Host: One of the industrial countries coming under pressure at the 1)Copenhagen conference to make bigger cuts in its emissions is Britain. Politicians and activists are fighting it out in Denmark, but at home in Britain there’s a quiet revolution already underway among schoolchildren. Rob Gifford begins his report at a schoolyard.
Rob: Recess at Poplar Elementary School in South London and the usual 2)whirlwind of small people 3)whooshes towards the playground. Today, though, the kids have an unusual visitor in the shape of an inspector from a group called Eco Schools.
Inspector: …composting area. You can always tell me what, you know, what you’ve been doing there. And then we’re going to go in your school and look at recycling corner…
Rob: Eco Schools is an organization that helps schools to be environmentally friendly.
Children: Use less light, turn off 4)radiators before opening windows.
Rob: Here at Poplar School, as in much of Britain now, with the help of groups like Eco Schools, it’s the children who are driving the agenda. Ten-year-olds Caitlin Fletcher and Kirin Evans are eco reps in the school’s eco council.
Caitlin: We have the ideas and we share them with other people and our teachers.
Kirin: The eco reps make sure that everybody’s saving the electricity, and saving energy. And we have different monitors in our class.
Rob: Head teacher Katherine Davis says the green agenda has reached a whole new level in British schools in recent years. She says people’s 5)psyche has changed.
Northwest of London, in a funky open plan office in Oxford, Jaime Clark is putting on the latest 6)promo DVD of his NGO, People and Planet. People and Planet is another of the growing number of NGOs that’s helping schools across Britain to implement environmental strategies.
Jaime: Students have been a little bit 7)dismissive possibly or upset by the idea of government and maybe the adult population telling people to change a light bulb and the world will be a better place, that simply taking one bike journey rather than a car journey is the answer, that—actually students want that big shift.
Rob: But while looking for the big shift, Clark’s colleague, Alice Mumford, is still thinking globally and acting locally.
Alice: We’ve got a school in Gloucester that have just managed to get a policy put in place where any student living within three miles isn’t allowed to drive into school. And we have a lot of schools and colleges planning carbon dating events.
Rob: Did she just say carbon dating events?
Alice: We encourage them to spend the day together going on low-carbon dates. So maybe they go for a cycle instead of a drive, they can eat vegetarian food together, have a nice candlelit dinner instead of turning on all the lights. So having a bit of fun, but also learning about carbon reduction.
Host: And Rob Gifford joins us now from London. Rob, let’s return for a moment to those schoolchildren. You know, we’ve just heard the point made that it’s about the government and adults taking action. So does that mean that getting kids invested at an early age in being green is somehow all for 8)naught?
Rob: I don’t think it’s for naught. I think in the long run it really will start to have an influence. So will the changes that are going on clearly in British schools, all over British schools, kick in soon enough? There’s a race going on for them to kick in early enough to make a difference before climate change becomes too 9)drastic.
Host: What about the adults then? Are they changing their behavior anywhere near as much as these kids seem to be?
Rob: Well, I’m not sure that they are. I mean, if you take my generation, for instance, you know, you can almost hear my brain working after I’ve drunk a can of Coke or had a beer—I must put beer in recycling bin. I have to force myself to think like that. These kids are growing up thinking like that. It’s in their DNA. And I’m not sure, even in Britain, where, you know, as we’ve heard, plans are taking hold, I’m not sure that the older generation are really getting into it quite as much.
Host: Well, look, I’m from California, where it’s pretty automatic to recycle, you know, even for those of us who are older. But how does what’s going on in Britain compare generally to the U.S.?
Rob: Well, just in talking with some of the experts in doing the interviews for that piece you’ve just heard, most people are saying that Britain and Europe generally is 10 or 15 years ahead of the United States in this environmental awareness in terms of recycling.
And I suppose there is more of a feeling here. People are used to using public transport much more. There’s not so much of a sense of the birthright of cheap gasoline and using two cars or whatever. So there is a feeling, though, that America is catching up, that people have got their heads around it now a little bit more in the States and that people are pushing together now on both sides of the Atlantic and indeed around the world.