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.