In the last few months I, along with others, have been encouraging a green revolution at my secondary school. We now have a fully functioning Eco Club, having just installed a huge wildlife pond, and are currently planning PSHE sessions for next half-term regarding the environment. Our first newsletter will be issued to all students, parents and teachers in the next few weeks, revealing the schools amazing bio-diversity (including a badger family) and the sustainability issues we are trying to address. Our already existing 'Beast Club' and 'Bee-keeping Club' are still continuing to run, attracting dozens of pupils from all year groups. And finally, over the past few months (and the next few) some of our school assemblies are going to be/have been environment themed. I was asked by the head of Sixth Form if I'd like to write a piece in which could be read out in one of these assemblies. Of course I accepted and here it is! Hopefully it will be read in front of the school (that's nearly 1000 students and teachers) in the near future...
"When I think of the environment many words spring to mind: bio-diversity, habitats, climate, food chains, wildlife…
Quite simply, the natural world is incredible –
- The largest animal in the world, the blue whale, can produce a call so loud it can be heard hundreds of kilometres away.
- Elephants can smell water from 20km away, even if the water is still in underground stores.
- One species of penguin “propose” to mates by giving them a pebble – the female then selects the male depending on the pebble’s shape and colour.
- If a rope 2 inches thick was made using the silk of the Darwin’s bark spider it could theoretically stop a Boeing 747 in flight, which has a top speed of 988 km/h.
Unfortunately habitats are being destroyed, wildlife is declining, climate is changing, bio-diversity is being lost and food chains are being disrupted. I don’t want anyone getting overwhelmed or depressed but facts are facts. In the past 40 years alone we have lost 50% of our wildlife populations worldwide. To put that into context…the earth is 4.6 billion years old. Let’s scale that down to 46 years – the human race has been here for 4 hours. Our industrial revolution began 1 minute ago. And in the last 10 seconds the other animals that we share the planet with have halved in population size, whilst our population has grown to 7.3 billion.
One of the most devastating wildlife declines has been that of the African Elephant. This is a species that has roamed the earth for 55 million years, but, to the actions of a small few, is set to be extinct in just 11 years. Why? Because their ivory tusks, designed for fighting off male rivals, are now more valuable on the black market than both gold and cocaine. The demand is so high that an average of 96 elephants are illegally killed in Africa every day. By the time the year 7s are 22 years old, probably just finished at university, Africa will be devoid of wild elephants. One of the world’s most iconic species, proven to be as emotionally developed as humans, gone forever, unless we change our ways quickly.
You may be thinking: Why does it matter? Will this really affect me? Why should I care? Not only does every species on this planet have the right to be here as much as any other, but without a healthy environment everything suffers, including us.
Here’s a fact for you: The price of our natural world, and the services it provides, is an estimated £40 - £60 trillion per year. An example of this is the humble honeybee, whose services of pollination value at £1.2 billion annually. Without honeybees 2/3rds of our fruit and veg would be gone from out plates. And like the honeybee every species on the planet has a particular function, and an individual position on the food chain. If one species is removed, breaking the chain, everything and everybody is affected.
This is what I’d like you to take away with you today – we need nature to survive. Don’t have the attitude that the environment is replaceable by technology. Don’t allow the so-called hippies with their compost heaps to get bad press just for trying to make a positive change. Don’t judge a stereotype, and never think that somebody else will sort it out.
Many often see conservationists as the enemy – property developers just see them as another thing to bulldoze, and the majority label them as tree-huggers with dreadlocks and a resistance to showers. But is it so wrong for someone to be trying to restore the natural balance between humanity and the environment? At the end of the day it’s as much for our sake and theirs. These problems won’t sort themselves out. It’s up to everybody to make a change. Older generations can’t rely on younger generations to sort it out, and younger generations can’t blame older generations for the mess we’re in. If you only take one thing away from this assembly, make sure it’s respect for our natural world, and those trying to protect it. Thank you."