World Oceans Day, celebrated every year on June 9, was originally suggested as an international day of celebration and awareness in 1992 by the government of Canada. By 2008, the United Nations had officially recognized it. Since then, people around the world celebrate the day by focusing attention on awareness and recognition of the importance of taking care of our oceans.
Just 8 weeks ago, Niantic celebrated Earth Day by working with NGOs around the world to host and run 68 cleanup events in 19 countries. These events brought together more than 4,200 dedicated players and collected 6.5 tons of garbage in aggregate (originally counted at almost 5 tons just 24 hours after the event, you can read the full details here). Our specific focus was to remove as much garbage, and in particular plastic, from local waterways as we could. These cleanup sites not only included oceans, but also rivers, canals and other water travel routes. Diversity is essential, because even if you don’t live near the ocean, trash ultimately travels to and accumulates in our deepest waters. Everyone did an amazing job, and we’re so impressed with the impact that the players and NGOs had on the environment.
In California, Heirs to Our Oceans (H2OO) is a rising tide of young leaders around the globe who are taking the ocean crisis into their own hands by educating themselves and others, bringing hope and solutions to the surface, and creating waves of change that will ensure the health of our blue planet for their generation and for future generations. H2OO organized four cleanup sites for Earth Day 2018: One in Koror, Palau and three in California, USA. Their events were led by incredible young people who ran the collections and held educational talks on subjects such as the importance of waterways, the detriments of plastic, and the #breakfreefromplastic movement. At the cleanup event in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Pokémon GO community worked alongside the Heirs to find plastic straws, filling a 5-gallon bucket full of straws! Several Heirs are planning to create a dress from the on-going straw collection that will highlight the fact that more than 500 million straws are used per day in the USA alone.
Across the USA and along the East Coast, Plastic Ocean Project worked to educate participants through field research, implement progressive outreach initiatives, and incubate solutions to address the global plastic pollution problem, working with and for the next generation to create a more sustainable future. POP organized 9 cleanup events for Earth Day 2018 across the USA, including a cleanup event off the coast of North Carolina. Their cleanup events included plastic and waste collection and holding brand audits to understand which companies are responsible for the products that result in the most plastic waste. In addition, the program raised awareness for Hope Spot Hatteras, which was an initiative inspired by the work of Mission Blue and Sylvia Earle, and focused on awareness for the critical offshore ecosystem.
In addition, Umisakura organized a cleanup event for 300 participants in Enoshima, Kanagawa, Japan. They filled up more than 120 bags of litter and also made an effort to collect recyclable cigarette filters. Additionally, the NGO brought together the Pokémon GO community, academics and researchers, environmental experts, fishermen from the Katase fishing port, and local Enoshima residents to plant eelgrass in the sea bed. This particular grass is known to prevent further loss and degradation of marine environments by providing a number of important ecosystem functions, including foraging areas and shelter to young fish and invertebrates, food for migratory waterfowl and sea turtles, and spawning surfaces for fish species. By trapping sediment, eelgrass beds also reduce coastal erosion.
As you can see from these stories, positive impact is greatest when communities come together. We celebrate World Oceans Day to not only show our admiration for our players and the larger community, but also to encourage the continued efforts to reduce plastic creation, consumption, and ultimately waste. If you’re a part of a community that spends time working to reduce the negative impacts that plastic has on our oceans, share it with us by tagging our Niantic social channels and using the #GamesDoingGood hashtag.