Assignments, Island Icons, Japan, Okinawa, Photography
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Island Icon: Edo Heinrich-Sanchez

Voice for the Oceans

Edo Heinrich-Sanchez is devoted to protecting Okinawa’s environment and promoting its culture.

Edo Heinrich Sanchez

Edo Heinrich-Sanchez

Edo Heinrich-Sanchez was born in the Caribbean, but  grew up in the Canary Islands and the United States. He first came to Okinawa in 1981 as a F4 Phantom mechanic on Kadena Air Base. After his career in the military, Edo returned to the United States to study photography at the Colorado Institute of Art, and then broadcasting at the Metropolitan State College of Denver. In 1990, he moved back to Okinawa, and since then, he has been teaching, producing TV shows, and feeding his greatest passion-protecting Okinawa’s environment for future generations.

Has your background in broadcasting helped you while on Okinawa?

“The most recent project I have been involved in was working as a producer for a TV series titled Fantastic Festivals of the World. Episode number 11 was based on the kyu-bon and eisa festivals in Okinawa. The series was shown on the Discovery Channel and is still aired regularly. In December 2005, the Okinawa episode won the best cinematography category at the High Definition Awards in Los Angeles, so many more people will get to learn about Okinawa’s unique culture.”

I have seen banners for Okinawa O.C.E.A.N. at beach clean-ups. What does O.C.E.A.N. stand for?

“O.C.E.A.N. is an acronym for Ocean Culture & Environment Action Network. Our goal is to protect the environment on Okinawa through youth education, direct action, and networking. We started out back in 1992 as the Okinawa International Clean Beach Club, but slowly we have expanded, bringing new ways to tackle environmental problems such as international networking with other environmental groups and governments. We just hosted the Pacific Islands Youth Environmental Summit and the My Island Action Charter Workshop. On April 22, 2006, O.C.E.A.N. also endorsed the Earth Charter, which aims to create a just, sustainable, and peaceful global society.”

Beach clean up in Yomitan, Okinawa

Beach clean up in Yomitan, Okinawa

What are the biggest threats to the environment in Okinawa?

“The simple answer is us – humans. Red soil contamination of the water is not strictly enforced; trash is still dumped by individuals and companies, and not everyone is recycling. We have the resources, money and manpower to deal with a lot of these problems, but they are not allocated in the right way due to hidden agendas and greed.”
“I think there needs to be a total island plan for Okinawa with a better idea of where development should and shouldn’t take place. Ecological awareness must be an integral part of the decision making. I think protecting the environment is like a Rubic’s Cube – it’s complex and seems almost impossible to solve, but eventually, we can find a solution by moving all the different parts in the right directions.”

What can people do to keep Okinawa beautiful?

“Don’t litter, of course! Also, we need to pick up trash other people have left behind. The three “Rs”of reduce, reuse and recycle are important to remember. In addition, I think you can add another one: refuse. If you are at a convenience store, refuse the disposable chopsticks or plastic bags that are a waste of resources and just add to the landfills.”

Dead sea turtle on the beach Okinawa, Japan

Trouble in Paradise - Dead sea turtle on Ishikawa Beach

Are you optimistic about the future?

“Yes, but I think governments need to place a higher priority on protecting the environment. If we shifted some of the money we spend on the technology of destruction to the technology of protection, we could solve many of our ecological problems. This is crucial because we have to make sure our kids grow up with clean beaches and healthy oceans.”

You’ve lived in Okinawa for 16 years do you now consider yourself Okinawan?

“I think of myself as a shimanchu (an island dweller). I was born in the Caribbean Islands, raised in the Canary Islands, I work on Okinawa Island and we all live on this giant celestial island we call Earth.”

Learn more about O.C.E.A.N. along with information on future events at their website

1 Comment

  1. OMG I saw that episode b4 moving here and was amazed by it and it made me so excited to move here. That’s so crazy. And, that image #3 is so powerful, with the background and everything. wow

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