Blog post for VoFG Arabia

Hello everyone!

I want to share with you my thoughts on climate action and the protection of life on land, a post that I wrote for Voices of Future Generations Arabia. I was thrilled to write on VoFG Arabias’ blog ‘voices’ which also features the voice of Jane Goodall (the world’s best-known female scientist!!) Founder – the Jane Goodall Institute & UN Messenger of Peace, and the voice of Isobel Abulhoul, CEO of the Emirates Literature Foundation and Festival Director of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature.

You can read my post below or click here: Climate action and protection of life on land – the voice of Nico Roman


Thank you, Voices of Future Generations Arabia, for this brilliant opportunity. In this blog, I would like to argue in favour of empowering children’s voices and quality education – SDG 4 & SDG 17, as I did in May during a symposium with over 1000 online participants.

My name is Nico, I am 11 and go to Kings College School in Cambridge. I am a UN Child Ambassador for the SDGs, and as part of this commitment I also edit an online blog – Nico’s Natural World – with over 9000 impressions, and hundreds of followers. Please come and visit it some time.

It is time that we all stand up for our children’s rights – as reflected in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), especially Articles 24 and 29 that promise us a healthy environment and education about nature, and also Articles 12 to 13 that guarantee us a voice in decisions that concern us.

Our future, and the futures of all species on Earth, concern us! They really do!

I might be only a small child, but I know that advancing the world’s SDGs, especially SDG 13 on Climate Action and SDG 15 to Protect Life on Land, makes the difference between a terrible global nightmare, and the future we want.

Even as our whole world is locked in frightening quarantines and curfews from the global COVID-19 pandemic, we can and must still speak out for our Earth, and for future generations of all species.

Climate change and biodiversity loss are real, dangerous and urgent.

As children, we are trying very hard to be heard, locally and globally, to stop the suffering and losses from getting even worse.

Even though we cannot vote, as children we already face the consequences of terrible climate change worldwide, including new viruses emerging, and old diseases returning, with impacts on our health and on the safely of everyone we love.

And we will face far, far worse in the future.

Currently, some decision-makers are doing the exact opposite,

backing up failing aviation and oil industries, which are causing the problem!

This is horribly unfair – it is a violation of climate justice!

The CRC promises us a healthy environment and this right means that willful destruction of natural habitats, without any regard for the plants and animals, nor for all future generations… just needs to stop.

We live in a climate emergency, and it will get worse if we can’t all work together, rather than re-starting all the harmful practices, and calling it recovery!

We also live in a biodiversity emergency, with thousands of species already lost, and many more at risk of going extinct forever—unless we all help to protect nature recovery when we plan economic recovery!

We must make sure our leaders tackle the climate and biodiversity crises with the same strength and unity they have shown us with the novel coronavirus pandemic, instead of ignoring it until everything is just too late!

If we want to make a difference, we must scale up our understanding, our education and our voices!

We need new guardian laws, institutions and networks.

The world after the COVID-19 pandemic needs to take children’s fears and interests much more seriously.

I am pleading for every single leader, including everyone reading online, to help us find new ways to stop the urgent threats of climate change and biodiversity loss, just as you promised in the SDGs.

Our rights are being directly infringed by current policies, laws and decisions – locally, nationally and internationally.

Even the smallest child CAN make a BIG difference, towards a more sustainable world for us all.

Voice of Nico Roman

Nico Roman (11), UN Child Ambassador for the SDGs, Voices of Future Generations Children’s Rights Initiative; Co-Chair, Cambridge Schools Eco-Council & YR6 Student, King’s College School (Cambridge)

Watch our Eco-Seminars

Eco-Seminars in partnership with Cambridge Schools Eco-Council and the Voices of Future Generations Initiative

We organised free 60 minute Online Eco-Seminars to raise awareness of key sustainability challenges and solutions, while schools have been forced online in many countries. Children, students, families and members of the public free over Zoom from April 21 to June.

Each Online Eco-Seminar focused on a key sustainable development goal, such as Climate Action (SDG 13), Protecting and Restoring Life on Land (SDG 15) or Agriculture and Food Systems (SDG 2). Each Online Eco-Seminar included student Eco-Councillors and UN Voices of Future Generations child authors / ambassadors, together with world-class experts, provided a 25-minute introduction to a sustainability challenge, and discuss creative local and solutions.

We have recorded these eco-seminars (see below) in case you missed any of them or simply if you would like to watch them again.


ECO-SEMINAR 1: GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE, THE PARIS AGREEMENT AND LOCAL SOLUTIONS – APRIL 21, 2020

Expert: Professor Christina Voigt, Ph.D., LL.M-Env (University of Oslo international environmental law expert and professor, IUCN Climate Change Specialist Group Chair, IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law Member and UNFCCC Compliance Committee Member)

Child author speaker: Jona David, founding Eco-Councillor of the Cambridge Schools Eco-Council, award-winning UNESCO VoFG Child Author of The Cosmic Climate Invention and other books, and student at Winchester College, UK

Eco-council speaker: Virginia Denmead, Cambridge Schools Eco-Councillor, Deputy Chair and Secretary, leader of St Bedes Eco-Society and student at St Bedes School, UK.

