Palau’s own Ms. Miel Sequiera-Holm, a passionate youth oceans activist and an innovative social entrepreneur, will be the Keynote Speaker at Tuesday’s 3rd National Environment Symposium (NES). The theme of the 3rd NES is “New Opportunities for a Resilient Palau.”
Discussions and preparations for the 3rd NES made it clear that in order to build our resilience, we need to increase local production and have more control of our goods and services. At the same time, we also need to decrease our dependency on imports. Embedded in this two-pronged approach is the Palauan concept of conservation: “omengereomel.”Increasing local production of goods must be done sustainably, to ensure perpetual local supply of renewable, raw materials.”If ecosystems are at risk, our food security is at risk. We depend on nature for our survival. We need to align our actions with indigenous wisdom and values that recognize the sacredness of all living things.” says Miel.
The Planning Team for the 3rd NES unanimously selected Miel because she embodies this year’s Symposium theme. As a young social entrepreneur and activist she took action to reduce chemical and plastic pollution in the oceans. While still in high school, she spearheaded a campaign to ban plastics at school. As a result, Palau Mission Academy banned plastic utensils in the school cafeteria. After graduating from high school and learning about the dangers posed by sunscreen chemicals, Miel, with the help of her parents, created a reef safe sunscreen product and started a small business, Pura Vida Palau. Her business sources many ingredients from local suppliers and purposefully avoids plastics. “I believe this pandemic has really shown us that we need to be more self-sufficient. We need to support our local businesses, eat more local food, and encourage more people to start their own businesses,” she says.
Miel was recognized internationally as a One Young World Leading Scholar in 2019.
In the midst of the global Covid-19 crisis, Palau needs to take advantage of opportunities that will enable us to survive and even thrive, and make us more resilient to deal with future stresses. At only 20 years old, Miel has shown us that Palau’s environmental ethic and efforts can create new opportunities for our communities. When Palau’s OEK passed a law banning the importation and sale of sunscreens with harmful chemicals, Miel saw this as an opportunity to create something new with local health, environment, and economic benefits. The fact that Miel is young and yet so accomplished brings a refreshing perspective to environmental issues, and she could also inspire all of Palau’s youth with her story. Miel’s social conscience and innovative approach to making environmental action profitable is Palau’s hope for tomorrow. As Miel said, while reminiscing about her first dive in Meyuns, “I was so humbled and amazed at how beautiful and diverse our ocean was. This experience also made me realize how blessed I was to be Palauan and that our precious resources need to be protected.”