We know how hard it can be to think positively about our planet's future. It can seem overwhelming when we hear many negative and scary news stories about the future of the planet. Let's focus on the positives and see the real change happening and celebrate that!
As well as global stories, we want to hear from you too! Has your school been making positive changes for the environment? Perhaps you have been promoting cycling to school or have established a wildlife garden! We would love to celebrate your school's successes in our Positivity Corner. Let us know via email@example.com
Building Empathy and Resilience
Our positive stories provide a special place to come and see that our actions make a big difference! Stories of people working together, problem solving and selflessness create a new understanding of the world that children want to be part of.
Eating less meat, or none at all, is an excellent way of reducing the world’s carbon footprint and releasing less CO2 into the atmosphere. This is because raising animals for meat takes a lot of land and energy. As well as 80% of all farmland being used to graze animals, according to a Greenpeace report* in 2019, 63% of farmland is used to produce food for farmed animals to eat. If this land was used to provide food for humans to eat, we would go a long way towards being able to eradicate hunger in the world.
This campaign has raised awareness about the importance of eating less meat – directly influencing people to have meat-free days or give up meat all together. The BBC reported that 17% of people in the UK now eat less meat than they did a decade ago**, but there is still a long way to go.
Talking point: Have you started to eat less meat? Are you a vegan and if so what are your reasons?
Plastic is harmful to the ocean ecosystem as it does not biodegrade and instead breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces which can enter food chains and poison the animals which live there. Ocean plastic rubbish has formed huge swirling gyres* that have been named the Pacific Garbage Patches. These are so large that you could fit the UK into them 6 times or more!
In just 8 years, using cutting edge technology, Boyan and his team have designed 2 methods for cleaning up ocean plastic. Firstly, 2 huge boats pull a large but shallow net behind them slowly through the water and funnel the plastic into the back of it. The second way that they clear up plastic is by collecting it as it moves down rivers. This stops the plastic from entering the oceans in the first place. They use floating machines called interceptors which are fully automated using robot and AI technology. Even better, the plastic that they collect is then recycled!
Have a look at their website and watch one or more of their amazing videos!
Talking point: Does anyone have any ideas for a machine or technology that could make our planet a better place to live? Maybe you could be like Boyan and make your idea a reality!
*gyre - a spiral or vortex.
An exciting competition, The Deep Space Food Challenge, from NASA is calling for entries which design ways for astronauts to grow and create food in space. This will allow humans to be able to travel further into space, more comfortably, and what is really exciting is that these methods of food production can also be used in remote and resource-poor areas of the world where they currently suffer from not having enough food to eat.
Entries from scientists and engineers have created ways of growing and producing food in some amazing ways and using a variety of methods! Astronauts will be able to make bread in a single bag, create meat alternatives from insects and grow fruit and vegetables in vertical farms. Algae is used by many entries to create nutrient rich foods and as they are so easy to grow and reproduce, they might become the main part of a space diet! The food production techniques use as little energy and water as possible and can be used in many situations on Earth as well as in space. This will make food production possible in areas where growing crops is difficult because of weather conditions and changing climate.
Have a look at the NASA website, watch the video and read through some of the entries!
Presently, plastics are usually made from oil and petrochemicals, damaging our environment as the litter finds its way into oceans and other important habitats! These tiny particles of plastic do not break down and are devastating food chains and ecosystems globally. Did you know that small particles of micro-plastics have been found in the snow in The Arctic?
The new plastic will be renewable, easy to break down and is easier to make than traditional plastic. The scientists have calculated that they will need hundreds of millions of metric tonnes of DNA to keep up with the demand for plastic and have put forward the ingenious idea of using waste products from industry to help them. For example, yeast from fermentation can be used, the juice from food processing waste, or the waste from creating antibiotics can all be used to create the plastic that we need in our modern lives.
Once thrown away, it can be recycled but if it was to carelessly end up in the environment, it will completely biodegrade (which means that it will completely break down and not harm the local ecosystem).