ECO-SEMINAR 2: AGRICULTURE, FOOD SYSTEMS AND CLIMATE RESILIENCE – MAY 5, 2020

Child Author speaker: Rehema Kibugi (UN Voices of Future Generations Children’s Initiative Child Author, Kenya)

Eco-Council speaker: Magnus Bramwell (Cambridge School’s Eco-Council Councillor and Secretary UK)

Expert: Advocate Ayman Cherkaoui (International Jurist in Climate Change Law, Executive Director of the United Nations Global Compact in Morocco, Lead Counsel for Climate Change at the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law)

Expert: Dr. Amy Munro-Faure (Coordinator at the Living Lab for Sustainability at the University of Cambridge)

ECO-SEMINAR 3: CLIMATE CHANGE, ENERGY POLICY AND SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES – MAY 19, 2020

Child author speaker: Jasper Chin-Moody (UN Voices of Future Generations Children’s Initiative Child Author, Australia)

Eco-Council speaker: Harry Auld (Cambridge School’s Eco-Council Councillor and Treasurer, UK).

Expert: Professor Laura Diaz Anadon (University of Cambridge Climate Change Policy Professor, University of Cambridge Peterhouse Bye-Fellow, C-EENG Fellow, Energy Policy Research Group Associate Researcher, Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs Research Associate, 6th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Lead Author).

Expert: MS Helene Kotter (Architect, Owner of Architecture Practice, Member of the Voice’s of Future Generations Children’s Book Series Leadership Council). In partnership with the Cambridge Schools Eco-Council.

ECO-SEMINAR 4: NATURE, BIODIVERSITY AND SUSTAINABLE LANDSCAPES –  JUNE 2, 2020

Child author speaker: Adelyn Newman-Ting (Voices of Future Generations Children’s Initiative Child Author).

Eco-Council speaker: Nico Roman (Cambridge School’s Eco-Council Co-Chair) and Freya Lundskær-Nielsen (Eco-Council Deputy Chair).

Experts: Ms. Hawa Sydique (Research and Communications Manager at the University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute).

Tara Atleo (Environmental economics researcher and indigenous sustainable development professional from the Ahousaht First Nation in BC, Canada, PhD student University of Waterloo, Laureate Canada 150 Senate Medal).

Iain Webb (Cambridge City Greenways Project Officer).

ECO-SEMINAR 5: CONSUMERISM AND WASTE – JUNE 16, 2020

Child author speaker: Andrea Wilson (Gold Award Laureate, Voices of Future Generations (VoFG) Children’s Rights Initiative, Child Author for North America of Sarah’s Journey for Tomorrow, blog post author on the Sustainable Development Goals and Child Rights).

Eco-council speaker: Luana Fernandes (Cambridge Schools Eco-Council Communications Officer, Student of Parkside School, key organiser of student climate strikes and eco-seminars).

Expert: Dr. Markus Gehring (JSD, Dr iur, MA, LLM, Law and Land Economy Lecturer; Jean Monet Chair of European Law and Sustainable Development; Centre for International Sustainable Development Law Lead Counsel for Trade, Investment & Financial Law; Hughes Hall Law Director of Studies at the University of Cambridge).

Expert: Prof. Damilola S. Olawuyi, Professor of Energy and Environmental Law


Please note: Students participated with permission and under supervision of parents/guardians, from their homes.

Digital Climate Change Strikes

In partnership with the Cambridge Schools Eco-Council and the Voices of Future Generations 

Strike with us every month!

These strikes raise awareness and put pressure on the government to take action. Times are so desperate that we as children are having to leave school for people to listen and take action. Each strike has a different theme. Show your support by performing a speech, make a placard or in any other artistic way.

During quarantine we have been doing online strikes. For this we ask you to send in a photo for the collage to be posted on our social medias and here on the website. Speeches, songs and other artistic expressions are also welcomed. You can send any submissions to our email: cambschoolsecocouncil@gmail.com.

We hope you enjoy the strikes!

June 2020: Stop Air Pollution

May 2020: Rethinking Farming

April 2020: Help Animals!

March 2020: Waterways & save our River Cam

WIC* WON PLATINUM on the green waste emergency eco-activity!

“The Wire & Ivy Cylindrical (WIC*) Eco-Composter”

*WIC means ‘home’ or ‘settlement’ in old English

Nico’s Narrative Report: Building an Eco-Composter for the Green Waste Emergency!

With the news that Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire district councils will not be collecting our green bins for a few weeks, I felt it a very good idea to build a green waste compost bin! I completed the project Step by Step.

Research: First, I researched the different designs and best location for a compost bin/heap, and investigated what can and what cannot be composted as green waste. I decided to make one that could compost layers of teabags, plant prunings and grass cuttings (green layers). According to The Eden Project, these are fast to break down and provide important nitrogen as well as moisture. I would also include things such as cardboard egg boxes, scrunched up paper and fallen leaves (brown layer). These are slower to rot but provide vital fibre and carbon and also allow important air pockets to form in the mixture. It was best to compost these green and brown garden wastes in the new ‘open’ composter, so my family could still use our other closed composters for food waste like fruit and veggie peelings. Otherwise it could attract mice and other animals, and make odours.

