Supporting The Climate Strikes

Supporting The Climate Strikes

Young environmentalist and birder Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig at the
#YouthStikes4Climate in Bristol
Copyright Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig

 

Guest blog by Henry Greenwood, Green Schools Project

 
 
Since waking up to the reality of climate change in 2007 when watching Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ I always thought of it as something that could be prevented if we all worked hard enough to persuade people to change their behaviour and governments to change their policies. 
 
Since then, while there have been changes and shifts in the right direction, it has been nowhere near enough and 2018 was the year that I accepted that climate change cannot be prevented. It’s too late for that. The climate has already changed, and the still increasing amounts of greenhouse gases that we are emitting make further climate breakdown inevitable with increasingly devastating consequences. 
 
In October, the IPCC Special Report came out stating in clear terms that we were way off track to avoid catastrophe and that we have 12 years to drastically change the way we live. Not long after, WWF produced a heartbreaking report stating that 60% of wildlife had been wiped out by human activity since 1970. To put all this into a UK political context, however, around the same time, Philip Hammond delivered the 2018 budget without a single mention of climate change.
 
These reports have been galvanising forces that have raised awareness and focused minds, but in the past, there have been many reports and events that come and go with media noise at the time, only to be forgotten in the continuous news cycle and our collective return to habitual ways of life. One story that emerged towards the end of 2018, though, genuinely has the potential to change the course that we are on. 
 
It is the story of young people rising to the challenge to which adults have failed. Greta Thunberg started striking from school and sitting outside the Swedish Parliament in September and has been doing it every Friday since then. Now over a million young people around the world in thousands of events are taking part in the Youth Strikes, making the point that their futures are being compromised by the lack of action from older generations on climate change. 



#YouthStikes4Climate
Copyright Henry Greenwood
 
Where does the Green Schools Project fit into all this? I left my job as Head of Maths at a Hackney Secondary School in 2015 to start the organisation as my way of contributing to tackling climate change. In assemblies, we tell students about the reality that they are facing and how they can play a part in addressing the greatest challenge we face. I don’t encourage students in the schools that we are working with to go on strike, that’s entirely for them to decide, but we stand squarely in solidarity with the young people choosing to take this action and support their call for a planet that is still habitable by the time that they are adults. 



#YouthStikes4Climate in Bristol
Copyright Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig

 

#YouthStikes4Climate in Bristol
Copyright Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig




Henry Greenwood Biography

Henry Greenwood
Copyright Henry Greenwood

 

One of our goals as an organisation this year is to amplify the voices of young people calling for change to a system that is causing the mass extinction of species and will lead to the end of our current way of life. I hope with all my heart that the young people that I see in schools will have the opportunities and freedoms to live and work, travel, and enjoy the natural world as much as I have, but I fear that this will not be the case. Maybe young people will be the ones that finally provide the wake-up call that is needed to treat this crisis as the crisis it really is, and decisively change the course of events.

Henry Greenwood is the founder and managing director of Green Schools Project. Henry trained as a Maths teacher and developed the role of Sustainability Coordi­nator working with Year 12 students who promoted various green projects. After 2 years as Head of Maths at Skinners’ Academy in Hackney he decided to step out of teaching in order to start Green Schools Project, using his skills, ideas and resources built up during the successful programme at Kingsmead.

 

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Fantastic reasons to #YouthStrikes4Climate

