In the morning, Gulf News brings the first great news of the day: our message is growing and spreading in Dubai. Saying “no” to plastic is the way to go, because recycling alone cannot address the plastic pollution crisis. 

Our first meeting is with Ali Soqor Al Suweidi, or as everyone  calls him, “Major Ali”, the President of the Emirates Marine Environmental Group.  EMEG is the first marine environmental group in the UAE, and it provides services and solutions for a variety of projects focusing on a range of marine and terrestrial environmental issues from around the country. EMEG is housed in a building on the Palm Jebel Ali, surrounded by sparkling blue waters and brilliant sky. Major Ali is inspirational and touching with his love for the environment, and his passion for sharing the traditions and history of his country with children.  To date, over 10,000 children have experienced the magic of the animal world in the natural coastline, lagoons and desert dunes in the  Environmental Preserve managed by EMEG. We do not wish to leave, but know we will work together on educating the children on the dangers of plastic pollution and how to participate in conservation.

In Abu Dhabi we spend a terrific hour with the founder of “Green Abu Dhabi” discussing the role of public art and media in raising attention to environmental issues.  With focus on plastic pollution, we explore ideas on how Abu Dhabi could become the stage for of a major public art exhibit targeting awareness about the issues, and inspiring people to take action and protect their precious community and iconic animals.

The conversation continues in our next meeting with Cameron Oliver, the boy who started the campaign to protect camels from plastic pollution. Now a young man, Cameron Oliver immediately warms up to the plan for Plastic Free Campuses, which our advisor  JD Russo explains.  After seeing images of animals with bellies full of plastic pollution, Cameron understands that the camels are only one facet of the drama unfolding around the globe – animals everywhere suffer the same tragic death caused by plastic pollution. Sharing this knowledge and engaging schools and students in Plastic Free Campuses is how each individual becomes personally responsible for the solution. Oliver and JD have a great discussion about engaging young people and are already planning follow on visits to Abu Dhabi and California.

A truly exciting day with so much promise for collaboration on our shared problem: plastic pollution. It is truly inspirational to see how the REFUSE message can help communities around the globe.

Tomorrow we meet with Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Ali al Nuaimi, or as he is affectionately called here, “The Green Sheikh”. We all look forward to a great discussion on the role of youth in addressing the future, and our personal responsibility in solving the planet’s greatest challenges.