Turn the Lights off for the Penguins
Indigenous Intelligence: Diverse Solutions for the 21st Century
Turn the Lights off for the Penguins
Cover: Surma man - Ethiopia Photograph: Angela Fisher & Carol Beckwith/Africanceremonies.com
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Illustration: Rebecca Mørch
Humans are amazing. When they all work together, incredible things can happen.
I AM NOT a scientist or professional in the field of the environment, but I do have one qualification, which we all have. That is, I am a member of the human species, and I live upon planet Earth. I am reliant on the natural balance of this planet and the incredible species that live on it. If there is no other reason to want to resolve climate change and live more sustainably, this one reason alone should be powerful enough to create total desire and commitment to take the action required.
However, for many people like myself, it is about more than survival. It is about love and respect too. I love this amazing planet, and I love the stunning diversity of life it supports, from the simple microscopic to the complex gigantic, and of course, humans. This diversity of life is a huge source of inspiration for my own life, and specifically my art work. For me, love comes with respect for that which I love. Therefore, I believe in the right of the planet and all life on it to exist in natural balance.
I decided as an artist, mother and member of the general public to use my skills to illustrate, write and self-publish a book for children on climate change. The book contains a heartfelt and educational story about the penguins of Antarctica, a concise and comprehensive ‘Take Positive Action’ section, and over forty useful contact details. Its message reads, “Humans are clever and caring. When they all work together, they can make amazing things happen quickly.”
‘Who Will Save Us?’ swiftly became a book for children and their adults, when our son, aged six, and completely un-prompted, days after being read the first draft of the book, said, “Turn the lights off for the penguins, Daddy!” My husband, John, and I realised not only had the story reached Oliver, but he had reached his adults, and we adults might need some help.
A foreword written by Pen Hadow, the polar explorer, supporting statements from WWF-UK, Oxfam, Sustrans, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, The Wildlife Trusts and I Count, along with a good response from schools, gave us the proof that the book was worth publishing. After all, I did not write a book for the sake of it – it has a job to do!
The book prompted ‘The Who Will Save Us? Children’s and Young People’s Project’, which offers children and young people the opportunity of an educational and empowering experience to help resolve climate change. The process involves children’s and young people’s schools and groups being able to buy in and sell the books, thereby making substantial profit per book. This profit becomes the children’s/young people’s budget. They then ‘work together’ (following the message of the book) to research climate change, question, discuss and decide how to spend their budget to help.
Many pupils are choosing to split their budgets on actions locally and globally, from ‘greening up’ their own schools/community, to awareness materials and events, to buying acres of rainforest or providing aid to those affected by climate change. I have also witnessed great presentations to schools and parents, seen artwork for posters with truly effective messaging, and even listened to an incredibly heartening version of the song ‘We Have the Whole World In Our Hands’, with the characters of the book mentioned. The teachers and staff enthusiastically and effectively facilitate the children/young people in creating their ideas and visions, and some have written brilliant articles.
Through their great actions, and pieces in the newspaper, plus direct involvement with the public and other schools, these children and young people are helping to show the way. They are making a difference and becoming the change they wish to see. •