Design: Second, I made blueprint designs for a compost bin/heap for my garden. I eventually chose a cylinder made from wire and planks.I selected the most appropriate measurements: The planks are 54 cm long planks, to be driven 4cm into the ground, for a composter height of 50 cm. The length of chicken wire is 182cm, for a diameter of 58cm. This means my composter would have a volume of 158,525 cm3. For materials, I used old chicken wire that had been patching a fence, and two recycled planks of wood. I also used some withies of ivy which we recently cleared from a brick wall, to camouflage my composter and make it look more natural. (Recyle, Reuse, Reinvent!). I also made a list of tools needed, including the staple-puncher that I use to put up eco-council posters, a small hammer, saw and nails, and a spade for digging the holes. For safety equipment, I used gloves to guard against the wire and any splinters.

Design(I), Instructions for Use (II) and Materials List (III)

Construction: With help from my father (and amusement from my kitten), I built my composter. First, I gathered up the materials, including the wooden planks that were left over from a history project, and measured them carefully. I also gathered the tools we’d need, including the stapler, hammer, nails and small saw. For safely, we worked outdoors.

Second, I collected the other materials, including the leftover chicken wire from my tortoise table roof, that had been patching a hole in the fence. We did not use any new materials, except for the staples, because we wanted this composter to be very eco-friendly. Third, for safety it was my father who used the staple gun to punch the chicken wire to the planks properly. My kitten Alphabet was very interested in the chicken wire. Fourth, my father helped me to dig the holes in the soil, then we hammered the planks into the holes, so the composter stands upright. I tested it by inserting the first clippings of green waste. Finally, I used the ivy withies from a project last week to thin the ivy off the brick wall, to weave into the wire sides of my composter. They decorate and camouflage my composter so it blends into our green garden.

Building a Composter for the Green Waste Emergency

I greatly enjoyed making my composter because it required a bit of creative thinking about where to find materials that we could use, how to securely build the composter and where to place it in the garden. It helped that we had truly excellent weather all weekend so I was working in the sunshine for nearly two whole afternoons. I also had to distract my kitten, Alphabet, and keep her entertained so that she didn’t try to muddle everything up.I totally enjoyed the project of building a composter for green waste, because I felt that we were doing our bit to address a difficult situation with the green waste not being collected. I also enjoyed researching and creating the project idea, drawing the blueprints and planning diagrams, and being outdoors with my father and my cat to build it. I even rather enjoyed learning about ‘pi’ from my brother to calculate circumference and volume. My composter looks as if it belongs to the garden and blends into the scenery. It has very simple design and structure but is actually very sturdy!

To see the other winners click here: Winners of the Green Waste Emergency

ECO-ACTIVITIES: The Cambridge Eco-Challenge for the Global Sustainable Development Goals!


START NOW AND SPREAD THE WORD

The Cambridge Eco-Challenge for the Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is organised by the Cambridge Schools Eco-Council, a local network of students from over 30 Cambridge schools who lead eco-clubs. The Eco-Challenge was created to inspire children who are at home under lockdown measures to stay active and enhance their local environment and sustainability, one small project at a time.

The Cambridge Eco-Challenge can be accessed on the eco-council committee’s website blog, where a challenge will be posted online every fortnight!

The first Eco-Challenge went live a few days ago, and will run until April 25th, 2020. The task asks children to think about green and garden waste. Since the green waste bins are no longer being collected due to the pandemic, the eco-challenge is for kids to build a green waste composter (big or small, for gardens, balconies, or even windowsills). Children take photos of their design, building process and completed project (with themselves in the photos if they wish) and write a short blog entry about their project, then send it by email at: cambschoolsecocouncil@gmail.com
Local community leaders will judge the entries, and the most creative submissions will be awarded Eco-Challenge Gold, Silver and Bronze certificates!

Children of all ages are invited to participate in all the challenges the Eco-Council will post over the coming weeks. We can’t wait to see what kind of eco-creations you come up with!

I’LL BE CHAIRING FREE ONLINE ECO-SEMINARS FOR CAMBRIDGESHIRE AND THE WORLD!

Register now and spread the word

Cambridge Schools Eco-Council is organising a mini-series of free 60 minute Online Eco-Seminars to raise awareness of key sustainability challenges and solutions, while schools have been forced online in many countries. Children, students, families and members of the public can register for free over Eventbrite and participate online over Zoom, 4-5pm (UK time) each fortnight from Tuesday 21 April to Tuesday 16 June. Each Online Eco-Seminar focuses on a key sustainable development goal, such as Climate Action (SDG 13), Protecting and Restoring Life on Land (SDG 15) or Agriculture and Food Systems (SDG 2). Each Online Eco-Seminar includes student and expert speakers.

Over zoom, after a 15 mins for tech testing and interactions from 3:45pm to 4pm, student Eco-Councillors and UN Voices of Future Generations child authors / ambassadors, together with world-class experts, will provide a 25-minute introduction to a sustainability challenge, and discuss creative local and solutions. For a further 25 minutes, participants can ask questions and discuss potential solutions and ways to raise education and awareness interactively, followed by a 10-minute closing from the experts and youth speakers by 5pm.

Remember to register first!

