Category: SDG 14

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.

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 

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.