Miao Wang is one of two Young Champions of the Earth for Asia and the Pacific. The Young Champions of the Earth Prize is powered by Covestro.
She is Founder of Better Blue in April 2017 for marine protection, and the Chief Representative of Project AWARE in Greater China. Since 2018, Better Blue, managed by ChinaNext Foundation, aims to integrate resources of the diving industry and support divers and diving centres to participate in marine-related programmes in 20 cities across China.
Diving into a better blue ocean
When I started diving, what hit me first is how vast and vibrant this ecosystem is. Yet we know so little about it. After swimming with all the fish in the sea and seeing the bright and vivid colours underwater, I felt myself part of this ecosystem. As a diver, I not only can see the beauty, but I witness how vulnerable the oceans are, and how much we are hurting this very important ecosystem.
I founded Better Blue because I realized that our oceans don’t have a voice. Everyone should have the responsibility to protect this blue planet. I could see the passion of other divers, and I realized that this is our unique strength. People are always afraid of being different. They will feel safe and powerful in a group, community and network.
In China, there are around 400,000 divers across the country, increasing at the rate of about 30 per cent each year. Yet our country does not have any ocean conservation organization focused on empowering us. I founded Better Blue to bridge this gap. We enable people who have the same vision to stay together and support each other to protect the ocean.
Miao Wang, collecting marine data for marine protection. Photo by Better Blue
I believe that by empowering individual divers, we can change whole organizations, and that is how we can bring real change: on the ground and in the ocean. Every day, we swim with the animals, notice the changes in the ecosystem and empower each other with knowledge about the ocean and the threats that life within it faces.
As passionate guardians of the ocean, divers are a powerful network to tap. We have already spread knowledge among our diving experts in 20 cities and 16 provinces nationwide, supported by local agencies. We are working with other organizations, like Project AWARE and PADI, to remove and report marine debris – like plastic bags or discarded soda cans – and track this data along the seafloor off the coast of China.
Thousands of pieces of trash are estimated to be afloat on every square mile of ocean. Working with our partners, we understand how marine debris find its way into the ocean, and classify and track how many sea animals are threatened by it.
From citizen science to policy change
In one year, we have conducted more than 200 activities, like marine documentary screenings, workshops and marine seminars, and reef checks to bring divers together and advocate for more sustainable life styles. As part of this year’s UN Environment Clean Seas campaign, we cooperated with PADI and Project AWARE to conduct a debris survey, with 30 teams from five different countries or regions, to clean more than one ton of marine debris from the ocean.
We aim to collect sufficient and persuasive data to ultimately help the government and scientists make effective policy change and prevent marine litter in future. We research water quality, conduct underwater filming and coral reef checks. We cooperate with PADI to produce online courses, highlighting different conservation topics or typical sea animals, or the impacts of climate change and how to track marine debris for example, throughout China.
On World Ocean Day, Better Blue launched the “Zero-Waste Challenge”. Backed by 12 celebrities in China, the aim was to encourage the public to take one day off single-use plastics. The campaign was viewed by millions of people across the country. We believe that – while we are all individuals – when we come together, we can turn the tide, and protect our oceans.
Follow the Young Champions of the Earth journey on social media #YoungChamps.
January update from Miao Wang on progress and reflections