Anna Oposa

Executive Director & Chief Mermaid, Save Philippine Seas

Mandaluyong City, PhilippinesAge: 30

Tell us a bit about yourself!

I’m the co-founder, Executive Director, and Chief Mermaid of Save Philippine Seas (SPS), a non-profit organization and movement to protect the Philippines’ marine resources by mobilizing citizen-led action for collective action and behavior change. All of our projects have a strong environmental education and experiential learning at their core: the Sea and Earth Advocates Camp focuses on youth empowerment; Earthducation trains teachers on environmental education; and the Shark Shelter Project uses sharks as flagship species for community-based resource management. SPS also has an active social media presence – we try to create original content every week. In these activities, my role ranges from content creator, copywriter, facilitator, teacher, and workshop designer.

What inspired you to become a champion for the environment and environmental education?

The Philippines is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, but it’s also a hotspot, meaning we’ve lost at least 70% of our original habitat. Witnessing environmental destruction over and over again (such as from dynamite fishing, mining run-offs, overdevelopment, and others) frustrates me, but my persistence also stems from it.

When we carry out an environmental education activity, I see that there’s a 50-50 chance that our participants will make lifestyle changes for the environment. However, if we don’t do it, there’s a 100% chance they won’t. I’ve seen how powerful, transformative, and life-changing education can be, and seeing our participants grow, bloom, and lead has been inspiring.

What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders that are looking to bring about positive change in their communities through EE?

We begin EE projects with an outcome in mind, but the path to get there is never linear. Listen to what your target audience needs, and understand their level of understanding and the methods they respond to.

What pro-environmental behavior do you think would make a big impact if everyone in the world started doing it?

Refusing single-use plastics, starting with plastic bags and straws. There are 103 million Filipinos, so “it’s just one straw” isn’t just one straw when you multiply it by a population!

If you could be any animal or plant, what would you be and why?

I’d love to be a mangrove – it’s a super-plant! It can live in a mix of salt and freshwater, and it provides so many benefits: nursery for marine life, home for birds, protection from storm surges, and eco-tourism.