These days it might come as a surprise to many to realise that over the last two decades the percentage of people in the UK who have considered pollution or the environment to be an important issue has rarely been above 10 per cent.
But it seems as if the dial might be shifting thanks to the so-called ‘Blue Planet effect’, and I believe we are in a unique position now to make the most of this momentum to affect real and positive impact for the environment.
Public awareness of the urgent need to protect the environment is on the up, particularly with the recent climate change headlines. Now, following the launch of the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, big initiatives are in the works to support more people to turn this into action, including next year’s ‘Year of Green Action’ initiative
To coincide with this, the #iwill campaign, Defra, and a group of 25 environment and youth-sector partners are spearheading activity to drive a new agenda forward – keeping young people’s environmental social action front and centre.
Children and young people have enormous potential to influence business and policymakers to take action – bringing innovation and fresh perspective with them. Challenging ‘the way things have always been done’ is vital role for any system that is seeking change. And when it comes to the saving our planet, this is sorely needed.
Young people can do a lot in their community and at home, especially in energising others to change habits and think differently. Whether it is looking after and appreciating their local green spaces, encouraging friends and family to make different shopping choices or choosing a commute with less negative impact on the environment.
There is also a clear ‘double benefit’ from doing environmental social action. There is now strong evidence that spending time in nature helps improve mental health and wellbeing. Environmental social action opportunities are often ‘social’ in nature – or can involve you doing something positive in the outdoors alongside others. It can be a fun way for young people to make friends – not to mention providing an opportunity to add new skills and experiences to any CV.
This week is the first-ever Green GB Week, which brings together businesses, schools, colleges, universities, community groups, and charities to explore how together we can build a cleaner, greener future.. Each day this week @iwill_campaign has featured a different case study of how young people are helping business and their communities reduce their impact and take positive action to reduce climate change You can follow #iwill and #GreenGBWeek to find out more.
The aim of the #iwill campaign is for more organisations to join this movement to put young people at the heart of environmental action, which already counts Action for Conservation, Global Action Plan, Groundwork, the National Trust, the NUS, Our Bright Future, Pears Foundation, Public Health England, the Woodland Trust, WWF and Youth United… to name a few!
Making a pledge to the #iwill campaign, especially as we build momentum to the year ahead when we’ll be focusing on environmental youth social action, is an important way to recognise – internally and externally – your organisation’s commitment to valuing the power and potential young people can have in progressing this agenda. It is a useful exercise in considering what more your organisation can do to embed meaningful youth social action opportunities for young people – not just today, this week or the year ahead, but for the longer term.
Next week will also see an important convening of environmental communicators and policy makers at Communicate 2018: The Art of the Possible, in Bristol. Attendees will share best practice and discuss current trends issues in science communication, nature conservation and engaging people with the natural world.
For the first time this conference will kick off with Communicate+, a brand new youth conference for 2018 which will bring together secondary students from across the West of England alongside cutting edge researchers, communicators and industry figures. #iwill Ambassador Nayha Patel will be joining the event and playing a role in sharing reflections, learnings and outcomes to all stakeholders at the main conference plenary.
The future stewards of the environment – children and young people – should be at the heart of all we do to leave our environment in a better state than we inherited it. The work of the #iwill campaign, its partners and its ambassadors will continue to play a vital role in achieving this.
Judith White, Environment campaign manager, Step Up To Serve: firstname.lastname@example.org
See Green GB Week case studies here: Global Action Plan’s Youth Panel: ‘Pre-nup’. Green Schools Project: Social Business Challenge. EDF Energy: The Pod. 2050 Climate Group: Young Leaders Development Program. Business in the Community: Moorlands Junior School.