Upcoming Seminars

Eco-Seminar 2: Agriculture, Food Systems and Climate Resilience – Tuesday, May 5, 2020

  • Child author speaker: Rehema, Voices of Future Generations Children’s Initiative 
  • Eco-Council speaker: Magnus, Cambridge Schools Eco-Council
  • Experts: M Ayman Cherkaoui, CISDL and Dr Amy Munro-Faure, The Living Lab

Eco-Seminar: Climate Change, Energy Policy and Sustainable Communities – Tuesday, May 19, 2020

  • Child author speaker: Jasper, Voices of Future Generations Children’s Initiative 
  • Eco-Council speaker: Harry, Cambridge Schools Eco-Council
  • Experts: Prof Laura Dias Anadon, University of Cambridge and M Helene Kotter, Eco-Architecture

Eco-Seminar 4: Nature, Biodiversity and Ecosystems – Tuesday, June 2, 2020

  • Child author speaker: Addy, Voices of Future Generations Children’s Initiative 
  • Eco-Council speaker: Nico, Cambridge Schools Eco-Council
  • Experts: Dame Fiona Reynolds and Ms Hawa Sydique, University of Cambridge

Eco-Seminar 5: Consumerism and Waste – Tuesday, June 16, 2020

  • Child author speaker: Andrea, Voices of Future Generations Children’s Initiative 
  • Eco-council speaker: Luana, Cambridge Schools Eco-Council
  • Experts: Ms Naomi Klein, Journalist and Dr Markus Gehring, University of Cambridge

Past Eco- Seminars

Eco-Seminar 1: Global Climate Change, the Paris Agreement and Local Solutions – Tuesday, April 21, 2020

  • Child author speaker: Jona, Voices of Future Generations Children’s Initiative 
  • Eco-Council speaker: Virginia, Cambridge Schools Eco-Council
  • Experts: Prof Cristina Voigt, University of Oslo and Cllr Rosy Moore, Cambridge City Council

Please note: Students participate with permission under supervision of parents/guardians from their homes.

First Eco-Activity

Spring Eco-challenge: Task 1

(Deadline: April 25)

Cambridge Schools Eco-Council

This is the beginning of our eco-adventure; we are all in this together! Now please read on… we are trying to make this eco-challenge as interesting as possible, videos to follow…. (Maybe for week 2)

Topic: Green Waste EMERGENCY

With the news that Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire district councils will not be collecting our Green bins for a few weeks, we thought it a good idea to build a compost bin/heap, or another one if you already have one. Don’t worry if you don’t have a garden, just a small bin will do.

Objectives:

Research… The different designs and best location for a compost bin/heap. What can and what cannot be composted.

How to make a compost heap: 10 top tips

Design… Draw a suitable design for a compost bin/heap for your garden. Selecting the most appropriate measurements and most suitable materials (remembering: Recycle, Reuse, Reinvent). Make a tools list. Don’t forget to use safety equipment where appropriate.

Make… With help, if possible and where necessary, make your compost heap.

Evaluate… Think about key questions like: How easy it was to find designs? Did you use the best and most eco-friendly materials? Was your idea and design good? Does it look good? Does it work? How could you improve it? Did you enjoy the project? (Remember to offer a reason as to why or why not for each thing you say).

Good luck and enjoy the chance of being outside in the fresh air and sunshine!

Save the River Cam and our Waterways

We have raised our voices internationally to ask for climate action, and as we continue protesting online (for the time being). We are also doing it locally, ‘we’ the Cambridge Schools Eco-Council are also protesting to save the River Cam and reduce climate impacts on waterways.

Currently, the river Cam is at 77% less than its long-term average flow for the last year, according to the Environment Agency. This is primarily due to over-abstraction of water from the chalk hills for domestic use. Our tap water mostly comes from the eastern chalk aquifer and we don’t have another source of water. The Cam may seem like it is completely fine and healthy but it is far from it. This is an illusion of how canalised the river is.

“The illusion is perpetuated by putting water back into the headwaters of the streams in the summer to keep those streams running because they have taken so much water out of the chalk.”

Stephen Tomkins, Chair of Cam Valley Forum
Stephen Tomkins, Chair of Cam Valley Forum

“Our rivers and streams are really important – the Cam is the reason for our city, Cambridge. Climate change, together with poorly planned growth, could devastate our water ecosystems, costing us our present and our future. We are speaking out to defend our river.”

Nico Roman, Co-chair Eco-council
Here investigating Byron’s pool along the Cam
Weir where flow of the Cam is regulated

For more information go to:

Chalk Streams in Crisis: A call for drought action now

Youth strikers to protest ‘canalised’ Cam at Friday march, Cambridge Independent

Galleries: Schools eco council hears of Cam water emergency on day of action, Cambridge Independent

We are taking the Schools’ Strike for Climate Action Online

We have suspended the schools’ strike for climate action since March due to
fears that gathering large groups of people together could help to spread COVID19. 

Alternatively we continued the strike online. 

Thank you to everyone who has participated 🙂

To learn more please check out this article by Cambridge Independent 

Cambridgeshire is facing a water crisis

The river Cam has been flowing at only 33% of its long term average, according to the Environment Agency. Cambridgeshire’s source of water, the Chalk Hills are running out of water largely due to abstraction beyond what the River itself needs. We as Cambridge Youth Strikers 4 Climate are starting this petition demanding action be taken.

