From resilience to revolution: my journey with Greenpeace in the Sargasso Sea

Noelle Young, Sustainability Solutionist & Youth Delegate from Bermuda, describes her time on board a Greenpeace ship in the magical Sargasso Sea.

Share

Greetings from a small island with a big voice! I’ve just returned from an incredible Greenpeace voyage into the heart of the Sargasso Sea, and stepping back onto dry land has never felt so bittersweet.

The journey was not just a return to the sea – a place that feels like home – but a vivid reminder of what we are fighting for: the preservation of our ocean and the unique ecosystems within it, such as the Sargasso Sea, upon which Bermuda, my homeland, heavily depends.

This region is not only geographically unique but also deeply symbolic of the environmental and socio-political challenges facing Small Island Developing States.

The author again holding a microphone in front of a blue metal container, with a yellow Greenpeace banner reading "Protect the Oceans" behind her, with a backs of a couple of audience members blurry in the foregroud

Noelle Young, Solutionist and Youth Delegate from Bermuda speaks at the welcoming event for local groups and leaders on board the Arctic Sunrise in Hamilton, Bermuda. © Tavish Campbell / Greenpeace

As a mixed-race, multicultural female youth activist from Bermuda, I’ve always viewed my identity as both a badge of honour and a profound responsibility. The Arctic Sunrise vessel was a microcosm of global cooperation, hosting individuals from 18 different nationalities.

Each person brought their unique cultural insights and expertise, united under a shared, powerful goal: preserving the ocean. This diversity onboard was not just about representation; it was a testament to the power of collective action in the face of global environmental challenges.

Author standing in a blue top on a lower deck of the Arctic Sunrise, feeding a cable through a hole in the ship's side

Noelle Young deploying the hydrophone © Tavish Campbell / Greenpeace

During the expedition, I had the opportunity to deploy a 300-metre-long hydrophone, which allowed me to listen to the mesmerising songs of whales and the chatter of dolphins. 

I observed breaching humpbacks, impeccable stargazing, and even enjoyed a swim in the middle of the Atlantic while inspecting small Sargassum mats – a reminder of what we stand to lose without protective measures. 

The vision of the Sargasso Sea as a marine sanctuary is bold yet vital. It’s not merely about conservation but about asserting the rights and responsibilities of local communities over the natural resources that govern their survival.

Throughout my time on the Greenpeace ship, the atmosphere was not only driven by a shared mission but also filled with laughter and new insights. 

Among our diverse crew was Dan Smith from the band Bastille, who joined us in support of the treaty. Seeing him in a more humanised light as he experienced the voyage, sea sickness, and our island for the first time was truly enlightening. 

 

“What happens here in Bermuda could set a precedent for global marine conservation. It’s about helping where it counts, and right now, it counts here.”
Dan Smith, Bastille
Dan from Bastille

Curious about his involvement, I asked him why he chose to come to Bermuda and support our cause. His response was both simple and impactful:

“Bermuda might be small, but its voice and its vision could be huge. It’s inspiring to see how passionate you all are about protecting your home and the larger environment. I am here because Greenpeace invited me and I desperately wanted to experience the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle,  but ultimately I believe in amplifying efforts that matter, and what happens here in Bermuda could set a precedent for global marine conservation. It’s about helping where it counts, and right now, it counts here.”

Dan’s words reinforced the significance of our efforts and the global reach of even the smallest community’s actions towards environmental advocacy. His presence and support brought an additional layer of solidarity to our mission, underscoring the universal importance of our cause.  

This experience deepened my commitment to ocean conservation, particularly as the Sargasso Sea, with Bermuda as its lone landmass, faces constant threats despite its ecological importance. 

Two women of colour, one the author Noelle. She is smiling, listening to sounds on headphones while the other one points at something

Noelle listening to the hydrophone recordings with a crew member on the Arctic Sunrise. © Tavish Campbell / Greenpeace

As a British Overseas Territory, Bermuda’s relationship with international bodies and foreign nations often complicates our local governance and environmental stewardship, sometimes overshadowing the voices of our local communities. 

It’s clear that our relationship with the Commonwealth needs to be strengthened, especially in addressing environmental issues collaboratively.

The paradox of being a Commonwealth country with limited control over our own waters underscores the struggles small island nations face in balancing global governance with local sovereignty. 

Bermuda, though a tiny speck on the vast blue map, often overlooked or underestimated, holds the unique distinction of being the only landmass within the boundaries of the Sargasso Sea. 

Despite our size, we are mighty and should be leading the design of what the Sargasso Sea sanctuary looks like, ensuring it is properly conserved and preserves our cultural heritage. 

We must assert our rightful place at the helm when discussing the protection of our surrounding waters, given our proximity and dependence on this marine ecosystem.

“I am committed to ensuring that our voices are not just heard but lead the charge. The time for enduring is over. Now is the time for empowering, leading, and protecting. Stay tuned as we turn resilience into revolution.”
Noelle Young Tweet this

The concept of “resilience” often describes the spirit of Bermuda and its people, yet I challenge this notion. Resilience has become a soft glove over a hard fist, masking systemic issues under the guise of strength and endurance. We need to shift the conversation from enduring to preventing, from surviving to thriving. 

This narrative of “resilience”, often celebrated as a virtue, sometimes feels like a trap, suggesting that enduring hardship is our only option. Why should our survival depend on our ability to endure? We need national and global policies that address the root causes of inequality and environmental degradation, not just those that praise us for surviving them.

I am a staunch advocate for intergenerational collaboration. The wisdom of our elders, combined with the innovation and energy of the youth, can forge a formidable force for environmental advocacy. It’s essential that we harness this collective power to push for policies that reflect true equity and justice.

The Arctic Sunrise ship docked with a low-rise cityscape in the background and a giant inflatable octopus on the grass by the water's edge.

Arctic Sunrise open boat day in Hamilton Bermuda with Greenpeace's pink octopus used for ocean protection activism © Tavish Campbell / Greenpeace

As Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise sits at the pier in our city centre during its significant stop in Bermuda this May, our focus extends beyond local advocacy to global action. 

We are promoting the ratification of the UN Global Ocean Treaty, aiming to protect at least 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030, with the Sargasso Sea as a priority site. This initiative is crucial, and advocacy efforts are key to ensuring that the treaty reflects the needs and aspirations of all ocean-dependent communities, especially those in small island states like Bermuda.

The challenge is immense, but so is our determination. As a disrupter and advocate for intergenerational collaboration, inclusion, equity, and sustainable solutions, I am committed to ensuring that our voices are not just heard but lead the charge. The time for enduring is over. Now is the time for empowering, leading, and protecting. Stay tuned as we turn resilience into revolution.

What's next?