Child Ambassador for the SDGs Nico Roman co-chairs First Cambridge Schools Eco-Council

Outside Michaelhouse Cafe, in front Nico Roman, 10, King's School; back row from left are Snaedis Fridriksdottir, 14, of Coleridge School; Ella Hone, 11 and Samaya Hone 18, Chesterton School and Helena Davis, 18, of Hills Road Sixth Form College; Jona David, 13, King's School; and Junayd Islam, 15, of Parkside School.

Outside Michaelhouse Cafe, in front Nico Roman, 10, King's School; back row from left are Snaedis Fridriksdottir, 14, of Coleridge School; Ella Hone, 11 and Samaya Hone 18, Chesterton School and Helena Davis, 18, of Hills Road Sixth Form College; Jona David, 13, King's School; and Junayd Islam, 15, of Parkside School.

First UK school eco-council set up in Cambridge

by Cambridge Independent

Cambridge Schools Eco-Council inaugural meeting, Michaelhouse Cafe , March 9, 2019. From left are Arthur Pledge, 12; Aarifah Islam,12; Junayd Islam, 15; Ella Hone, 11; Nico Roman, 10; Samaya Hone, 14; Helena Davis, 18; Jona David, 13; Snaedis Fridriksdottir, 14; Tommy Harris, 16. Picture: Mike Scialom

Cambridge Schools Eco-Council inaugural meeting, Michaelhouse Cafe , March 9, 2019. From left are Arthur Pledge, 12; Aarifah Islam,12; Junayd Islam, 15; Ella Hone, 11; Nico Roman, 10; Samaya Hone, 14; Helena Davis, 18; Jona David, 13; Snaedis Fridriksdottir, 14; Tommy Harris, 16. Picture: Mike Scialom

The first-ever schools eco-council has been set up in response to the threat of climate change on future generations.

Cambridge School Eco-Council held its inaugural meeting in the chapel at Michaelhouse Cafe on Saturday (March 9).

The establishment of the eco-council comes ahead of the global school strike for climate on Friday (March 15), which - for the second time - will see children across Cambridge walk out of school in a bid to speed up the political and economic response to the climate crisis.

The Cambridge pupils issued a 'Declaration and Eco-Plan on the Climate Emergency' this weekend which highlighted the drastic action now required to stabilise climate change. It said: "If we continue burning fossil fuels, building unsustainable infrastructure and degrading our environment, children like us all over the world will hurt or even die" and outlined action plans on three fronts:

- Schools: To educate about lifestyle choices, adopt an eco-code including "an eco-audit and act on all its recommendations, so that all schools are eco-schools".

- Town & Country: To "commit to carbon neutrality well before 2030", to "declare a local climate emergency and mean it", "support local renewables" and impose carbon taxes "to be spent on carbon sequestration and climate change programmes".

- Country: to "make national and international transport sustainable", "stop fossil fuel subsidies", "start energy rationing" and "change food and agriculture systems".

The meeting was co-chaired by Helena Davis, 18, of Hills Road Sixth Form College; Samaya Hone, 14, of Chesterton School and Nico Roman, 10, of King's College School.

Samaya set down the guidelines: "Hands up to speak, two hands up if we agree on something, no interruptions of people when they're speaking."

Also present were Jona David, 13, King's School; Ella Hone, 11, Chesterton School; Snaedis Fridriksdottir, 14, of Coleridge School; Junayd Islam, 15, with sister Aarifah Islam, 12, of Parkside School; Elliot Dunmead, 8, of St Paul's, plus sister Ginny Dunmead, 13, of St Bede's; Arthur Pledge, 12, of Perse School and Tommy Harris, 16, from The Leys.

The group took turns to read out sections of the declaration before turning to the items on the agenda.

Outside Michaelhouse Cafe, back row from left are Snaedis Fridriksdottir, 14, of Coleridge School; Nico Roman, 10, King's School; Samaya Hone, 14, Chesterton School and Helena Davis, 18, of Hills Road Sixth Form College. Front from left are Jona David, 13, King's School, Ella Hone, 11, Chesterton School and Junayd Islam, 15, of Parkside School. Picture: Mike Scialom

Outside Michaelhouse Cafe, back row from left are Snaedis Fridriksdottir, 14, of Coleridge School; Nico Roman, 10, King's School; Samaya Hone, 14, Chesterton School and Helena Davis, 18, of Hills Road Sixth Form College. Front from left are Jona David, 13, King's School, Ella Hone, 11, Chesterton School and Junayd Islam, 15, of Parkside School. Picture: Mike Scialom

The council got through a lot of talking points at this historic meeting - the first-ever schools eco-council in the UK.