Cambridge’s tap water comes from the Eastern Chalk Aquifer, fed by the chalk streams and filtered naturally by the local chalk hills. We have no other source of water here. Hotter summers are possibly drying the chalk out more. So through climate change and unsustainable abstraction by water companies, with complacency from the Cambridgeshire Country Council and the Cambridge City Council, our Chalk Hills are losing their natural reservoir.

We call upon Cambridgeshire County Council, Cambridge City Council and water companies (Anglian Water, Cambridge Water and others) to suspend all developments on the Eastern Chalk Aquifer and hold immediate talks between themselves to find an alternative to damaging the chalk streams through over abstraction.

This is not just about preserving drinking water for our human population. The chalk streams are a beautiful natural phenomena, unique to our countryside; in fact 85% of the world’s Chalk streams are found in England. This makes it all the more heartbreaking to see chalk rivers like the River Cam deteriorate under our management.

If you’re a Cambridge citizen, you may not realise how bad river flow is due to how canalised the Cam is. Controlled tightly by locks, damns and weirs the river appears a lot higher than it actually is. But what can still be seen is how poor the water quality is. As Stephen Tomkins (Chairman of the Cam Valley Forum) says, the River Cam has become “a big pond, basically,”.

This is absolutely shameful. In one of the richest and most scientifically advanced cities in the world our renowned river has become “a big pond”. Our aquatic life, from mayflies to trout to otters, are living and dying in “a big pond”. We lecture nations across the world on their mistreatment of their environments and we let our own rivers degrade to nothing but “a big pond”.

Enough is enough, we need the Councils and Water companies to stop playing the defensive and show real leadership over this water crisis. Our well-being’s at stake, our population’s at stake, our rivers’ at stake, our ecosystem’s at stake. No more development until you find a solution!

Save the River Cam! Stop development on Eastern Chalk Aquifer!

Sing the petition

Greater Cambridge Local Plan – The Big Debate – Feb 18, 2020

The Big Debate was an evening of quickfire presentations from local groups and lively debate about the future of Greater Cambridge.

Presentation by Luana, Nico and Harry representatives of the Cambridge Schools’ Eco Council at the Cambridge Corn Exchange

Luana, Harry and I, are very excited to have spoken as Youth Strikers in the ‘First Conversation’ consultation on the new Greater Cambridge Local Plan, other local groups also presented and debated their ideas.

As representatives of the Cambridge Eco Council at the Great Debate, we got the voice of the Youth and Climate heard!

About the Greater Cambridge Local Plan

To know more visit Greater Cambridge Local Plan

Cambridge Youth Strike 4 Climate sent their love to Australia on February 14, 2020

On Friday 14th February 2020 Cambridge Youth left their schools and took to the streets to send love to those in Australia affected by the horrific fires and demand the adults and governments of the world do something about the crisis we face.

We dedicated our Valentine’s Day protest to Australian schoolchildren. The effects of climate change are more prominent than ever, and so many people are being affected first-hand.

We are here in support of all the school children, wildlife and everyone whose homes and lives are being lost by the ferocious fires and floods in Australia, and around the world. We feel it is terribly unjust to continue burning fossil fuels and carry on harming our future. As children, and as the first generation to be hit so hard by climate change, we need to look out for each other.

The Australian bushfires have ignited not just a sense of horror across generations, but have also added a new sense of urgency.

People talk about climate change as if it’s a thing way off in future, but the wildfires we’ve seen raging in Australia in recent months bring it fully to the present day. How can we still think that climate change is in the future? Estimates say that the number of animals killed totalled half a billion. If they were humans that would be the same as losing seven per cent of the world’s population.

Valentine’s Day Cambridge Youth Strike 4 Climate to send love to Australian schoolchildren

We are sending you the Cambridge Schools Eco-Council’s open letter to schoolchildren around the world, especially in Australia, in hopes that you could pass it along. As you know, as part of the global strike, Cambridge children are marching this Friday, meeting at 9:30 at Shire Hall, to raise awareness and (on Valentine’s day) to show we care about the terrible impacts of climate change on children and wildlife who are already losing their homes and their lives, especially in Australia. Fires and floods are raging, and so are we!We’ll be carrying home-made art symbols of torches, smoke and fires, and also blue floodwaters, with us when we march, and over 30 children from different Cambridgeshire schools will be running through the march, wearing masks to speak for the koalas, kangaroos, wombats, wallabies and other unique, vulnerable and voiceless Australian animals who have been dying by the thousands in the bush fires due to climate change. Tomorrow we are also sending our Open Letter to the world’s schoolchildren who are also losing their homes, especially in Australia, as a plea to decision-makers everywhere to listen to the science and act now to stop this madness.

Thank you, Nico Roman (11, Kings College School, Cambridge), Co-Chair, Cambridge Schools Eco-Council

Cambridge Schools Eco-Council – Empowering pupils to protect our planet! cambschoolsecocouncil@gmail.com


Cambridge Schools Eco-Council | CambSchoolsEcoCouncil@gmail.com

OPEN LETTER TO SCHOOL CHILDREN

14 February 2020

Dear Schoolchildren, especially in Australia

We are writing in support of all the school children, wildlife and everyone whose homes and lives are being lost by the ferocious fires and floods in Australia, and around the world. We feel it is terribly unjust to continue burning fossil fuels and carry on harming our future. As children, and as the first generation to be hit so hard by climate change, we need to look out for each other.

