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Born Free's 14-Year-Old Youth Ambassador on How Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference

The photo above shows Born Free's founder, Virginia McKenna, visiting the tragic dolphins of Marineland, Antibes in France. In dolphinariums across the world, it is a common sight. In desolate pools of overly-chlorinated water, enclosed by sparse stretches of concrete and panels of glass (which are populated by dozens of prying faces and pointing fingers). If they are not being forced to perform for the raucous crowds, they will most likely be found incoherently swimming laps of the enclosure.

Dolphins and whales have an intelligence which rivals that of humans. They are also self aware, social and sensitive. So why, when this information is so widely known, are these creatures confined to barren prisms- or prisons, for that matter- purely for the entertainment of a selective few?

Wild dolphins leap into the air with the confidence of royalty, the light fragmented into thousands of diamond drops on their silver skin. They leap with the knowledge that they are free, that they will see the wide expanse of sky briefly and then return to the security of their watery kingdom. You can see the freedom in the way they twist their agile bodies in the air, rippling with elegance like the pleats of a velvet skirt. Yet in captivity, the dolphins appear mottled and melancholy. As said by Huffington Post; ‘it desensitises people to the inherent cruelty of captivity -- for so many captive marine mammals, the world is a tiny enclosure devoid of joy or social connection.’ This is why I strongly believe that the keeping of marine mammals in captivity is inhumane and futile - for us and for them. They need to be left in their rightful home; which leads me onto my next point.

The Ocean; it holds 97% of Earth’s water and provides us with over half of the oxygen that we breath. It possesses millions of exotic, sublime and enchanting creatures - of which two thirds have not even been discovered yet. It is a (mostly uncharted) paradise, a paradise which we are destroying.

Every year we dump 12.7 million tonnes of plastic waste into the Ocean. In the summer, I visited a remote Malaysian island. Yet even there, each wave spewed plastic up onto the beach. It coated the sand and, I’m sure, the stomachs of all the creatures that lived there. Even worse, not only is it killing sea creatures and birds, but the plastic is now embedded in our food chain - with the toxins from plastic being partly responsible for many human health problems such as cancers, brain, reproductive and cardiovascular damage.

But it’s not all bad news! People are becoming increasingly aware of the effects that plastic is having on our environment and on us. Initiatives are being put in place to reduce our plastic waste. People are recycling more and, sometimes, not even using plastic in the first place! It’s not too late to change our ways. This is where my generation comes in. There are roughly 80 million under-18s on Earth and surely, with a number like that, we are able to unite to ensure the safety of our planet. I firmly believe that if we all contribute to the cause, whether that be through recycling, raising awareness or refusing that plastic bag at the supermarket, we are able to make a large impact. This impact will cause waves (quite literally) and the effects will become evident in the oceans. We may be the ‘snowflake’ generation, but together, snowflakes make a snowstorm.

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