Category: Life on Land

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 International Schools Debates on Sustainability in Victoria BC Canada

Report I

We arrived safely in Victoria BC, after a very, very long flight on Sunday.

The TSL International Schools Debates and Children’s Conference on Sustainability started really well. We had some inspiring speeches at Government House Bandshell Lawn outside in the sun. The Leader of Canada’s Green Party Elizabeth May told us that we have all her support, that youth can make a difference and she quoted Greta Thunberg about the climate marches. The past and present Lieutenant Governors Hon Janet Austin and Hon Judith Guichon welcomed us, and the Minister of Education said that it’s really important that we learn, but also to have fun in the International Debates. There were First Nations drummers who welcomed us, too! We also went in coloured groups to explore Government House and its grounds, which are very beautiful with lots of gardens and a view over the ocean and the Olympic mountains. We felt very welcome indeed by the end of the opening.

Then, the Primary Debates on SDG 15 Life on Land were totally amazing! We all started off by giving our individual speeches. I spoke about how, if a Council of all Beings existed, they would put Humans on trial for the terrible damage we’re doing to other species. I also said that children can make a big difference by standing up for all life on land! Click here to read my essay and also here is a video of my speech 🙂

Everyone clapped and said very kind things to all the primary school representatives, who come from all over – Serbia, Australia, the Philippines, Canada and other countries.

There was a special workshop for teachers, sharing Education for Sustainable Development experiences from around the world. While that was happening, we worked in our groups to brainstorm ideas for our presentations. I was in the Government Group, and we came up with lots of ideas.

Our ideas included:

We had a totally amazing time. The other children in my Government Group from different schools from around the world were terrific and really kind.

  • government support to use no paper at schools only tablets charged by renewable energy, and planting/caring for at least 5 trees a year,
  • government rules to stop clearing trees and use only bamboo while also making sure there is extra habitat for Pandas,
  • government action to create more protected areas including for mountains and freshwater ecosystems.

It was good to be able to help lead the group since I had some experience after the Seychelles Debates. In the International Schools Debates in the afternoon, we presented our ideas, then we worked together with the Citizens Group to come up with an Action Plan to save all Life on Land (SDG 14).

Everyone did super well! We were very happy and proud when, in the closing of the Debates, Kings College School was given not just a finalist essay commendation certificate but also the Primary School Debates Ambassador’s Award, which we’d never managed to win before!!

Unfortunately, this also means more work… I will be representing all the Primary School Debaters in the final International Children’s Conference and intergenerational dialogue with decision-makers on Thursday,  July 11, 2019.

This includes Dr David Suzuki and all kinds of very wise and important speakers, as well as Jona who as a UNESCO Child Author is welcoming the new First Nations Child Author. So I need to write a new speech. There are field trips on Wednesday to the Royal British Columbia Museum and to the seaside, and we will send another photo-documentary report on Thursday after the International Children’s Conference! I hope you like all the photos from the trip and from the Primary Debates.

The wildlife here is incredibly friendly. We were visited by two fawns and a mother deer who were snacking on plants in our garden in the morning. Maybe they came to say thank you for defending life on land and all species! Or, maybe they were just hungry.

YOUNG PEOPLE ARE KEY TO ACHIEVING SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOAL #15 (LIFE ON LAND)

ESSAY FOR TSL COMPETITION *FINALIST*

Nico Roma (10 years-old), Kings College School, Cambridge

Every species is unique and precious, just like every child. If we clear our forests, degrade our lands and destroy whole ecosystems, we are stealing from all future generations of life on land. If all beings could speak and humans truly listened, they would tell us. We need new voices for the generations of life at risk.

Long ago, people moved from England to Canada. They took the lands from First Nations stewards, nature they called home. Majestic indigo mountains and emerald biodiverse valleys were clear-cut for asphalt highways, sprawling strip-malls and smelly landfills. Ancient forests were pulped into cheap paper. Soon, many BC wild places were threatened. This was unjust.

I imagine a Council of All Beings coming together. Every other species of life on land – Blue-Heron, Hedgehog, Newt, Dragonfly, also Pine-Marten, Wolf, Eagle, Cedar, even Lichens – would turn angry eyes towards Humans. Man would be on trial for destroying the ecologies of the world. Man would start to cry, when he realised how much he’d hurt everyone else. Children would stand up alongside. Our future is at stake too. We would promise to help all species and ecosystems recover. 

We can all become stewards. My grandfather and his family left the crowded, smoggy streets of London and polluted, degraded wetlands of East Anglia for the fresh emerald coasts of British Columbia. But rather than destroying, they tried to protect. As a youth, my mother stood up for BC’s ancient rainforests, campaigning to save the precious Carmanah-Walbran Valleys and Clayoquot Sound. They started clubs and eco-libraries, wrote letters and petitions, held marches and even hunger-strikes. They had courage, they found their voices and things did change. It’s still far from perfect, but Canada’s west coast remains a most beautiful place in the world to live, and rights of First Nations are increasingly respected. 

Young people are key for SDG 15! All children can be part of saving life on land. We can raise awareness through social media, blogs, radio, forming a global campaign to reverse deforestation and restore ecosystems, helping plant billions of trees, slowing climate change and avoiding terrible impacts by keeping global temperature increases below 1.5 degrees. We can mobilise, so newly-aware kids stand up. In the UN’s Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) in Egypt, nearly 200 countries launched talks for a new global biodiversity plan, with Canada co-chairing. We can petition all our decision-makers, reminding them to be fair to other species and future generations. We can also act to restore nature ourselves, with school eco-societies and communities. We can become local Guardians for Nature – stopping pollution and poaching, creating new protected areas; and helping everyone live sustainably together.

For all beings and all life on land, we must get started, right now!