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Chris Packham urges young people not to give up in fight against climate change

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Naturalist, TV presenter and environmental campaigner, Chris Packham, has urged young people that “now is the time to act” in the fight against climate change, during the ‘The world needs…Climate change challengers’ sustainability event at ACS International School Egham (@ACSEgham).

Speaking from Glasgow in the midst of COP26, to over 150 in-person and virtual audience via live-stream, Packham said:

“We must all act to affect a change – we can’t rely on our leaders; we must peacefully call them to task so that we can get out of this mess.”

Packham shared his “enormous sense of guilt” that 68% of the world’s wildlife has been lost since the 1970s and that he believes not enough has been done to prevent the destruction of the countryside and species. 

Describing his disappointment in leaders at the COP26 conference, Packham urged young people to “muster a sense of empowerment” to make the changes needed to address climate change. He said: “What’s disappointing is that the oldies aren’t giving the young people the trust that we should to make decisions. We would be far wiser to let them play a more proactive role in the decision making. Young people are less risk averse, but progress is made by making mistakes.”

Packham talked about how the global pandemic has demonstrated that “the human species has an enormous capacity for invention; we are very good at finding the cure to problems but we just aren’t so good at prevention. Don’t tell me we can’t stop the exploration of fossil fuels now or can’t stop cutting down rainforests sooner than the nine-year target. The targets being set are extremely dangerous – we are just tinkering around the edges, it is embarrassing and will prove disastrous for us as a species.”

Packham highlighted three actions that need to urgently be taken to address climate change:

·       Don’t dig up any more fossil fuels

·       Cut down on meat consumption and food waste

·       Cut back on consumption, generally.

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He said: “We need to ask ourselves do we need so much stuff and does this stuff make us happy?”.

Addressing young people in the audience, he pleaded: “Please do not give up. Keep writing letters. Keep complaining, peacefully and politely. Consider carefully what you eat, and how and where you spend your money. Start young, be committed, believe you can make a difference, cherish nature and remember that people can change things.”

Packham handed over to Sophie Locke of the Blue Marine Foundation, who described her journey from a young girl with the dream of becoming a vet, to climate change graduate and marine conservationist. At the age of just 27 years, she works to protect and restore marine habitats and is “still learning more about marine conservation every day”.

Locke told the audience how the oceans support all life on earth and explained why “climate action needs ocean action”. Addressing students, she advised that they should “find out what you’re good at and what you enjoy, and then find out how to merge the two into a career where you can make a positive difference. There’s a massive misconception that you have to be a scientist to be able to contribute to protecting the natural environment”.

Locke continued: “People need to understand the carbon footprint of what they eat and do. They must be educated so that they understand the issues and can make informed decisions. We need to give them the power to make the right choices.”

Summing up the event, Jeremy Lewis, Head of School, ACS Egham, said:

“As an organisation, ACS International Schools is seeking to become carbon neutral and, to enable us to achieve this, we are audited every year on our environmental impact. Our efforts are directed at helping to achieve three main sustainable development goals (SDGs): climate action; responsible consumption; and good health and wellbeing. These continue to be key drivers for our actions and commitments as we look to the future.

“In addition to driving change as an organisation, it’s important as educators that we can empower our students to believe they can have an impact. We will soon be introducing a new International Baccalaureate (IB) Career-related Programme (CP) course in Engineering and Sustainability, further supporting our students to make a difference in their futures.”

‘The world needs… Climate change challengers’ is the first in ACS International Schools’ new series of ‘What the World Needs’ events, which this year focuses on building a sustainable future. The series of four compelling hybrid events will be hosted by each of ACS’ schools in Egham, Cobham, Hillingdon and Doha, Qatar.

View the session in full here.

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