Georgina Stevens is a writer on a mission… to engage people in the beauty and wonder of nature. Her recently published book Stella and the Seagull is about a little girl who realises that she can make positive change through using her voice to inspire others to make change too.  It is a story of courage and creativity and how we are never too young or too old to make positive changes! 

Georgina has written this special blog for Just Imagine, to commemorate World Environment Day 2021

The recent World Environment Day is another wonderful opportunity for us all to remind ourselves how lucky we are to live on such a beautiful planet, full of the most awe-inspiring creatures, plants and ecosystems.  

It is also an opportunity to help those around us fall in love with or fall back in love with nature too; because love is the only thing that will ensure we each play our part in saving this beautiful planet, which is in need of the help of every one of us, right now.  Sounds cheesy but it’s true!!

I was lucky enough to grow up on a farm in Buckinghamshire, where I got to see the power of nature up close, in the growing and death cycles, but I also got to see our impact on it, from the demands we placed on the soils to the chemicals and pollutants we added.  It was humbling and frightening in so many ways.  I since went on to become an environmental consultant and then a sustainability strategist, helping companies to understand their impacts on our planet and to turn them from negative to positive.

I am not a teacher or educational specialist but I have learnt a few things from trying to engage adults in environmental issues over the years, which I thought might be interesting for those of you who are helping to ignite that passion in our children.  Besides, many chief execs are just big kids anyway……

Firstly, there is no substitute for getting anyone into nature. Even better if you can get them to take their shoes and socks off and ground themselves, digging their feet and hands into the soil, grass or moss. I’m continually delighted by how luxurious and soft a barefoot forest walk can feel! Or how energizing some forest bathing (lying under a tree with the option of resting your legs up the tree) can be and how magical it is to look up through a tree’s branches. 

Secondly, realising how interconnected we all are, to each other and to nature, can be a powerful thing.  My six-year-old is fascinated by the impact we can all have on the air we breathe locally through pollution we produce by driving or burning fossil fuels in our homes (like using a gas hob or from our boilers!).  He also understands that that same carbon dioxide that we produce is heating up our world which could mean local impacts such as the soil in our garden is dryer so we need to water it more, and also that it contributes to our seas getting warmer, which affects many ocean creatures who need to move to cooler seas or that it kills some of our corals. So helping children see things from a global perspective is also really important. 

Thirdly, I have found humour to be invaluable!  Environmental issues can be difficult to talk about because there’s a lot of sad things happening. So a joke can help lift the mood and also help children think about things differently, questioning what they are being told and getting them thinking about solutions. It can also help them remember facts and it can help them start a conversation about these issues, which is the most powerful thing we can all do to affect positive change.

I like to talk about farting a lot when I visit schools because all the children think it is hilarious of course, but it also helps me to convey some important facts about how the diet we eat can cause climate change, especially if we eat a lot of lamb and beef. I can also talk about some solutions to the farting, such as feeding those animals with different foods like seaweed or for us to eat more beans, which unfortunately make us fart!

Another joke I like to use when I am talking about the plastic problem is “what’s the difference between a plastic bag and a car? A car can break down any time but a plastic bag usually takes about 300 years to break down.”  And this one can then lead into a workshop on how we can cut our plastic consumption down. 

And lastly another important tool I have found, is to give people agency; to help them see how powerful they can be to make change. This is really important to stop children worrying about issues like climate change, which I have noticed in some of the schools I have spoken at. 

There are so many examples of young changemakers out there too. Such as five-year-old Ava James who wrote to Pizza Express to ask them to stop giving out plastic straws with their meals. They wrote back to her to let her know they would stop giving out the straws across all of their 460 restaurants. Now of course they did this because they realised that there was a trend towards getting rid of plastic, but they also did this because people like Ava were writing to them. Similarly, when people started posting back their crisp packets to Walkers, they knew they needed to set up a recycling scheme for them. It is a powerful medium still!

Making a difference!

In my latest book, Stella and the Seagull, Stella writes to her favourite chocolate company to ask them to help stop their wrappers getting onto her beach, and they set up a recycling scheme which then uses the wrapper to make a playground. Why not run a letter writing session with your class or your children? They can also write to local MPs or their council of course, or to companies whose products they like whether it’s a food company or maybe Lego, if they want to see them doing more. 

Your work could help children becoming great changemakers and pioneers in our society. Thank you for the seeds that you sow for the next generation. 

I will be giving away my royalties from this book to several different charities who help to show young people how powerful they can be to make positive change.

Stella and the Seagull by Georgina Stevens, illustrated by Izzy Burton is out now, published by Oxford University Press