Right now, we can only imagine what it must be like to live with the fear that your own home may burn. We have been devastated by all the news and tragic losses to habitats and wildlife, and we are thinking of you every day and know that the same could so easily happen to us.

As pupils from over 30 local schools and voices of over 3000 local citizens in Cambridge, UK, together with you and other friends around the world who have marched together in the global climate days of action, we write in solidarity today.

We are desperately worried as our planet continues to heat up, and we carry on facing a worsening fate of extreme weather conditions. We are terrified that we are reaching the highest record level of CO2 in our atmosphere for roughly a million years. It is the responsibility of us all not only to reduce our carbon footprints urgently and immediately, but to become carbon neutral and then negative as soon as possible.

Our whole world is at stake. As Greta Thunberg from Sweden has said: “We do need hope, but the one thing that we need more than hope is action. Once we start to act, hope is everywhere.” We may be geographically distant, but as kids terrified by the mess that bad decisions have got us all into, we stand right by your side.

Yours sincerely,

Please could you pass this letter on to schoolchildren and members of the local press that you might know in Australia? A Cambridge news story is here, if they would like to know more:

Valentine’s Day youth strike to send love to Australian schoolchildren

Street Art Nature Magic – by Nico Roman

Great news!! My story Street Art Nature Magic won the 2019 Lune Spark Story contest.

Street-Art Nature Magic by Nico Roman          

Abstract: In this urban myth, a secretive young street artist activates his own creativity, magnificent murals and a touch of magic, inspiring an entire generation through an epic struggle to save his city and the world’s most vulnerable, threatened living creatures from destruction.           

Judges Commentary: This piece of writing blew me away… The story is raw and authentic in its storytelling. One can see fantastic descriptions of imagery throughout the story. The author has a great command not only over the language, but also over vocabulary. This story reads like a lyrical poem and has been successful in delivering the message the author wanted to deliver. The story shows that the author has a wonderful sense of philosophical things. This piece of writing, according to me, will certainly resonate with the readers.  There is a writing talent who will go much ahead in his writing career.

Read the full story below 🙂


Street Art Nature Magic by Nico Roman Cordonier-Gehring[1]

In the first rays of dawn, a secret street artist peeled away from the wall as his shimmering sprays whispered the last sapphire, emerald and scarlet streaks across the blackened industrial slabs. His new endangered species mural was finally finished!

On the sooty cinderblocks of the deserted factory, Shimmer had painted a lush green bamboo grove with an anxious family of velvety Giant Pandas, their ivory and ebony faces gazing out of the mural with concern. In the foreground, the dusty cinnamon coats and clasped coppery paws of two distant relatives, Red Pandas, sheltered in a candyfloss cloud of a cherry blossom tree. And in the distance, the emerald bamboo shoots of their habitat splintered away, as the ominous claws of new roads and railways crisscrossed their horizon.               

The artist slipped quietly away across the shadowed slate rooftops, his ragged jacket, indigo bandana, dark jeans and battered high-tops fading into September’s city skyline. Shimmer’s smile glowed softly. His hopes were high that his message would be heard. People would understand and help to halt the destruction. Shimmer’s purpose was simple – to activate art against the Conglomerate Inc.  The industrial oil, biofuel and plastics corporation had built itself a twenty-story steel rat’s nest as a global headquarters in his city. Conglomerate Inc’s strategy was to control the nastiest projects in the cheapest, most desperate places in the world. They paid governments to look away while profits piled up, then disappeared, leaving behind degraded ecosystems, poisoned communities and changing climates for others to clean up or simply, hopelessly endure.

Shimmer was frustrated. He had vowed to wage a one-boy crusade. His art was to be a voice for the most vulnerable creatures – animals, insects and plants who were losing their lives while Conglomerate Inc’s terrible toxic spills, angry asphalt scars and plastic processing plants advanced. But in the end, maybe he was just one sad kid, alone with his spray cans in the night, trying for a better world. And unfortunately, he seemed to have no real chance of winning.

By October the city was buzzing with rumours. Through local schools, parks and markets, people murmured: “he’s like a pixie, skipping across our rooftops to leave sparkling, colourful messages.” Kids took photos of the murals which went viral across Instagram and Twitter, getting over a million hits. But in the halls of power, debates tasted like bitter deceit and vengeance. “This creep will vandalize our city and annoy property owners – we must stop him!” growled the industry council. “He is just a petty rebel – and he is laughing at us!” bellowed the corrupt Mayor and his cronies.

In November, the authorities played their next, catastrophic card. Shimmer was declared a danger to the city, a terrorist. Anyone who could identify him was offered a thousand pounds reward and a golden medal.  But they could not find him. Ironically, as the authorities hunted Shimmer, the city grew ever more famous for its magnificent, magical, multi-hued murals.

In December, on the side of an abandoned, bankrupt Toys-R-Us store, Shimmer streaked an elegant sage, butterscotch and aquamarine Leatherback Sea Turtle being strangled by garish crimson plastic clown masks, while rainbows of delicate Dragonfish, lacey forests of kelp, convoluted corals and silky Tiger Tail Seahorses danced across a turquoise ocean floor.

