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If there was one issue that got more attention than others during this week's United Nations session, it was climate change. Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old environmental activist, gave an impassioned speech to world leaders Monday after worldwide protests demanding protection of the planet for future generations. Then, on Wednesday, Parley for the Oceans revealed what they believe could be a major step in making a global change.
Cyrill Gutsch, founder of Parley for the Oceans, announced the Future Island Nation Program at the United Nations detailing a global initiative that will drive change by establishing a proof of concept for new economies where toxic and harmful materials and business practices are no longer acceptable and can be beneficial for economies.
"In the past, we've successfully collaborated with brands like Adidas and American Express," Gutsch told Departures. "But we felt that we should look at [protecting the environment] in a more comprehensive way and that is with governments."
Since larger countries are resistant to change for fear of a dipping economy, according to Gutsch, Parley sought out a smaller nation to implement their AIR Strategy (Avoid, Intercept, Redesign). Through this plan, they hope to demonstrate how small island developing states can become leaders in the fight to end marine plastic pollution and implementing alternative energy sources.
The plan is expected to roll out over 10 years with Immediate steps, including policy change, the expansion of recycling infrastructure, cleanups, and community education initiatives. "The first effect you're going to see is a ban on single-use plastic by 2023," said Gutsch. "Then, we want to find creative ways to drive down fossil fuel consumption."
Using the Maldives as the model, Parley is calling for a "Material Revolution" worldwide asking creators and scientists to find ways to replace all harmful materials and products within the next seven years. Plus, they want to prove how a problem can turn into an economic opportunity.
"It's simply not acceptable anymore to design products, create products, and distribute the products that are toxic for the environment," said Gutsch. "Companies are resistant to change for fear; it will affect their bottom line, and they'll have to admit they made mistakes in the past. But that's a big misconception. I believe that the only true reaction if you're smart, is to move forward, adjust, learn, and adopt new practices. People will celebrate and reward innovation in return."