You are currently viewing Empowering the next generation
Fourteen-year-old Brice Claypoole is a fierce defender of the environment but doesn’t have a vote. That is up to us, but only for a while. – Rusty Chinnis | Sun

Empowering the next generation

You don’t have to convince an angler of the importance of a healthy grass flat or a robust stand of mangroves or persuade them that we’re losing this precious resource at an alarming rate.

Anglers like Capt. Justin Moore, who is on the water over 200 days a year, sees the changes firsthand. Moore has been guiding on Manatee County waters for 24 years. He learned his trade under the tutelage of his father, Capt. Scott Moore, and worries that his son, Jas, will not have some of the opportunities he’s had. That’s why it’s important to empower the next generation of anglers who don’t have a vote but will inherit this landscape. Fortunately, there are a couple of high-profile programs on Anna Maria Island that are doing just that.

The Center of Anna Maria Island engages children in activities that teach sustainability and give them an understanding of the responsibility we all have to be stewards of our paradise. Through curricular units that include recycling, composting, gardening (on their property) and natural nutrition, they make these connections between responsibilities and action.

Bishop Museum and Mote Marine facilitators teach Anna Maria’s young citizens to understand the environment around them and develop a love for its creatures and the environment that supports them and us.

Clean water units are shared annually with students through The Center’s Earth Echo program. Participants in the curricular units collect water samples and analyze them, helping them focus on the importance of clean water. The program was developed after famed oceanographer Philippe Cousteau’s visit to The Center three years ago when he guided those in attendance to “zip tie themselves to the mangroves to protect them!”

This past year, Anna Maria Elementary School (AME) announced it would be home to the world’s first Guy Harvey Academy of Arts and Science. The academy, which focuses on marine sciences, conservation and the arts, is a collaboration between the School District of Manatee County and the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation (GHOF).

Harvey has devoted his talent, time and resources to protecting oceans, fish populations and reef systems through the development of the Guy Harvey Research Institute at Nova Southeastern University and the GHOF. Those institutions have educated the next generation of environmentalists and made contributions to protecting fish resources and biodiversity in the world’s oceans.

The program will benefit students from other schools as well with field trips and summer camps, and will eventually expand to all elementary schools in the district as well as to complementary programs at King Middle and Manatee High.

Programs like this need to be expanded to give the next generation of anglers and Island residents the tools they will need to protect these endangered marine resources. In the meantime, we the voters need to step up for those who don’t have a vote, empowering them so they have a fighting chance to succeed where we have failed.

In the words of 14-year-old Brice Claypoole, “Vote for politicians who put our future over the deep-pocketed interests who pay them in campaign donations. And spread the word! Inform others on how to properly trim mangroves on their property and the dangers these trees face. Our paradise is in peril, and it takes everyone to stand up to developers and uninformed homeowners to realize the great benefits these trees offer. On behalf of my generation and those of the future, thank you.”