Category: endangered species

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.

TSL 2018 International Schools Debates SDG14 – OCEANS, The Seychelles

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The Seychelles hosted the TSL 2018 International Schools Debates with more than 90 international delegates (students and teachers) from all over the world.

The competition theme was Oceans (SDG #14), and the debates were hosted by the Seychelles government on Mahe Island in July 2018. We (students) were welcomed by the Seychelles’ ministers of education, environment, and tourism.

The opening ceremony followed the launch of the book ‘Voices of the Future’ with the UNESCO’s Voices of Future Generations initiative and Bloomsbury Books.

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Primary Schools Debate was in collaboration and teamwork of students (ages 7-11) set about developing a shared plan for conserving the world’s oceans, seas and marine resources. I gave an individual speech on the topic ‘My plan to protect and manage our oceans, seas and marine resources.’

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My speech: ‘My Big Plan to Protect the Ocean for Tiny Sea Turtles and All Life Below Water’

We (students) were assigned to one of four groups, where we discussed and debated with the help of facilitators. We worked together with the aim of achieving a commonly shared plan to save the world’s ocean, seas and marine resources by 2030. We prepared arguments either pro or con, on the motion, ‘This House believes that the targets of UN Sustainable Development Goal #14 are achievable’

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The exciting, five-day program included a Children’s Ocean Conference, where children from around the world worked with local Seychellois youth organizations and marine conservationists to protect the seas of the Small Island Developing States, and teachers attended a special workshop on improving educational resources on oceans, seas, and marine resources.

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The field trip program included visits to a marine park, a fishery, a maritime academy, and a marine discovery station, and the program closed with a Cultural Evening.

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TSL Debates Blue Planet Banner comes home to King's UK - July 2018
Our Blue Planet banner arrives back from the 2018 Trust for Sustainable Living International Schools Debates in the Seychelles to King’s College School, Cambridge,
UNESCO VoFG Child Author Jona David’s school in the UK, along with the ‘Voices of our Future’ Bloomsbury book, and are presented to Headmistress Mrs Yvette Day and TSL Teacher Champion Mrs Helen Barker, along with Eco-Society lead teacher Mr Angus Gent, and (me) Nico Roman, UN Child Ambassador for the SDGs.

 

MY BIG PLAN PROTECT OUR OCEANS FOR TINY SEA TURTLES AND ALL LIFE BELOW WATER – By Nico Roman, 9

TSL Essay

                                                    By Nico Roman, 9                    

A turquoise sea-turtle hatches beside her siblings in their golden sandy nest. She blinks her jewel eyes. She is just a baby – small, vulnerable and endangered. She has only one chance in 2,500 to survive, a symbol for all life below water if we cannot change our ways. Like sea-turtles, I have lived on Pacific and Atlantic coasts, swimming Baltic, Salish and Caribbean seas. To save this TINY life and all ocean creatures, we need real change, fast.

We Need Oceans Laws and Compliance

Overfishing and illegal fishing must stop. We need new international and national laws to end subsidies. People must only buy sustainably caught seafood (with escape hatches in nets preventing by-catch of turtles) and not endangered species. Waterproof cameras on boats should film tweets and blogs, making citizens act more responsibly. Coast guards, communities and kids can enforce laws on water and land. By law, people will look out for our tiny turtle as she escapes into the sea, starts her migration, and hunts for food to grow.

We Need a Global End to Ocean Rubbish

Dangerous chemicals are polluting our oceans with run-off from fertilizers and pesticides from the land, industrial chemicals, and untreated storm-water. Plastics are collecting in huge islands, hurting sea-turtles, whales and birds. We must end all harmful practices that drive ocean pollution, changing all agriculture and industry so it is clean and healthy. People must reduce, re-use and recycle all waste, cradle-to-grave, especially plastics. This way, pollution won’t poison or strangle our tiny turtle as she swims thousands of kilometres on her migration across the oceans.

We Need New Marine Plans, Protection and Measurement

There are not enough marine protected areas, and many are degraded.  Ecosystems are threatened, like bleaching of coral. Climate change is causing serious impacts. Clear targets and plans must guarantee protection for all threatened marine ecosystems, respecting scientists and communities. Kids clubs and everyone can help, including tourists. With safe zones, and better measurement and on-ground action, we can ensure that our tiny turtle, and all her friends have a safe and resilient home. Our sea turtle, not so tiny now, can return to lay her own eggs in the sand. Her hatchlings will be protected, maybe by teams of children like me, as they start their own journeys.

Even the tiniest child can make a big difference for sea turtles, for our oceans and for our future.