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Indonesian Children Get New View of Marine Life With Free Goggles

Why Global Citizens Should Care
For years, humanity has exploited the world’s oceans, which in turn has severely damaged underwater environments like coral reefs. You can take action on this issue here.

Indonesia’s maritime affairs minister is giving children in coastal communities a new view of marine ecology — literally.

Minister Susi Pudjiastuti, a passionate snorkeler who has been known to detonate illegal fishing boats to send a message, is giving out free goggles to kids in the archipelago’s remote coastal regions so they can learn to appreciate underwater life firsthand, reported the Guardian.

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The idea for the initiative came to the minister while touring the “Coral Triangle” region, when she observed local children watching tourists snorkelling — unaware of what the travelers were witnessing below.

“I just realized in one moment: How can we ask them, how can we push them to take care of the beauty of the underwater world if they don’t even see how beautiful it is,” Pudjiastuti told the Guardian. “I realized, what we see, they don’t see.”

The program launched in 2016 and since then has distributed more than 2,000 pairs of goggles in West Papua, Maluku, Sulawesi, and east and west Nusa Tenggara, noted the report.

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Those who have received them now actively swim, snorkel, and enjoy the waterways on a daily basis, said Pudjiastuti.

“We all have to start giving them the eyes to be able to see the beauty of the world under the water, to be able to ask them, put them as one of the guards of the oceans,” she told the Guardian in a video interview.

Indonesia is rated the world’s worst marine polluter after China, discarding roughly 3.22 million metric tons of waste each year, noted the Guardian.

And the impact of that waste threatens one of the country’s most precious natural assets: its underwater ecosystem.

Indonesia claims the second-most coral reefs on the planet, after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, noted Bloomberg Philanthropies in a report earlier this year.

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The widespread pollution of those waters was highlighted a few months ago, when professional photographer Jukka Saarikorpi posted a photo from a trip scuba diving with his fiancée Aissa Paronen in Manta Point, Indonesia. The pair had been hoping to immerse themselves in marine life, but instead found themselves surrounded by trash.

But ensuring the conservation of Indonesia’s waters isn’t merely about tourism aesthetics.

Preserving the massive array of hard and soft corals and fish are critical to the country’s growing economy and food security, noted the Bloomberg Philanthropies report.

Still, it was witnessing so much garbage strewn upon the beach and waterways that led Pudjiastuti to take action — not only with distributing free goggles to children, but also banning single-use plastics in her ministry.

She looks forward to the day when Indonesia bans single-use plastic altogether, she told the Guardian.