Eco-pro­tec­tion lessons from a 16-year-old

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY ILIAS BELLOS

How can a Greek bor­der is­land whose econ­omy re­lies heav­ily on fish­ing con­tinue to de­pend on the sea for its sur­vival with­out de­plet­ing its re­sources? And how much do the pupils at a se­nior high school on the tiny east­ern Aegean is­land of Fournoi, whose par­ents still prac­tice dy­na­mite fish­ing, know about sus­tain­able liv­ing?

The good news is their knowl­edge does not dis­ap­point. And, in­ter­est­ingly, most of it comes from an ini­tia­tive or­ga­nized by a group of pupils in Athens who visit the is­land ev­ery year with the aim of re­mind­ing lo­cals that they are not alone out there. So again last month a small group of teenagers from Athens made the trip across the Aegean to meet with their friends on Fournoi.

The project was led by 16-year-old Yian­nis Dalak­ouras. To­gether with an­other two of his class­mates in the In­ter­na­tional Bac­calau­re­ate pro­gram at Psy­chico Col­lege in Athens, he trav­eled to the re­mote is­land in a bid to raise aware­ness, to clean up beaches, and pro­mote sus­tain­able ways of liv­ing on Fournoi.

The group spent an en­tire morn­ing clean­ing the largest beach on the is­land, to­gether with lo­cal pupils. They also met with par­ents who came to sup­port the ef­forts of their chil­dren.

Af­ter that, the Athens pupils in­vited lo­cals of all ages to the lo­cal school to talk about sus­tain­able fish­ing.

“All the chil­dren showed up, even the youngest. But their par­ents, mostly fish­er­men, didn’t,” Yian­nis said. “When we asked them why they didn’t come, the kids told us it would be like try­ing to per­suade a wolf not to eat sheep.”

The is­land chil­dren lis­tened care­fully as the vis­i­tors de­scribed sus­tain­able fish­ing as the art of pre­serv­ing your in­come from the sea with­out de­stroy­ing the en­vi­ron­ment. They seemed to ap­pre­ci­ate that the dis­cus­sion was, in fact, about their fu­ture. The in­for­ma­tion that 65 per­cent of the fish stock in the coun­try’s seas is al­ready de­pleted shocked them.

Yian­nis and his class­mate Me­taxia Boudouraki also asked peo­ple on Fournoi if they un­der­stood the ef­fects of over­fish­ing and il­le­gal fish­ing. Al­though peo­ple were aware of the prob­lem that has not been ad­e­quately ad­dressed by the author­i­ties, it took a cam­paign by young Athe­ni­ans, who spoke the lan­guage of their peers, to mo­bi­lize the younger gen­er­a­tion on the is­land.

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