GUARDIANI DELLA COSTA – GUARDIANS OF THE COAST
Plastic pollution is damaging our planet globally but can be tackled if people come together, locally, to connect with their local environment and act together to stem the tide of waste.
We live in a global world in which the global production of plastics continues to rise along with our appetite for, and tendency to throw away, plastic goods. With huge chunks of the world population living, working and holidaying along coastlines, we face an unprecedented tidal wave of plastic waste outside our front doors.
This tidal wave of litter does not remain local. Because of the synthetic qualities, the buoyancy and the resilience of plastic, currents and winds at sea are spreading it worldwide. Plastic debris is not only changing the face of our coastlines at home, it is plaguing oceans and shores around the world.
While it is true that marine debris is a global problem, recent studies have also shown that the most efficient way to tackle it is to act locally. From schoolchildren studying plastic pollution in the local community to encouraging behavioral change in local populations, there is widespread agreement that citizen science is the way forward.
This concept of environmental citizenship is an integral part of the strong third sector which has emerged at a time in which globalization is changing the structure of society.
Cross-sector partnerships are forming to tackle the many environmental challenges we face. With the vital backing of Costa Crociere, our Foundation promotes and coordinates the Guardians of the Coast project in collaboration with non-profit organizations, marine biologists and environmental technology experts, starting from the schools to train, inform and raise awareness on global issues which the government alone cannot solve.
The heart of the Guardians of the Coast project is to “adopt” and monitor a stretch of coastline in order to create an “environmental photograph” that allows for assessing changes over time. The project, launched in 2017, has involved 280 high schools throughout Italy so far, with almost 11 thousand students and more than a thousand teachers who actively participated, collecting over 105 thousand scientific data related to Mediterranean biodiversity, marine waste, pollution and other environmental indicators.
By making young people and their educators more knowledgeable about the natural world and more aware of the problems the eco-system faces, they will be more equipped and inspired to play an active role in protecting it.
With the help of digital technology, teachers and students have access to scientifically rigorous educational content, with simple language for non-experts. The students will alternate classroom lessons and field activities to monitor and collect data on “their” portion of the coast.
The approximately 7,500 km of Italian coastline not occupied by ports, infrastructures and urban settlements are home to natural habitats of extraordinary wealth and organisms that need to be protected, defended and safeguarded.
Upper secondary pupils in schools throughout Italy are given the chance to join the fight against beach litter and marine pollution.
On joining the Guardians of the Coast programme, teachers and schoolchildren enter a dedicated online world of scientifically-rigorous webcasts, video-tutorials and information files which will ignite, or deepen, a natural curiosity in the local marine environment, coastal biodiversity, and the problems both now face because of pollution and climate change.
Together, they will take their scientific understanding out of the classroom and into the field, to monitor an adopted stretch of the Italian coastline and feed data and images collected – on environmental quality indicators, key beach characteristics and local socio-economic factors – into a central database using a free app for Android and iOs devices. They are assisted in their surveys by a data portal of archive images helping them to recognize coastal vegetation and marine life.
A team of marine biologists then validates all information collected and make it available in a collaborative database. This key resource then forms the basis of annual reports and theme-based maps describing the state of Italy’s coastlines, from the perspective of the very people on the pollution frontline: the Guardians of the Coast.