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Tuesday, January 22, 2019
Although it wasn’t shark week, students in the Exception Learners Division (ELD) at the F. Donald Myers Education Center dove into oceanic issues when speaker Cheyenne Cunningham spoke to them about the perils of plastic and other plights facing the world’s oceans. After recently completing a unit on marine biology in their Regents science class, students and instructors became interested in the role of government policy in conservation. That is where Cheyenne Cunningham comes in.
Cheyenne Cunningham, a recent graduate from Coastal Carolina University, is an ocean law and policy specialist. Her work and legal interest consists of ecosystem-based management used to coordinate policies across diverse sectors (fisheries, oil & gas, deep sea mining, commerce) among international and domestic entities.
Now in the process of enrolling into law school in the Fall 2019, Cunningham has sought to educate others and establish environmental awareness globally. She aims to ignite public support, enlist the world to embrace ocean conservation and understand that our lives depend on taking care of the ocean.
The presentation covered many topics: sea level rise and beach erosion, greenhouse gases and climate change, off shore drilling, ocean acidification, ocean dead zones, coral bleaching, and plastic pollution.
Starting with the question, “what are greenhouse gases,” students were thoroughly engaged in the presentation.
“Smoke stacks and tail pipes. Those are the two leading causes of carbon emission contribution in the United States,” explained Cunningham. “The problem with carbon emission is when the greenhouse gases get trapped into the atmosphere, they have nowhere to go but to be absorbed by the oceans.”
Cunningham added to students’ vocabulary by introducing a new word: anthropogenic. It means human impact on our earth.
Students were particularly interested in plastic pollution, especially given recent media attention to the Ocean Cleanup Project, a giant floating trash collector which has started to work on clearing plastics and other debris from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Cunningham’s advice was to act locally, to “enlist family and friends to curb their use of single use plastic bags. And try to get legislators to enact bans on plastic bags,” said Cunningham.
The discussion also touched on how solving one problem may have unintended consequences.
Cunningham and ELD instructors encouraged the students to do their research, analyze the facts on any issue, and make informed decisions. Most importantly, Cunningham encouraged the students to be part of the change. To learn more about Cunningham’s work, click here.
Cheyenne Cunningham presenting to the group.
Cheyenne Cunningham and Greenwich CSD student Timothy Finn.