The upcoming event is very much at the front of their thinking. The route for Friday's march is different from the first one on February 15. It starts at 9.30am at Shire hall, with the campaigners moving out towards Guildhall at 10.30am. But instead of turning into Market Square from Trinity Street the march will go down King's Parade and then round and back along St Andrew's Street towards Guildhall.

"Do we want speeches at Shire Hall?" asked Samaya. After some discussion the answer is yes, but only younger speakers. The main speeches will be at Guildhall.

"How do we prevent what happened last time which was pretty much people standing around shouting things?" asked Jona.

"One person has the microphone," says Helena. "If there's any problems someone can turn it off - and keep it away from politics."

There's some concerns about timing.

"If the police arrive we need to say we're going to stay here till 10.30 because the last time it got broken up," said Ella.

Helena: "That's on the agenda."

Ella: "At Shire Hall we could do a sit-down or a lie-down, which would mean we'd refuse to move."

The first Cambridge School Strike at Shire Hall, February 15, 2019. Picture: Derek Langley

The first Cambridge School Strike at Shire Hall, February 15, 2019. Picture: Derek Langley

Nico: "That would attract the police's attention, we can't end up doing what we did last time, which was moving off too quickly."

Samaya: "If we can possibly get to the point where the police are threatening us to comply with the law - that's when we move."

Another decision that needed to be made was whether to allow adults on to the council. This followed a request from a teacher at a local school to be able to joint the council to assist with decision-making and provide some legal expertise where necessary.

Samaya: "I think we decided we'd start afresh. It's better is the kids do it, and the teachers can be there as support."

Jona: "We are going to try and keep this council student-run so that it's our voice when we raise important issues."

Samaya: "And then kids will turn to us when there's an issue, not the adults. We don't want people to think it's the adults leading this. We're not excluding adults but we want it to be as much in the hands of kids as possible."

Even six months ago the idea of school children going on strike as unheard if in Europe. That changed when Greta Thunberg, now 16, began to demonstrate outside the Swedish parliament building. The movement insists that the current generation of adults is failing to address climate change with the rigour required to halt the effects of catastrophic climate change, species extinction, plastic pollution and the continued investment in fossil fuels.

The schoolchildren are inviting all schools across Cambridge to join the eco-council to work together to learn about, and find solutions to, the climate and ecological crisis. The next meeting of the Cambridge Schools Eco-Council is at Michaelhouse Cafe, March 23, at 3pm.

image1 2.jpg

Child Author Jona David's The Cosmic Climate Invention Book on Sale

King's School pupil Jona David's cosmic climate change book on sale with UN backing

by Cambridge Independent

Award winning child author, Jona David, 13, with his new book, The Cosmic Climate Invention..Pic - Richard Marsham.

Award winning child author, Jona David, 13, with his new book, The Cosmic Climate Invention..Pic - Richard Marsham.

Jona David, a Year 8 pupil at King’s School, Cambridge, has just had his fourth book, The Cosmic Climate Invention, published.

His achievements are all the more impressive because he has dyslexia, a disadvantage he’s turned around with aplomb. Spoiler alert: it involves drawings.

“My first story came out in 2014,” he says of the collection. “I’m 13 now, I was nine when The Epic Eco-Inventions came out. My spelling’s still quite rubbish but over the course of two or three years I learned 5,000 English words. I basically had to copy the word out three times.”

“He would learn 40 or 50 words at one time, and the ones he got wrong he would type out 10 times,” adds Jona’s mother, Marie-Claire Cordonier Seggar. “They were quite simple words – and drawings.”

Jona links the words to drawings: his artwork illustrates the books, there’s a symbiotic relationship going on between the two and the dynamics of this process have been applied to other areas of activity.

“Now I’m able to apply what I’ve learned from dyslexia even into mathematics.” He visualises the questions. “I’d apply what I’ve learned from English to that.”

The Cosmic Climate Invention by Jona David..Pic - Richard Marsham.

The Cosmic Climate Invention by Jona David..Pic - Richard Marsham.

But what works for reading doesn’t always work for writing.

