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Inspired by kids’ green passion

Posted on 14 October 2009 | 6:10pm

Back from a very nice day spent talking about campaigns with 100 schoolchildren aged 11-14 who have decided they’re going to change the world – or at least the bits of the world they live in.

Ten teams of ten are the finalists in the npower Climate Cops SOS competition to find the best green teen campaign in Britain, whittled down from hundreds who entered.

I was asked to speak to them all as a group, and then advise them individually on their campaigns.

I have said here before how Britain’s young get an unfair press, with so much focus on anti-social behaviour, when the majority of kids are bright, enthusiastic, nice, sociable people. And that was the reality of the groups I met today.

The campaign ideas ranged from classic recycling and anti-litter schemes to food mile or paper use reduction plans, getting a whole community to cut its power use for a day, cleaning up a stretch of river, reducing the number of teachers and parents driving to school, writing books for primary schools to persuade even younger kids to go even more green even earlier, turning a disused railway line into a cyclepath, getting the community to grow more of their own food.

The judging of the winner will come next year and so obviously depends on how far they get in making their campaign plans a success. I was very taken by the railway to cycleway idea – ambitious – and the storybook plan for primary schools. I reckon a publisher should get into that one.

But they all have a lot of work to put in between now and judgement day.

I gave them a few basic ideas on campaigning. My old favourite OST – know your Objective, define the Strategy, only then worry about Tactics.

I drew on some of my favourite US Presidential quotes – Roosevelt’s ‘believe you can and you’re half way there’ and Truman’s ‘it’s amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.’

The lovely Connie Huq from Blue Peter was on hand to compere and then did a couple of interviews with me, one in which I was meant to be deliberately bad at communicating my message, the other in which I was meant to be good. Thankfully the children realised which was which and will hopefully apply some of the lessons learned in their own interviews back home as they try to build media support for their campaigns.

Though all of them were clearly interested in the environment as an issue, and passionate about it too, few if any were aware of the upcoming Copenhagen climate change summit.

I said that from my experience of world summits, there will be a deal, it won’t be perfect but it will make a difference for the better. But then their generation will have to be responsible for the implementation and the continuing pressure for change.

Finally I did a load of interviews, first by professional journalists, then by some of the kids. One of them asked me if my own children were passionate about the environment. Up to a point, I said. I tend to be the one who rampages round the house turning off lights and unwatched tellies and unused laptops. Yet I also fly more and drive more than they do, even if I fly and drive less than I did, and consume less by way of new products or clothes, not being a technophile or a fashionista.

But what today did was make me promise to do more to curb my own carbon emissions, and continue to help with advice on their campaigns.

By the way the event was at Shakespeare’s Globe. Fabulous venue. And the school with the railway to cycleway plan come from not far from Shakespeare country. Omen maybe.

  • Larry Court

    Took my English class to the Globe a few weeks ago. They had a great time, and learned a lot. The renovation has been a terrific success

  • Patsy Hills

    My vote goes to the plan to get parents and teachers out of cars. I live in North London, not far from you, and the traffic jams of bloody Volvos and 4 by 4s around Hampstead at schooltimes morning and early evening are awful. Why can’t their little darlings walk or get a bus? I know it is harder in rural areas but there is no excuse in big cities like London. We are going to have to give up our addiction to the motor car some time soon.

  • Bert P

    ‘believe you can and you’re half way there’ — like it. So did Obama! Yes he did!!

  • Claire

    I 99.9% of the time agree with you Alastair, but just a point, and one to Patsy too about teachers in cars. As one, I always lived out of the area of any school I have taught at, and frequently started my days by 7.30 am and finished frequently after 5. This would mean I would have to used public transport, in the dark, for a journey which would take over an hour, whereas in my car I am safre and the journey is shorter. Plus I could carry my crate – yes -crate of marking home in a much more comfortable way!

    What about lots of teachers who have children? Quite often they have to use the services of a child minder so they can arrive at school in time to receive everyone else children! Using public transport would make this impossible.

    I am a big supporter of cutting down cars around schools, especially primary schools as the pupils tend to live nearer, but give the teachers a little bit of a break here!!

  • Anita

    Alastair-I do believe that there is an inherent contradiction in your attack on Andrew Marr for asking whether there was truth in rumours that the PM was suffering from a mental health problems AND your support last night at N0 10 for a mental health charity. On the one hand you feel mental health should be disccussed on a level with physical health, but then you decry a journalist asking a perfectly valid question about mental health. Where is the logic? Surely the real crime was that the journalist had to use the word “painkiller” rather than”anti-depressant”. As you have often stated, mental health should be talked about openly and confronted head on. So let journalists do their job.

  • Brian Hughes

    Isn’t there a danger that the “freedom” brigade, who are so fond of misinterpreting Eric Arthur Blair’s fiction, claim that this is just part of an Orwellian plot to get children to do the state’s evil work?!

  • gary Enefer

    Hi Alastair

    Yes,it is always always always great to come into contact with our young – especially on a productive day like you just enjoyed. I have been taking out son to university open days and these are often managed by student volunteers. They are great, enthusiastic and knowledgable young people and makes me feel the world is in safe hands.

    By the way,can I say don’t like it when people are using the’ post a comment’ on one of your blogs to comment on a previous blog. I am sure i am not the only one who thinks of something later but that moment has passed an you are on a new subject now so let’s start over each time. The mental health question from Andrew Marr was on a previous blog and has nothing to do with this blog about your wonderful day,and thank you for investing your time,at the Globe.

    best wishes

    gary (and Son!)

  • audrey wilson


    I’ve just read your blog on ‘inspired by kid’s green passion’….I would really like to know why our children are no longer taught traditional crafts within the school curriculum. What used to be called. Woodwork. Needlework. Metalwork etc now all comes under the heading of DTI…because it’s no longer PC to discriminate among the sexes..Can I just say that in my experience…boys will be boys and girls will be girls and the girls are about as interested in metalwork as the boys are in knitting…totally zero… causing chaos within the classroom…..I’m a knitwear designer…next year will be 40 years in the fashion industry as a designer/ lecturer in fashion..currently designing and writing baby patterns for for the UK Handknitting association..who in turn are trying to promote hand knitting back into schools (unsuccessfully due to health and safety legislation….. boys & knitting needles…lethal weapon)…possibly the most eco friendly and eco productive occupation (no machinery, electricity etc involved)I occasionally teach textiles in schools to 14 year old boys who have absolutley no desire to learn how to sew (why should they)..Can we not teach our children the skills they need to survive………Boys need to bash things…girls need to make things.
    Would like to hear your thoughts