Fantastic reasons to #YouthStrikes4Climate

Young environmentalist and birder Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig at the
#YouthStikes4Climate in Bristol
Copyright Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig
Young environmentalist and birder Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig at the
#YouthStikes4Climate in Bristol
Copyright Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig
This is a letter I sent to New Statesman, of which part was published on 15 March 2019.
My generation is more aware of climate breakdown and the impact it will have than any generation before us and so we should care more than anyone else. It seems outrageous to us that the people deciding how to deal with climate breakdown will not even be alive to face the consequences that are surely going to define our lives and those of our children. The reason we are protesting and taking part in the Youth Strikes for Climate boil down to the fact that our government and policymakers have not taken sufficient action to combat climate breakdown, and, like most governments around the world, are almost completely ignoring it as it does not fit in with their own agendas. Many of us have become disenfranchised with the system. I have never seen anything like the strikes, which are energising so many people my age around the world.  It has have given us hope and – more importantly – motivation to act. The strikes are important because now we are able to take our future into our own hands; it feels like we could finally trigger change.
#YouthStikes4Climate in Bristol
Copyright Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig
In many ways, the youth strikes are one of the most interesting ideas I have heard about, let alone taken part in. There are very few large impact protests like this that focus on the needs and desires of young people, giving us a voice. I think that it is essential for teenagers to take part; it is incredibly easy to feel that we are not being listened to and so, because of this, allow apathy to take over. Many feel there is no point in shouting when no one is listening.
I have been involved with the UK organisers and have been relentless in speaking to people my age at school and online; asking if they are going to strike and if not, then why not? Some people have said that there is no point protesting, implying that they feel we can not impact change. Asking my friends who are striking why the responses ranged from “I don’t want to die before I’m fifty” to “I want to be a part of something important” to “no one is listening to us and decisions are being made without us. It has to change.”
#YouthStikes4Climate in Bristol
Copyright Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig
#YouthStikes4Climate in Bristol
Copyright Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig
Although some schools have not been happy about striking, mine has been very good. When I first asked my head of the sixth form about the consequences of striking, he only responded by saying “I can’t endorse it” with a smile, suggesting that anyone striking would not be punished. I have also heard rumours that some teachers have been helping students make banners and may even be giving lifts into Bristol to attend the protest. Schools should be supporting pupils to strike as the benefits of engaging them in politics and protest far outweighs the lessons missed.
#YouthStikes4Climate in Bristol
Copyright Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig
#YouthStikes4Climate in Bristol
Copyright Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig
Another reason that I care so deeply about climate breakdown is the impact it will have on people in poor countries who have not contributed to its cause and can do nothing to stop it; sixteen of the twenty countries most at risk from climate breakdown are in the developing world.
Studies have shown that the Earth’s average temperature is projected to rise by 4 degrees Celsius while the mean sea level is also set to rise by about 0.5 metres. Such drastic changes are caused primarily by four agents:
• Greenhouse gases
• Deforestation
• Ocean’s absorption of carbon dioxide
• Loss of sea ice
For me, climate breakdown is not some grim, dystopian future or vague concept, but a harsh reality. My maternal family is Bangladeshi and live in a country already facing some of the worst effects of climate breakdown. I hear constant news about the 3.5 million climate change refugees that have already fled to the capital, Dhaka, and the increasing numbers of typhoons destroying coastal communities and their livelihoods.

Bangladesh in drought
Copyright Quarz India

 

The Climate Risk Index is a figure that expresses the extent to which countries are affected by changes in climate. Only four developed countries figure in the top 20 worst affected countries. Poorer, developing nations are hit much harder by the phenomenon. Here’s a look at some of the countries that are worst hit by global warming.

Projections indicate that sea level rise will cause heavy flooding in certain areas of the country. A rise of 45 cm in the sea level will likely result in the inundation of about 10 per cent of the country. For sea level rise of 1m, 21 per cent of the country will go under saltwater (IPCC, 2005). Such a rise is likely to inundate coastal wetlands and lowlands, cause an increase in coastal erosion, increase frequent and severe floods and create agriculture-related issues.

Bangladesh in floods
Copyright 2002 National Geographic Society
Bangladesh is subject many of the effects of climate change due to its geographical location, hydrological regulation from monsoon rains and regional water aggregation patterns. The country receives too much rain during the monsoons and too little water in the dry season. This situation will be exacerbated by a warmer climate, resulting in increased flooding and droughts which threaten to adversely affect agricultural output. What worsens the situation is the fact that the sea level is rising from the south and the increase in the reception of water from Himalayan glaciers will cause inundation of the regions located in the base of the mountains.
At a personal level, my grandfather’s village had terrible storms causing flooding and wiping out rice crops – their food supply for the next  5 months. As a family we able to help to support them, but most families are not so lucky. Countries like Bangladesh are starting to demand that the West take responsibility and take climate breakdown refugees. By 2060 it is predicted there will be up to one billion of them worldwide.
Bangladesh in floods
Copyright Probal Rashid Huffington Post
Bangladesh in floods
Copyright #breakthroughjuniorchallenge
A stereotype that irritates me is the idea that young people just do not care anymore, that we are social media obsessives who are detached from real-world issues. It could not be further from the truth. Social media is the tool allowing events like the climate strikes to occur, and it is the conduit that has helped increase awareness of climate breakdown. The Youth Strike for Climate campaign has been almost entirely driven through social media, gaining a global presence. This Friday is an amazing example of what social media can help to achieve.
Young environmentalist and birder Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig at the
#YouthStikes4Climate in Bristol
Copyright Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig

