About the Authors: Brian Asmus and Ulrika Joyce serve at U.S. Embassy Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
More than 1,000 volunteers and participants started arriving at Ela Beach in Port Moresby, capital of Papua New Guinea (PNG), just before 8:00 a.m. on April 24 to join the Earth Day cleanup. For the fourth year, the U.S. Embassy and National Capital District (NCD) of Port Moresby have teamed up to highlight the importance of protecting the environment.
We opened Earth Day with a celebration that included an art contest that was open to all residents of Papua New Guinea. This year, we chose "Protecting the Marine Life of Papua New Guinea" as the theme to highlight threats that marine environments face. One example of the artwork we received included a painting of sea turtles mistakenly eating plastic bags, because they look like jelly fish. Incredibly, by some estimates, the vortex of garbage in the middle Pacific is larger than Papua New Guinea itself. Plastic is a real problem for marine environments, because it does not fully degrade. It forms only smaller and smaller plastic polymers in the ocean. Garbage of all kinds is damaging reefs.
Art entries were received from various locations in Papua New Guinea, including Lae, Manus, and Rabaul. The art work was displayed at Ela Beach during the Earth Day festivities. Next week, interested viewers can check out the display at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) Library.
At 9:00 a.m., Master of Ceremonies Justin Tkatchenko, CEO of PNG Gardener, opened the event at Ela Beach's Amphi Theater, after which U.S. Charge d'Affaires Paul Berg highlighted U.S. support of environmental protection programs in Papua New Guinea. The U.S. government helps fund the Coral Triangle Initiative to protect and ensure sustainable development of marine ecosystems in Papua New Guinea and elsewhere in the region. Last year, the U.S. Embassy also provided money to the Motupore Research Center and Tahira Mangrove Nursery. NCD Governor Powes Parkop and PNG Governor General Sir Paulius Matane also spoke. Then, Mr. Tkatchenko announced the Earth Day Art Contest winners with Berg and Parkop presenting the awards.
In the adult category, the winners were as follows: Max Dama (first), Daryl Fernandez (second), Bernard Henry (third), and Molong Beka (fourth). In the teenage category, Samol Agi won first, Simon Kulol second, Alice Kuniata third, and Raymolt Limu fourth. In the children's division, first place went to Anastasia Krus, second to Sinaia Pakop, third to Ranaot (from Manus), and fourth to Kayaup Francis. Honorable mentions were Barbara Ipasi, Mabaia Mavis Maino, Chautha Kauyap, and Kauta Pof.
This year's prizes included domestic tickets from Air Niugini, mobile phones from Bemobile, an MP3 player from Daltron, and gift certificates to City Pharmacy.
After a dramatic performance by Watete, Mr. Tkatchenko closed the event at 10:30 a.m., thanking all our Earth Day sponsors: PNG Gardener, Air Niugini, Bemobile, CPL, Daltron, Coca-Cola, KK Kingston, and St. Johns.