Salut ! Je m’appelle Romario Valentine.
Let’s make a difference

I’m an 11-year-old eco warrior and the author of Protect our Planet – Take action with Romario.

I reside in Durban, a coastal city in KwaZulu Natal province, South Africa. 

Did you know? Durban has sunshine all year round, even in the winter! A popular destination for birders, surfers, and hiking. Abundant nature, wildlife, and aqua beaches. 

However, there is one threat affecting our pristine beaches. PLASTIC!!!

High consumption has led to a dilemma on how to eliminate our dependency on plastic. Plastic is used for everything and anything.  Before I go on, let me tell you how my journey began. 

I’ve always cared for nature and biodiversity. When I was 6, I participated in a school play as an orca. After doing research I discovered the damage pollutants were doing to orcas and other sea creatures. 

My thoughts were. This could possibly lead to their extinction and cause an imbalance in the ocean’s ecosystem. I embarked on a mission to clean the beach at least once a week.  I am currently on 317 beach cleans with a vision to see a cleaner and greener planet. 

On my beach cleans, I primarily find PET plastic bottles including nurdles, plastic containers, plastic bags, kaylite packaging, single use plastic such as straws or lolly pop sticks amongst others. Even though awareness of plastic pollution has increased in years. My overall collection of plastic bottles has skyrocketed. In the beginning I used to collect at least one small bag but in recent times I can fill between two to four large bags. In total I’ve collected at least 3,7 tonnes. These plastic bottles get collected by a company which uses them for recycling into other products. 

I realised for change to happen, I needed to find a way to inform the younger generation on ways to try to become more sustainable. We live in a world where millions of children don’t have access to a clean and safe environment, a lack of internet or education, no access to libraries or opportunities. This challenge led me to create an academic natural science environmental book that would appeal to kids and still be fun. 

Protect our Planet, is an optimistic approach to addressing climate change and other environmental challenges. The book includes crucial topics such as ocean and avian conservation, ewaste, plastic pollution, sustainability, circular economy and much more. It has exciting scientific experiments i.e. water filter etc, eco art activities and guidance on future environmental occupations for the youth.

The book took just over a year to create with many hours of dedication. I had an amazing team behind me, along with my parents, who understood my personality and were extremely supportive of my ideas and visions. 

In my book, there is a spread called POLLUTON SOLUTIONS. It informs the reader on how to use the FIVE Rs – REFUSE, REDUCE, REUSE (or, REPAIR), RECYCLE and ROT including the different types of plastic. 

Some people I have come into contact with, have a perception that plastic bottles get recycled somewhere neither did they know it was produced from extraction of fossil fuels. I don’t think many people realize the magnitude of plastic in the oceans. This showed me there needs to be a more robust educational drive for all ages.

The reality is that only less than 10% is recycled and the rest doesn’t disappear.

 It just breaks down into smaller pieces, known as microplastics. Seabirds and marine animals ingest these tiny bits mistaking it for food. Plastic contamination affects plant life in the oceans and our waterways which affects oxygen supply for biodiversity, in return is hazardous to human health and the environment. Creation of biodegradable products works to an extent, but it still doesn’t deal with the reduction of the single use culture.

Recycling rates have increased but we can’t recycle our way out of this problem. We all need to REDUCE consumption and REUSE including looking at designing products that can be repaired or recycled. 

In 2021, I was fortunate enough to meet a juvenile green sea turtle at a rehabilitation centre in Durban under the supervision of a marine biologist. She was found on the beach with a large woven plastic sack wrapped around her left front flipper. The scientists cut off 65% of her flipper due to dead tissue cells. Her carer informed me sea turtles can swim with 3 flippers and survive in the wild, unfortunately she was too young at the time to be released and would remain at the centre until she was strong enough. At first, I felt saddened because of her injury caused by human beings but after I watched her swim gracefully, acting cheeky and playful. It made me feel jubilant inside knowing she was a fighter and happy to be alive. This gave me hope that I should continue my mission to protect our planet and its precious species. 

I wondered how many children knew that sea turtles keep the oceans clean by eating algae and dead fish. Did they know, majority pollution comes from land or why it is important for us to keep the oceans healthy, or that the oceans provide us with oxygen, food, and sustainable jobs.

I am also Ocean Sole’s youngest ambassador. Have you ever heard of a plastic called EVA? If not, it stands for Ethylene Vinyl Acetate and is derived from crude oil (fossil fuel) which is extracted from the earth. EVA doesn’t biodegrade it just continues to break down into smaller and smaller pieces. Large amounts of EVA products land up in landfills where there is already inadequate capacity and the oceans which affects marine life which consume the micro bits and cause them to suffocate. 

Thanks to upcycling non-profit organisation, Ocean Sole, based in Kenya. They promote sustainability by recycling discarded flip flops found on the beaches to transform them into art sculptors of marine and wildlife animals. These magnificent art pieces are individually hand carved by people from the community. To date they’ve have recycled close to one million flip flops. 

I believe children involved in environmentalism at a young age will help them become better citizens of the earth and leave a legacy for future generations to come. Let’s make a difference together and protect our beautiful planet. 

When we take care of nature, we take care of ourselves. 

Protect Our Planet – Take Action with Romario, ISBN no. 9781775848233 

Twitter @artistromario

COMMENT

M Matthew Carlson

I enjoyed reading this article I have a good feeling that young people are working for the future of the planet

8 months ago

COMMENT


M Michel

Our world needs such a caring generation, the future belongs to them.

8 months ago

COMMENT


A Alice Hooffmans

Well done to this young man

8 months ago

COMMENT


I I believe children

The new generation does not stop. They listen to change the world!

8 months ago

COMMENT


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