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5000 birds around the world in 16 years

5000 birds around the world in 16 years

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig birding Castillo de Loarre, Spain
Copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig



The main reason we were going anywhere in February half term 2019 was to go to Spain to practise my Spanish as I hadn’t been able to go on the school trip. We weren’t expecting to see a massive amount of birds as the last time my parents had gone (in 2004 when I was 1 1/2 years) there had been awful weather with very bad snow and there hadn’t been many birds there at all. 

 
But the first day was very good, so we were surprised straight away. We drove out to some fields only a few miles out of Madrid and started scanning. Within a couple of hours, we had seen a pair of Spanish Imperial Eagle with a nest, Calandra Lark, and up to 30 Great Bustard! As well as lots of other birds as well – including Black Vulture, a new bird for my mum. 

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig birding in Spain
Copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

 

 
On our second day, Saturday, we went to El Planeron to look for Dupont’s Lark. We saw lots of Short Toed Lark immediately and really well. We then saw Black Sandgrouse and Pin-Tailed Sandgrouse within ten minutes of each other and we were celebrating our luck. The Pin-Tailed Sandgrouse was a new bird for both me and my mum too. I managed to see them both really well and even grab some dodgy photos. After a few hours of trawling, I was beginning to lose hope of seeing our rare lark when we saw a bird perched upon a bush through the heat haze. I hurried to get the scope out and lo and behold it was the Dupont’s Lark! Not the best views but definitely one.



Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig birding El Planeron, Spain
Copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig birding El Planeron, Spain
Copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig birding El Planeron, Spain
Copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig birding El Planeron, Spain
Copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
On Sunday the tables turned, though. We tried lots of different sights looking for Wallcreeper, Bonelli’s Eagle, and more, but nothing turned up. In fact, we didn’t see much of anything that day. I was a little worried too; at this point, my world list was on 4998 and I really wanted Wallcreeper to be my 5000th, but I needed to somehow only see one more bird before magically finding myself a wallcreeper. 
 
Monday morning we went to Castillo de Loarre, in Arogan, to try and find an Alpine Accentor as it was supposed to be a really good sight for them. There was no sign of them, but we did spot Rock Sparrow pretty quickly in the castle itself. We were walking back to the car when a few birds flew along the tree line, and so we had to investigate. After a few minutes of walking around in the scrub, a male Rock Bunting flew out in full view onto a bush. It was perched up for several minutes with a few females flitting around it, and once it had finally flown away I cheered silently. It had been my 5000th bird in the world! Although I had been hoping for the Wallcreeper I wasn’t at all disappointed with the Rock Bunting, in fact, I was very pleased with it. 5000 is a bid deal for me because I’ve been working towards it for years at it’s almost half of the birds of the world and I’m the youngest person to see so many. 



Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig birding Castillo de Loarre, Spain
Copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig birding Castillo de Loarre, Spain
Copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Rock Bunting at Castillo de Loarre, Spain

Copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

 

I am incredibly lucky to be able to travel to conservation projects around the world and hope that by highlighting these projects and the species they are protecting I am giving something back. From a birding point of view, it was absolutely incredible seeing my 5000th world bird species especially such a stunning bird as a Rock Bunting. That number represents to me 5000 beautiful birds, 5000 beautiful places and 5000 beautiful experiences.
Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig birding in Spain
Copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

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