Friday, 14 November 2008

Two prizes in one week!

I am discovering how difficult it is to remember to post regular articles to a blog.  This time, I want to share my excitement at winning a couple of competitions for communicating sustainability.   

The first competition was won by my Scout Troop.  The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC-UK) got in touch with schools and Scout groups across the country and asked them to come up with imaginative activities for their young people, to mark their first annual awareness day on Friday 26 September.  This event was called, appropriately enough, FSC Friday.   

I designed a simulation game where the Scouts played the parts of Factories, Trees and Atmosphere. They used old CDs to represent oxygen molecules and paperclips played the part of carbon atoms.  The Factories burnt fossil fuels and released CO2 by clipping the paperclips to the CDs.  The Trees removed the paperclips and released O2. The Atmosphere ran around distributing O2 and CO2 between the Trees and the Factories. After a few minutes we checked how much CO2 there was in the atmosphere. Not much. Then we "cut down" half the Trees and turned those Scouts into Factories. They used the carbon they had gathered in their "timber" to make more CO2 and, at the end of the game, we checked the final amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. This time, there was lots. The Scouts had fun and understood that we need trees (as well as oceans, rocks and lots of other parts of the natural environment) to maintain a healthy atmosphere and prevent runaway climate change.

 After this game, the Scouts sat down and sorted through a pile of forest products - from ecosystem services like nutrient recycling and water treatment to traditional economic products like timber, latex, cocoa, etc. They deduced that the diversity of a forest is of greater value than the limited agricultural produce that can be grown on deforested land.


I wrote this up and sent it to Rosie Teasdale at the FSC , with a couple of photographs. Rosie got back to me a few weeks later and told me that our Scouts had won their competition and asked me what prizes they would like!  I was delighted to hear this, of course, and asked whether anyone from FSC could come to our Scouts and present the prizes in person.  

So it was that Charles Thwaites, the head of FSC-UK, joined us last night and congratulated the Scouts on winning the FSC Friday competition.  He handed out a number of FSC-branded goodies and awarded the Scout Group a beautiful clock, made from sustainable hardwood, as a permanent trophy. He ran an enthralling role-play exercise, modelled on his experiences at a global forestry conference in Cape Town last week.  

Three groups of six Scouts took the parts of loggers, indigenous people and environmentalists.  They were given 10 minutes to come up with the Top Three things that they wanted to achieve from negotiations with the other parties.  Each group's representative read out their three requirements and placed them on a table, each on a separate slip of paper.  Once all nine requirements had been shared, the groups took it in turns to remove two slips of paper, leaving a final set of three "agreed" outcomes.

Two of the three remaining outcomes were proposed by the Indigenous Peoples and the third was from the Environmentalists.  Although none of the Loggers’ requirements were agreed, they were happy enough to accept that their products would command premium prices because they could be marketed as sustainable timber and their investment in local communities and conservation would enhance their reputation as responsible businesses. 

Their three agreed outcomes were:

  1. Sustainable logging restricted to 20,000 trees a year
  2. Loggers to supply Food, Water, Education and Healthcare for every village
  3. Loggers must plant more trees than get cut down

All this serves to illustrate just how interested - and motivated - teenagers can be in protecting the future of Earth's natural environment. They have a lot less trouble than adults taking complex issues on board and reaching consensus on co-operative solutions. Of course, these exercises are gross oversimplifications but the level of excitement in the room showed just how engaged the Scouts can become in sustainability matters. These are the people who will be making a difference in the coming decades, both in their personal behaviour and in the influence of their careers on the success of the next generation in tackling the wider, long-term issues of climate change, biodiversity and protection of human rights.


The second prize was for a competition I entered on Yahoo! Answers. They asked the question, "Now that autumn is getting a little colder, how do you plan to keep warm without wasting too much energy?"  I spelled out the details of my own investments in energy efficiency and solar thermal, explaining that I funded these by selling my car and that, while I did not expect them to pay back financially in the short term, my reason for making these investments was to reduce my carbon footprint.  You can read my answer here:

I was delighted, once again, to learn that my response was chosen as the Best Answer and I am now looking forward to receiving the valuable prize - a wooden double bed made from FSC-certified timber and a handmade orthopaedic mattress.  That certainly enhances my prospects for a return on my investment in sustainability, in an entirely unexpected way!


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