Change begins with a dream

Group of kids in Stanley Park, Vancouver.
This is a picture of the Seahorse Squad. I am the one in the middle.

Contributed by Diego Arreola Fernandez, Ocean Hero Bootcamp participant

Do you believe in the power of dreams?

If I told you that you could change the world, even as a kid, would you believe me?

My dream came to life. 

When I was ten years old I participated in a National Public Speaking Contest, where I wrote a speech about global peace. In the speech, I shared my opinion about problems such as violence, wars, and indifference among world leaders. One night, after spending all day thinking about these problems, I had an amazing dream. I became a superhero and flew to the White House, Russia, Canada, and talked with the presidents, convincing them all to join my cause. The next morning my speech completely changed – it followed a style more similar to Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous, “I have a dream” speech; I believe this is what helped me win the contest. However, when I woke up from that great dream, I wasn't a superhero, I was still a ten-year-old kid. Nothing seemed to really change.

Seven years later, I had a compelling dream again. I was surrounded by global leaders, activists, and business leaders, all of whom were committed to protecting our planet. I was in this incredible place, learning everything I needed to know about plastic pollution and how to fight it. The most amazing part of the dream was that I wasn’t alone. There were hundreds of superheroes – all collaborating with me to make the world a better and healthier place.

When I woke up, I realized that the dream came true in a way. I was at the Ocean Heroes Bootcamp in Vancouver. To my surprise, all the superheroes I saw in my dream were real. They were called Ocean Heroes – they were about my age, and most of them had campaigns and foundations to fight plastic pollution!

But before I continue talking about my dream, it is important to explain to you how it began. My concern about climate change started a few years ago when me and my family went to Acapulco (a beach in Mexico) and saw it was full of garbage. Our habits changed from that moment. Then, classes were cancelled at my school and my sister’s for more than a week, due to pollution. When we went back, sports were forbidden for a while. It was then that I decided to get myself more involved. I started to write speeches about preserving the environment and coming up with ideas to fight pollution. I told everything to a friend of my family, also worried about the environment, and he invited me to join his company’s talks and work with him. He heard about the Ocean Heroes Bootcamp´s announcement and told me “You have to be there”... and the dream began.

At the Bootcamp, I instantly felt inspired and motivated by seeing the commitment and great achievements of kids like Robbie, Hannah and Shelby, whom I can now call my friends. I found the Bootcamp’s location very relevant to our campaigns protecting the environment – taking place in Vancouver, British Columbia, we took important measures to promote ecology in local businesses and schools. In fact, the University of British Columbia, which provided amazing facilities, such as dorm rooms and auditoriums for the Bootcamp, also promoted ecological alternatives to single-use plastics in every shop, store and cafeteria. In addition, I felt truly inspired by the beautiful landscapes, forests, gardens, and proximity to the sea. As Batman has a duty to protect Gotham, we had that same feeling with the amazing nature we were living in.

In fact, just like Bruce Wayne spent a long time training to become Batman, I received great training too. Honestly, I never imagined all the things I could learn in just three days. I didn't realize at the time, but each activity and excursion had a specific purpose. I was thrilled by every place we visited, such as the Vancouver Aquarium, where we got closer to the sea creatures we were protecting. Another day we had the 5Gyres presentation, which gave me all the scientific data and specific facts about single-use plastics, which I can apply to my pollution-fighting campaign. I was also taught by the Aardvark directors on how to make a strong, convincing pitch, in order to include more people in the cause.

The Bootcamp was an unforgettable experience, and even though I wish it had lasted longer, now I have an amazing set of tools and knowledge to start my own campaign. In fact, right now I am planning one with my sidekicks, Dany (from Monterrey) and Meztli (from Sayulita) to inform every single Mexican of what is happening with plastic pollution, explain to them how they can help, and providing all the support to eliminate single-use plastics. We have an idea for an inspiring and informational video, which we’re hoping to share with everyone soon. Also, I am convincing a political party to convert them and their campaigns green, among other ideas.  

I felt like a true “hero” throughout this experience. Actor and Lonely Whale co-founder, Adrian Grenier, offered beneficial support and led by example. I feel grateful to all the organizations involved in Ocean Heroes Bootcamp, including Captain Planet Foundation, Lonely Whale and Point Break Foundation, for allowing me to be part of this unforgettable experience. This Bootcamp helped me discover what my true passion is. My next dream is working hard to get a scholarship and live in Vancouver, the city I fell in love with, at one of the greatest universities I have ever seen, and study something related to Environmental Sciences, so I can further help save our planet.

In conclusion, I’ve learned a whole new meaning to Gandhi's famous quote, “be the change you want to see in the world.”

This may seem like the end, but trust me, it’s just the beginning!