Covering an annoying billboard advertising glittery nail varnish, Shimmer sprayed a congress of ginger Orangutans swinging away in terror from the slashing roar of a steel chainsaw, the oily coils of diesel smoke curling above charred rainforest soils.

“He’s a leopard – going anywhere he wants each night!” grumbled the Chief of Police. Posters reading ‘Wanted – Dead or Alive!’ were plastered on every smoke-stained lamp-post. They hung from chain-link fences. But all through January and February, Shimmer would fade into the mists at dawn, slinking silently away alone. Every time they increased the reward or instituted a new citywide search, he would just paint more furiously, until he was finishing a new mural every other night.

No-one knew where his art would strike next.

On the dank brick of the Tesco’s across from a blighted petrol station, against a backdrop of radiant stars and cobalt-stained aurora borealis, a silent alabaster Polar Bear and her two small cubs gazed sadly over the city, reflected in a spreading stain of oil that cloaked the icy aquamarine Arctic sea.

There were over ten million Instagram followers by March, and street merchandise was starting to appear – T-shirts, mugs and tea towels with Shimmer’s images. The authorities were baffled, and Conglomerate Inc increased their security, installing angry alarm bells and searchlights that pierced the city sky at night, further annoying the residents.

One April night, Shimmer nearly met with disaster. He was crouched on the Guildhall fire escape, painting the last iridescent glimmers into a metallic Azure Hawker Dragonfly’s wings, hovering over a calm willow-ringed wetland pond next to an open, bleeding sewer. Dark vans came cruising by, then screamed to a screeching halt and a patrol clambered out, surrounding him and forcing him into a side-alley. Two grim, iron-grey men with pasty, angry faces came out of the smog in dark, expensive coats – it was the Mayor and the CEO of Conglomerate Inc, so close he could see their twisted grins as they arrived, television cameras tracking their triumphant strides.

As the boy backed further into the dead end, a rope-ladder suddenly slung down beside him. Shimmer scrambled for his life, his battered satchel swinging wildly as he shot straight up, then slipped across the shingles, sliding down the next dark drainpipe and away.

For all of May, armored trucks crowded the streets, searching for the artist. It angered the local people even more, but after his narrow escape, Shimmer was afraid he’d have to give up.

Then help came from an unexpected direction. The city’s youth, thousands of kids, took to the streets for Shimmer. They clambered the rooftops and alleyways every night, balancing on brick walls and dancing parkour over chimneys, wearing bandanas of all colours, carrying battered satchels, sporting paints of all kinds and ragged jackets. As the undercover struggle wore on, alarms began to peal every hour in different wards, triggered by his admirers, and Shimmer would slip into the shadows as yet another ‘kid artist’ placed hands above their head and turned smiling into the powerful police torch beams, only to be proven innocent later.

Still, by June, Shimmer was exhausted, worn down to the bone from the pressure of his craft. His risky strategy was becoming more dangerous. It was time for his last hope.

He dug deep into an old chest in his quiet attic room. Nestled in newspaper fragments was a legacy box of special paints from long ago. He dusted them off, and carefully dripped a few precious drops of each shimmering liquid into his special lucky set of spray cans. Then he pulled on his indigo bandana and ragged jacket, slipping off into the night.

Shimmer’s most important new mural was destined for the wall of Conglomerate Inc itself, looming high above the city centre. He needed every bit of his stealth and skill to bypass the cameras and guards, shimmying like a charcoal leopard up the elevator shaft.

In his final message, Shimmer’s city itself, in luminous sprays, formed a chain of friends and allies. The children were standing tall on foundations of schools, libraries, urban gardens and galleries, all glowing with life, their hands raised up. In their palms were protected the most vulnerable creatures of the world. The animals marched proudly onwards, circled by a mosaic of beautiful birdlike figures.

Once he had sprayed the contours, Shimmer reached for his special spray-cans.

Into the gleaming ivory arcs of the lost Elephant and Black Rhinoceros tusks, he added a spritz of Desperation, then swirled in two splashes of Strength and Survival. Into the accusing eyes of the advancing Gorillas, he mixed jets of Resistance and Hope. Across the placards of protesting youth and the petitions of supporting citizens, he blended shades of Inspiration and Solidarity. Slashing the curving howls of the CEO and Mayor, their faces fully revealed as their frozen forms tumbled endlessly from penthouse heights, he dripped Justice and Bitter Defeat.

And into the quiet, shadowy figure of one lone street-art crusader, armed only with his spray-cans, Shimmer painted Victory. 

By July, the world had changed. A new city government had been elected, with a Mayor who vowed to cleanse the town of corruption and protect nature. The CEO and senior executives of Conglomerate Inc were indicted after a dawn raid of their global headquarters and the firm went bankrupt. The Mayor and all the politicians that had been paid off were investigated and imprisoned. A Street Arts Council was established to celebrate Shimmer’s creations, and the city experienced an eco-tourism boom as people travelled from all over to visit the magnificent, marvelous and extravagant murals.

Shimmer himself, of course, was never found. Every magic has its price and every ghost his moment. But he is watching. Somewhere in the world, if a new depredations begin, a ragged figure with indigo bandana might peel away from a nearby mural, tucking his paints into a battered satchel, to begin again as the spirit of his generation.


