Ram’s ocean ambition

AS a young girl growing up in Pacific Harbour, Reshma Ram was fascinated by the ocean. Little did she know that this preoccupation would one day be her destiny.

The picturesque views of the ocean not only captivated her. It also inspired in her a desire for a career in ocean sustainability. That later led her to pursue studies in environmental science and geoscience.

“Our ocean is our identity, our life,” she said. “Whenever we go to events and people ask us, where are you from? We say Fiji. “Their first reaction is oh Fiji, the ocean, the Pacific. The first thing that comes to their mind is the ocean.”

Ms Ram was one of four representatives chosen from Pacific Island nations to represent the region at the recent Our Ocean Conference’s Youth Leadership Summit in Panama.

“It was an amazing journey…and I got to know many ocean young leaders, 77 of us from all over the world, and only four representing the Pacific – Fiji, PNG, Tuvalu and Palau. Ms Ram got the rare chance to meet ocean leaders from countries like Nepal which land-locked.

“Their countries are surrounded by mountainous terrain and they’ve never seen the ocean in their lives so it’s been amazing to see that people who have never seen the ocean also care about the ocean.”

The youth summit was also an opportunity for Ms Ram to dialogue with youth leaders and get an insight into sustainability and ocean conservation initiatives from around the globe.

“It gave me a glimpse because we in the Pacific are surrounded by the ocean and we have a beautiful and majestic ocean.

“The Pacific Ocean is not just owned by Fiji or any other Pacific Island Country. It’s owned by us all so we need to collaborate to make sure the ocean is sustained in a way that shows we care for our future generations and also for ours. For three days, she got to engage and interact with young leaders from 42 different countries and different professional backgrounds.

“Some of us were from chemical engineering (background), some of us are from sociology or psychology, environment, ocean et cetera so there was a mix.

“What we tried to come up with was nature based solutions from biomimicry. This is about learning from nature to find how to best adapt to the environment and come up with solutions to sustain the ocean and its resources.”

She said at first, she did not have an idea of what biomimicry was. However, they were treated to an intense 13-hour training on the last day where youth leaders were placed in groups and got to discuss and present ideas.

Ms Ram said she and her group proposed a saltwater filtration system which would mimic how mangroves filtered saltwater. This, she said, would help provide access to freshwater in many water-deprived islands.

“The most important thing that I learnt from this conference was collaboration, not just with global leaders but also with communities and vulnerable groups. ”

I think it’s really important that whenever we have such conferences, we also include people who come from affected communities to share their real life experiences. Ms Ram believes it’s too late to blame each other.

“It’s time to act together. We cannot do things alone to change the temperature or sustain the oceans in one day.

“We need everyone to work together. We are all in the Pacific and we share the ocean so it is our shared responsibility.”

Ms Ram is currently doing her postgraduate diploma in Islands and Ocean Stewardship at the University of the South Pacific (USP).

He quest to help save the ocean has just begun!

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