By Robert A. Emmanuel
On a night where renowned musical talents and policymakers combined to focus on combating worldwide plastic pollution, people from around the globe came out in droves to support the highly anticipated ‘Play It Out’ concert, which by all accounts was a major success.
Thousands of viewers all over the world watched the event live on various social media platforms and, as the night progressed, the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Grounds became filled with supporters and persons eager to watch as renowned international, regional and local artistes as well as high ranking government and United Nations (UN) officials, along with major advocates from around the world stood in solidarity to support ending plastic pollution.
The concert featured live performances from American actress and singer, Ashanti; soca legend Machel Montano; Grammy nominated German DJ/producer, Robin Schulz; Norwegian R&B duo, Nico and Vinz; reggae artist Rocky Dawuni from Ghana; the Colombian band, Bomba Estéreo; and Australian singer and UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador, Cody Simpson.
The concert was co-hosted by American actress Meagan Good and social media star, Amanda Cerny who sat down with OBSERVER media to share her thoughts on the event.
“It is amazing; there is so much livelihood [in the crowd], they are having a good time,” she said, while noting the fact that many of the attendees were reusing their cups in keeping with the spirit of the event.
Cerny also spoke of her concern about the impact of plastic pollution on the world’s oceans and environment.
“I use a lot of my voice and platform to talk about that. There are islands in the ocean that are made purely of plastic right now and, by 2050, we are supposed to have more plastic than fish in the ocean, which is insane.
“It is definitely something that we need to attack right now and change things in our lives that we are capable of, like not using plastic straws, reusing water bottles — and it makes life easier and makes it cost effective,” she said.
Cerny believed that events, like the ‘Play It Out’ concert, are some of the best ways to educate the world’s population on the dangers of plastic pollution.
“It is great way to bring fun; a strong message and education to a community,” she said, adding that educating the public about plastic pollution does not have to be a lecture.”
The concert also featured an array of speakers such as dignitaries, policymakers, and representatives from the scientific, philanthropic and academic communities, including the President of the UN General Assembly, María Fernanda Espinosa, who called on all persons to commit to the fight to end plastic pollution.
“This is an issue particularly close to my heart and one that I am inspired to see the Caribbean take the lead. I chose environment action as one of my priorities as President of the UN General Assembly, based on my experience for years as an environmental activists and politician,” she said emphatically.
OBSERVER media also spoke to actor, UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador and co-founder of Lonely Whale, Adrian Grenier, about his thoughts on the event.
“I am so proud of what we are doing here to tonight to bring great music and celebrate what Antigua has done as a leader for the world and how we, as a global community, have to make definitive changes to protect the ocean and the environment,” he said.
Grenier also spoke about his organization, Lonely Whale, which he co-founded in December 2015.
“I founded it four years ago, [the] mission was to connect people and bond them with the ocean for conservation and this is in essence what we are about—bringing people together, to convene on their values, hearts and passions,” he said, also imploring other countries to get more involved in the fight against plastics pollution.
Meantime, Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister, Gaston Browne called on other Caribbean leaders to follow Antigua’s lead in banning single-use plastics from the region.
Speaking at the concert, Browne said, “Antigua and Barbuda will continue to lead by example in our responsibility to protect the environment, therefore I am urgently calling on all Caribbean leaders to join me in declaring an end to plastic litter and micro-plastic pollution in the Caribbean Sea.”
He added: “The St. John Declaration to beat plastic pollution is another step for joint regional action and an appeal to other regions, developed and developing partners, the international community—including the UN system—and the private sector to immediately enact measures to address plastic pollution, banning single-use plastics.”
Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment, Molwyn Joseph also spoke to the crowd about the importance of enacting environmentally-friendly policies in the country.
He said, “As the Minister of the Health and the Environment … it is my duty to put measures to prevent Antigua and Barbuda from further contributing to the destruction of the environment.
“Before we enacted the ban of single use plastics, as an island we imported 100 million single plastic bags annually. For every plastic bag, it takes 500 to 1,000 years for plastic to degrade; virtually every plastic ever made still exists. In fact, plastic waste is now being discovered in humans.
“It simply means that we are also consuming plastics at an alarming rate, which is a direct threat to human health. With strong legislation passed in Antigua and Barbuda, it is the intention [to ensure] that every citizen is now a litter warden.”
The free concert was held collaboration with the Campaign Against Plastic Pollution with support from countries like Norway, Monaco, and Qatar; and groups like the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), TKG| The Krim Group and Lonely Whale.