[1] Special thanks to all my family, my godparents and my English professor Grandmother for all their advice, ideas for word choices and images, and help with the tricky spellings over nearly 3 months of work, and 10 re-writes. Especially thanks to my brother for helping to make a really long list of great creative words for different colours. I think I used nearly all of them.

TSL International Schools Debates on Sustainability in Victoria BC Canada

Report II

We had an excellent last 2 days of the debates and the conference!

During the Secondary Debates day, we had field trips. As it was foggy, I went to the Royal BC Museum with the debaters from Australia, Serbia and the Philippines where there was an amazing exhibit on indigenous languages, and a totally brilliant one on the ancient Mayans! I wish you could see it… (At least you could see it virtually here Royal BC Musem Maya: The Jaguar Rises). The First Nations displays were totally brilliant, maybe next year at King College School our History Trip could be to Canada. 

In the evening, we went to a Marina on the Salish Sea, there was a piano by the water that was free for anyone to play, and it was all painted. I gave a small piano concert from my GR2 songs, and the Australian debaters played too, the Goodwill Ambassador for First Nations Child Author, a bestselling children’s book writer who is from the Cree and Salish Nations was meeting with us about the awards ceremony, so she came too.

Thursday was the last big day of the international schools debates, it was an international children’s conference chaired by an indigenous leader from the Songhees Nation, Dr Patrick Kelly. Her Honor the Lieutenant Governor was speaking and giving awards, and Dr David Suzuki, a famous conservationist, broadcaster and scientist gave the keynote. 

I got up SUPER-early (not a problem, jet-lag of 9hrs) to write my Ambassador’s speech (see below or click here).

The TSL Ambassadors Award winners received Lt Governor’s Medals in front of everyone from the primary and secondary debates, and all the guests and speakers, which was totally amazing!!

We had a dialogue with a panel of international experts that included a young First Nations Leader and environmental economist (Tara Dawn Atleo, daughter of the Ahousaht Hereditary Chief and National Chief of Canada), a land conservation scientist (Dr Stephen Cornish), and a famous forest conservation expert (Dr Vicky Husband, founder of The Sierra Club). As primary debates Ambassador, I gave my speech about our discussions, focusing on all the ideas we had for things that we could do if government and citizens worked together to adopt new policies based on science to protect life on land, and being hopeful. I was asked by the experts about the upcoming global climate strike on 20-27 Sept, and I shared our plans in Cambridge UK to have evening candlelit vigils and to get all the community involved.

One of the last special events was the awards for the new first-ever First Nations Child Author in the UNESCO Voices of Future Generations Children’s Initiative. There was a tie for silver award between Sydnee who is from the Grand Rapids Cree Nation, and Bella who is Nisga’a Nation. Addy, who is Coast Salish, won, and her story is amazing. Jona gave the keynote speech to welcome them, chaired by the Goodwill Ambassador lady author. We had a special workshop under a totem pole in the gardens afterwards, with the new indigenous UNESCO child author and the child ambassadors and they were very, very happy to be part of the global network of children writing and speaking out for the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 

All in all, it’s been an amazing 2019 TSL International Schools Debates and Children’s Conference on Sustainability this year, even though we missed having more people on our team. Next year the theme is partnerships (SDG 17) and it will be Oxford so hopefully there will be a very good delegation. I’m bringing both my medals from the debates and as Ambassador, home to King’s College School, and hope you will all be able to feel very happy about our School’s success.

PS – It turns out that my Grandad has a special medal like mine, awarded by the last Lt Governor for his lifetime service to culture and heritage protection in BC. It’s like a knighthood, which is both historical and wonderful. We took a picture together with our matching medals.

Mobilizing a Youth Movement to Tackle the Climate Crisis

Lecture at the University of Cambridge Nov,19, 2019

University of Cambridge,
Department of Land Economy

Speakers:
Nico (11 yrs) Kings College School, Co-Chair
Harry (10 yrs), St Paul’s School, Treasurer
Freya (9 yrs) Kings College School, Eco-Councillor
Luana (15 yrs) Parkside School, Comms Officer

The Cambridge Schools Eco Council was formed in February 2019, after the first UK Youth Strike 4 Climate held in Cambridge and around the world on the 15th February. We now represent over 30 primary and secondary schools in Cambridge.

Our Eco Councillors have been in the national and local press, on local radio, been invited to meetings with the City Council, met our MP, Daniel Zeichner, and taken our message about the climate
emergency to the ex-Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Gove.
We have held 6 school strikes in Cambridge and organised a week-long programme of vigils on Kings Parade to coincide with the global week of
climate action.

Cambridge Schools Eco Council: our declaration
The science is clear. CO2 levels are higher than they have been for nearly a million years, average global temperatures are increasing, oceans are rising and becoming more acidic, wildfires are raging, and extinction rates are nearly 1000 times higher than they should be. If we continue burning fossil fuels, building unsustainable infrastructure and degrading our environment, children all over the world will be hurt or even die. We need to change all our lives and systems immediately or face an unimaginable future of heatwaves, floods, extreme weather, forest fires, crop failures, wars over land, food and water resource – the real risk of our own extinction. It is an emergency.

We are calling all local schools, town & county councils and the government to help us save our planet, our future and the future of generations to come, by declaring a climate emergency and acting on it immediately.