-cycle to a whole different level.

Education is the key and Science will be the vehicle towards a sustainable future.  Good planets are hard to find.  Our children today need to be prepared now for advanced levels of creativity and original thinking.  STEM Education coupled with strong language skills and a focus on local identity will strengthen the trends of positive globalization.  Kids need to have a strong sense of where they stand and who they are.  I would like to add Arts to the STEM for STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math coupled with Music.  English is a given.

Children’s Education is Priority ONE for Okinawa to become a leader in the Asia-Pacific.  Next week, I will introduce Japan’s Vision 2020 Plan and some of the local heroes who are making a difference to make a better world.  Please let me know if JU readers have anyone you feel should be featured.

I am open to having guests columns by anyone who Loves Okinawa!  Blue Peace! http://www.nowpap.org

Presentations from the NOWPAP Workshop (NGO Forum ppt.) are available at http://dinrac.nowpap.org/document-ICC-2013.php

Comments welcome to info@japanupdate.com