Recently, Eco-Youth had the amazing opportunity to have a social media interview on Instagram with Dyason Chee, founder of Project O.C.E.A.N. Hawai’i. We are so honored to work with such a special, hard-working, and determined individual. At only such a young age, Chee has done so many outstanding things in tackling plastic pollution and helping improve the environment.
Briefly introduce yourself to the audience and tell us about your journey – where do you live and study, what got you interested in the environment and plastic pollution, and what are you doing at the moment?
Aloha mai kākou! My name is Dyson Chee, and I am a college freshman living in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi. My story starts with the ocean. Living in Hawaiʻi youʻre completely surrounded by the ocean, so I grew up with it and it became my second home. I loved going to the beach and exploring the deep blue waters. Eventually, my exploration of the ocean led me to something called plastic pollution. As I went to the beach, I gradually began to notice the rubbish that was strewn about it, and it only got worse as time went by. I eventually decided that I had to do something to protect my second home, and that is when I started taking on plastic pollution through Project O.C.E.A.N.
What is Project O.C.E.A.N. Hawai’i? How was it founded? What issues does it address and what is its main goal(s)?
Project O.C.E.A.N. Hawaii takes on single-use plastic pollution through two means: education and activism. Education involves letting people know that plastic pollution is a problem, and more importantly what we can do about it. And one of the ways we can take on plastic pollution is through activism. Activism involves passing legislation and getting the community civically engaged with this legislation.
What action do you believe everyone could/should be involved in to create a positive change and impact towards climate change and the environment? What are you most excited about for the future?
I believe that everyone should be civically involved. I know a lot of the solutions are focused on individual consumption, which does matter. Unfortunately, individual consumption alone will never solve the climate crisis. We are already seeing this in the COVID-19 pandemic–air travel has gone down drastically, yet the amount of emissions going into the air are still extraordinarily high. Why? Well part of it is the fact that we are still largely dependent on fossil fuels, and as we are all at home we are having to use more energy than usual. But for those of use who are dependent on the electricity grid, itʻs not like we can just say, “well Iʻm not going to use electricity since itʻs all fossil fuels.” And you can only reduce your consumption by so much. As an individual you still do have power, and that power is strongest when we get together and advocate. Advocate for energy companies to transition to clean energy. Advocate for the government to take meaningful climate action. This is what makes me excited: when the community gets together and successfully advocates for something.
Do you have any advice to people who want to help the environment, particularly fight climate change, but don’t know where to start? What advice can you give for newer organizations, like Eco-Youth, that will help grow their platform and gain a bigger audience?
This advice is very specifically geared towards those who are interested in using activism and advocacy as a means of fighting climate change (or any issue, really). Donʻt be afraid to start small. When we think of government, we usually think of national or international bodies. Like the President, or the United Nations. While it is true that both are a part of governments, they are not necessarily the most impactful ones in your community. The state, county, and city governments have a lot of power, and their decisions are usually the ones that impact everyday life for you and your community. So start there. They are easier to access, are more likely to listen to you, and can be more open to change.
What great things does Project O.C.E.A.N. Hawai’i plan to do next? What is its future and do you plan to expand this initiative beyond just Hawai’i?
For growing your platform and building a larger audience, Iʻll be honest, you just have to put in the work and energy. But what does help is to partner with other organizations. You can both help each other grow your platforms, collaborate on projects, and create coalitions to support each other. That coalition building has been very helpful in Hawaiʻi, especially when there is a specific goal (for example, passing a bill). I have actually since moved on to Hawaiʻi Youth Climate Coalition, another organization focused on achieving climate justice. However, I still do presentations under the umbrella of Project O.C.E.A.N.
Besides being a guest on the Lonely Whale podcast, 52 Hertz, where can people learn more about you and Project O.C.E.A.N. Hawai’i?