It was a bright but breezy afternoon on the 1st March when, accompanied by fellow Faith in Action Volunteer Tobi and Education Coordinator James Trewby, I made my way to the SS John and Monica Catholic Primary School. The task was simple, a workshop inspiring change and influencing COP 15 biodiversity negotiators to put biodiversity conservation, promotion and sustainability into legislation.
To build an idea of why legislation or ‘rules’ matter the workshops started with a dynamic task; to create in pairs their own rules for an imaginary town. Starting with the downright outrageous ideas of no writing days and wearing pink on Wednesdays to the sensible no killing or fighting, the students created rules that would keep their town in order. The spin came when these rules were reduced to guidelines… and students discussed the chaos that might ensue if this were to happen. And so the importance of laws was built in their minds.
Next they journeyed, through the murky waters of past biodiversity conferences, the 2011 Aichi agreements, their main aims of the conservation of biological diversity (plant and animal species ), the sustainable use of natural resources and the fair and just sharing of the benefits from resources (making sure indigenous communities and countries home to biological riches benefit from their use.) Students expressed their disappointment, anger and frustration at the reality that none of these ‘guidelines’ had been observed or even reached. This highlighted for them the need for laws and legislation to uphold these three areas and for this to form a central part in the Post 2020 targets to be discussed at the Pre COP15 biodiversity meeting in Geneva.
But why do we need to include nature and biodiversity in our legislation? And what is happening? With a little help from David Attenborough, we explored the significance of nature in our lives, globally and locally and got our teeth into the reasons for its decline. Zooming in locally we discovered some local species at risk including the Dingy Skipper butterfly, the Great Crested newt, Bechstein’s bat, the Black Redstart and the white-clawed crayfish.
Bringing all of our collected knowledge and passion together the children wrote letters to the UK negotiators Helen, Holly, Keith and Alex to thank them for their hard work and to wish them well at the meeting in Geneva, but most of all to remind them that sometimes guidelines aren’t enough – we need rules and law to protect nature. We then took a picture of the letters and sent a sample of the best by email to the negotiators who responded with their appreciation and looked forward to meeting the class personally later in the year.