“When I was writing, even if I didn’t have the drawings yet, I had the idea of ‘that’s the text that follows’, and based it on that idea. Through writing, I take the idea of the word and relate it to the letters. Nowadays I’ve found a way to learn the words – it’s definitely harder than what normal people have but it’s easier like that at school. I’m fairly slow at writing – typewriting is OK, but my handwriting’s slower. I have become better at just putting my ideas straight on the page.”

Jona’s stories involve children learning about science in everyday life and involve all sorts of wild possibilities, perhaps inspired from chats and activities with his younger brother Nico. His concern about climate change has propelled him into a number of inventions, including plants that purify the air, a geothermal power battery, a battery charged by lightning, a nebula gas field, petrol-munching mushrooms... “I’m not sure where all this comes from,” admits his mum. But Jona has also been in a typhoon, and his family’s Canadian roots led to him watching the fires spiral out of control in British Columbia.

“It was a Category 5,” he says of the typhoon. “It was really scary watching – it was in Taiwan. Even seeing the change – the trees flying around past the window of the ninth floor of the hotel – it doesn’t exactly reassure you everything’s going to be fine.”

The fires were in Victoria, in Canada, where Jona’s been visiting his grandparents on Marie-Claire’s side since he was 5 – his father, Markus Gehring, is originally from Germany.

“I was there last year,” Jona says. “You can really see the massive effects of climate change.”

“There were 556 fires there last summer,” says Marie-Claire. “Usually there are just two or three.”

“Thankfully we weren’t caught up in any of the fires but you can see in the sky the massive smoke from it, and it’s getting worse and worse and worse.”

Award winning child author, Jona David, 13, picture with his mum, Prof. Marie-Claire Cordonier Segger..Pic - Richard Marsham.

Award winning child author, Jona David, 13, picture with his mum, Prof. Marie-Claire Cordonier Segger..Pic - Richard Marsham.

On the very day of this meet-up in the Michaelhouse cafe, UK school teachers announced they were joining the climate protests to demand curriculum reform. Had Jona heard the news?

“No, I hadn’t – that’s absolutely amazing. For me at King’s climate change is taught as part of geography and part of science and that’s it apart from occasional assemblies. I’m working in my school to make climate change visible to every student. Our most powerful tool is education. We’re growing up, making decisions, choosing our own lifestyles and there’s this massive issue out there – affecting the entire future of our generation – and that can have a massive effect. And it could be integrated, for instance through the installation of solar panels. You could have the students monitor them, students then learn how things are set up then, in the future, they’ll remember that and think: ‘This is how it should be’.”

If that sounds like Jona would turn school into a giant low-carbon lab, maybe that’s not so far-fetched.

“My belief on how to change the curriculum would be more, it would be integrated throughout the school day. So we’d be able to say: ‘We saved x tons of CO2 this week’. School subjects can be seen as boring, that’s not correct obviously but we can make it more interesting and that can contribute to the curriculum.”

And maybe schools could be monitored for the energy they use – like an Ofsted for the environment?

“Yes I completely agree that should be the case, so it could be just not wasting paper, not handing students things they use only once, teaching students by example about the things hurting the environment, and later in life they will make the right choices. The curriculum is important but integration with everyday life is definitely what is needed.”

Jona is full of praise for his school, where his teacher would come in at 8am to help him catch up. Equally, they must be pleased for him too.

Marie-Claire says how proud she is of his work with UNESCO – the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, where Jona’s work appears under its ‘Voice of Future Generations’ imprint. Indeed, he met the UN Secretary-General – at that point Ban Ki Moon – at one event.

“He said this is the last generation that can do something about climate change. We’ve got a lot of work to do and we’ve got to get on with it.”

Jona David.png

Child Author Jona David speaks at YouthStrike4Climate in Cambridge, UK

YouthStrike4Climate brings climate activism to streets of Cambridge

Around 400 school and college pupils took part in climate strikes in Cambridge on February 15, 2019 to call for urgent action to protect the environment against rampaging ecological destruction.

They were part of a national YouthStrike4Climate day of protest which saw thousands of children and teenagers take to the streets in around 60 towns and cities across the UK. The campaigners came from schools and colleges across the region including Chesterton Community College, Impington Village College, Parkside, Coleridge Community College, King's School, Hills Road Sixth Form College, Witchford Village College and Cambourne Village College.

"If the temperature rise 1.5 degrees people all across the world will be hurt or even die - it's urgent," said Jona David, who at 13 has already had four books published and is an award-winning UN child author. "We must speak truth to power. We must raise our voices for future generations. We must act now, locally and globally to stop climate change."

Check the full story by Cambridge Independent here