Three Northern Ireland schoolchildren share their fears for the future of the planet and tells us what they are doing to make a change
When she is older Madeleine Morwood, a Form 3 pupil at Belfast Royal Academy, would love to be a marine biologist, but for the moment, she, like a growing number of other young people across the Province, is doing what she can to help keep our planet healthy.
‘‘The future of our planet is at stake, and we can’t keep ignoring it,’’ said Madeleine on the defining cause of her generation.
‘‘Pollution, deforestation and plastic are some of the causes of this worldwide crisis.
‘‘Unfortunately, many of us simply choose to turn our heads at the mention of the downfall of our eco-systems. We ignore the fact that a whole truckload of plastic ends up in our oceans every minute.
‘‘This is a pressing issue that will, very soon, affect all of us. But this plastic doesn’t just affect the area it was dumped in – plastic ends up in the most far-flung, remote places. It’s turning up in uninhabited Pacific islands and trapped in Arctic ice.
‘‘I, like many others, fear that very soon our oceans will reach a level of toxicity so high, that entire food chains will be thrown out of balance and eco-systems will collapse.’’
The concerned teenager added that plastic is ‘‘not the only danger ready to pounce.’’
‘‘Deforestation is another unwelcome visitor lurking around the corner.
‘‘There are animals, such as orang-utans, on the verge of extinction.
‘‘Almost 80% of orangutan habitat has been destroyed in the past 20 years. It worries me greatly to wonder how many will go in the next 10 years.
‘‘To think that we may be the ancestors of children who only ever witness orangutans in books or films! But what, you may ask, can we do about this mass extinction?
‘‘We can attempt to stop the use of products containing palm oil, which is used in everything from body wash and soap to chocolate and spreads.
Another significant factor contributing to the brutal destruction of our environment is pollution.
‘‘With most cars churning out carbon dioxide and trees being cut down faster than they are planted, the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has become a crisis.
‘‘However, there is a solution. But, like many solutions to a big problem, it isn’t going to be easy. This solution is hydrogen-fuelled cars.
‘‘They may sound like miracle machines at first when you find out they only produce water and air, but unfortunately hydrogen is between two and three times more expensive than regular gasoline, making them less commercially appealing.
‘‘All these problems can be resolved by pure human willpower, inclination and science, because if we all take pride in our planet and strive to make it a better place, it will become just that.’’
Madeleine believes Greta Thunberg, who is credited with raising global awareness of the risks posed by climate change, and with holding politicians to account for their lack of action on the “climate crisis”, is a good role model.
‘‘Greta Thunberg is someone we could all take inspiration from when it comes to saving our world.
‘‘She is a pioneering climate activist we could all look up to, especially the younger generation who are unsure of where to begin on the road to preserving our environment.’’
Leah McAteer and Rebekah Telford are both Year 10 pupils at Ulidia Integrated College, Carrickfergus, and both are passionate about doing what they can to help preserve our planet.
Thirteen-year-old Leah said: ‘‘As a small child I believed that I would pass away from old age.
‘‘The harsh reality is that in generations to come our children will live with the constant overhanging fear of the earth becoming unlivable for them.
‘‘This is all the consequence of indolent lifestyles; although some people are working painfully hard to restore the damage we have caused the world and ultimately save our future generations, others are just sitting back and watching hopes for the future be destroyed.
‘‘The truth is there is so much you can do to make a huge difference. Simple changes to our lifestyle like using a reusable water bottle and cutting down on our plastic waste, because let’s face it, are plastic bottles and forks more important that our precious and frankly incredible environment?’’
Rebecca,13, is also deeply concerned about the state of our planet.
‘‘I think the environment is beautiful, but it is used in the wrong ways.
‘‘People use the environment as their own rubbish bin and just throw any piece of their rubbish out on the streets, roads and seas and that’s where most of the plastic ends up and kills a huge amount of sea animals each year.
‘‘I was in Turkey a couple of weeks ago, sightseeing and exploring that beautiful country and I realised that, in many ways, their way of living is not environmentally friendly. They use cars a lot and although they also use mopeds, they aren’t an environmentally-friendly way of life.
‘‘I have realised that a handful of schools are going on strike because of climate change, which I think is a good thing because they are helping out our future by putting a stop to single use plastics and less car usage.
‘‘I know that people say young people are the future and they are going to rule the world some day, but if we don’t put a stop to things harming the environment now there will be no future.
‘‘So what do you really want? Children going to school, but there really is no future? Or children saving the earth and giving us a future?’’