This does sound almost too good to be true and it is unclear if there are any plans to widely start to use this method soon, but it definitely provides hope that a solution to the plastic waste crisis is just around the corner. In the meantime, the best thing that we can do is to reduce the amount of plastic products and packaging that we use in the first place.
Talking point: Did you know that the era that we are living at the moment is called The Anthropocene? It is used in geology* to describe that the Earth is currently dominated by human activity. It is thought that in thousands of years from now, when geologists look at fossil and rock records from today, they will find a layer of plastic going through the soil. What else do you think they might find that will have been preserved in the geological records?
*Geology - a science that deals with the history of the earth and its life especially as recorded in rocks
The first was the announcement by the over 130 countries that they would stop deforestation by 2030. These countries included Brazil which holds most of the Amazon Rainforest; an area of forest, which if completely lost, would be catastrophic for the future and increase the rate of climate change. This announcement is a big relief after years of campaigning and despair as we have watched forests being logged, burnt and destroyed. Let’s hope that this promise is kept!
The second important part of the final pact which was agreed was the agreement to “phase down” and in many countries, “phase out” fossil fuels. This means that we will no longer need coal, oil and gas to provide our electricity and we will rely on renewable energy such as solar, wind and water power. This will reduce the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere which cause global heating. Some countries, like India, felt that they couldn’t promise to not use coal at all as they are a poorer country with a huge population of well over a billion people. Hopefully, they will be able to transition away from these at a faster rate in the future.
In particular, we can all be excited by the number of young people that have been present and demanding a change for all of our futures. It is the numbers of people marching and getting their voices and ideas heard which put pressure on the politicians and envoys to make promises and change the way that the world does business so that the world works for everyone, not just a few.
By the end of the COP26, there was a general feeling that progress has been made to tackle to the climate crisis on a global scale, but more needs to be done. They are going to meet again next year in Egypt and again in 2023 to ensure that countries are keeping their promises and going further in their commitments in the future.
Talking point: Does this make you feel more hopeful for the future or do you think that more needs to be done? What would you say to the leaders of the world if you had 5 minutes?
Unfortunately, in the past, their land has been taken away from them by westerners and they haven’t been able to look after it in the way that they wanted. Often, it has been used for farming, mining and building towns and cities which has destroyed the habitats and natural ecosystems that were once there.
Many people say that the main reason that climate change is happening, and other man-made disasters such as pollution and disease, is because we have forgotten that we are all connected to the Earth and that the most important thing we need to do to be happy and thrive is to respect and cherish our natural environment.
Now, indigenous people around the world are taking a stand and explaining what the connection is and helping us to restore the planet to the way it should be.
Last week, at the Leader’s Summit on Climate, Indigenous people’s leaders such as Archana Soreng from India and Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim from Chad in Africa stood up for their people’s rights, beliefs and traditional way of life and explained they needed their original homelands to be recognised and handed back to them so that they can continue to take care of it properly and lead the way to restoring our connection with nature.
Let’s hope that the world’s leaders agreed with them and will work hard to include them in future discussions to learn the best way to tackle the big problem of climate change.
This news is a wonderful way to celebrate diversity and understand that we must listen to everyone to find a better way of life in the future; one where we all connect with and look after our planet.
Talking point: Can you think of examples of indigenous tribes from around the world? What do you know about them and how do they differ? How are they the same?
*indigenous = people who have always occupied the land before westerners came and claimed it for themselves
This is the highest on record so far. It is important because the UK has pledged that all our energy will be produced this way by 2030.
The weather was windy and sunny and so 60% came from wind energy and solar energy and 20% came from nuclear power.
When electricity is made this way, it reduces the amount of pollution from burning carbon heavy fuels such as coal and oil. This keeps our planet healthier and safer for us all to live on.
This record should be broken more and more often as we use more lower polluting electricity in the future.
Talking point: What other ways are there to reduce air pollution?