Philip Lymbery | The Beginning Of A Hopeful Earth
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The Beginning Of A Hopeful Earth

On World Food Day, 16th October, the Head and Deputy Head boys and girls of Ditcham Park School in Petersfield, Hampshire are my guest bloggers.  Last Thursday they planned and executed an inspiring youth conference, ‘The Hopeful Earth’, inviting many local schools from the area, parents, teachers and other VIPs to attend and debate climate change. It was an incredible achievement, covered by BBC News, and a testament to the passion and commitment of young people to address the climate crisis.  Here they share their thoughts and the personal pledges made to address climate breakdown with lifestyle and diet changes.

Last Thursday, 10th October, Ditcham Park School’s Hopeful Earth Conference took place with considerable success.

As Head and Deputy Pupils, our role in the day was quite significant – welcoming guests, meeting and greeting, running seminars and interviewing for BBC South Today. We all recognise the graveness of the climate crisis, how our generation has been failed by our parents, our grandparents and our great-grandparents and, as Philip Lymbery mentioned in his passionate and informative speech, we should be angry with the mess that has been left for us, but we should also have the hope for a better future. It came to light that ‘hope’, as important as it is, is not enough on its own. Greta Thunberg so wisely said in one of her speeches, “Hope is important, of course it is, but without action, there is no hope”. For this reason, the main objective of our ‘Hopeful Earth’ conference was to share knowledge between young people, staff and parents on the climate crisis and agree a public climate action pledge for schools to take to senior leadership decision-making bodies.

Philip with Jack Harries at the Hopeful Earth Youth Conference

Our three speakers, Philip, Jack Harries (a founding member, Extinction Rebellion, climate activist and film-maker) and Tony Whitbread (President of Sussex Wildlife Trust) spoke and inspired different groups of people during the course of the day and provided extensive insight into the current crisis to help spark ideas on how to influence change.

Looking back, the speaker contribution to the conference and the information Philip, Jack and Tony shared was invaluable. Philip spoke about ‘hope’ and how animal welfare is central to the overall battle to save our climate, wildlife, habitats and eco systems. Tony provided an interesting perspective on ‘Rewilding’ in its different forms using Knepp Castle, near Horsham, for many successful case studies and, finally, Jack spoke of his early years growing up in a household of climate activists, of his life as a documentary film-maker and co-founder of Extinction Rebellion. It’s not every day a speaker explains to a school how he came to be arrested by the police whilst gluing himself to the glass doors of the Shell London HQ! So, not surprisingly, when the other schools arrived late morning (from both maintained and independent schools) and the speakers delivered their presentations for the third time, there wasn’t one individual in the assembly hall who wasn’t armed with the in-depth knowledge necessary to understand the nature of the crisis facing our planet and some potential solutions.

Philip stands with one of the key outputs from the conference – to end factory farming!

It was, however, Philip’s emotional and inspiring speech that opened everyone’s eyes to the fact that industrial farming has a great impact on the environment across the world, driving deforestation, pushing out habitats, wildlife and biodiversity to make way for industrial agriculture and animal feed. A link which had been missed by many. Philip showed an emotive video emphasising the welfare and environmental issues associated with factory farming, which pulled on the heart strings of many animal lovers attending the conference.

Philip’s pearls of wisdom had a big impact and were one of the main talking points in the seminars. There is no doubt that it did much to encourage us all to be more thoughtful about our diets.

After an inspiring film clip of the University of Manchester’s famous poet, Lemn Sissay, narrating his poem ‘Making a Difference’ the conference delegates were split into creative seminar groups of students. Another seminar group of teachers was headed up by Mr Mark Philips, Head of Seniors. The aim for the seminars was to build on knowledge acquired throughout the day in order to determine the most important action points and to discuss what we could do in our everyday lives to make change.

The BBC News team interviewing the Head and Deputy Head Boys and Girls

One of the most important ideas that were added to our school’s pledge was to consider our effect on the environment through our food choices and how we all have the ability to make a real difference, three times a day on our plates. We were unanimous in our school pledge to have regular Meat Free Mondays and to always thoroughly research where our meat comes from. It was a pledge we were delighted to share with the BBC News team.

When we look back over our original objectives for this conference, we are all thrilled that it went so well. Considering the climate crisis is such a pressing issue for us at the moment, it is vital that we all, young people and adults alike, know how we can improve the environment in every way possible.

Creative drawings captured the conference debate

Zac Davidson (DPS Head Boy)

Sacha Fairweather (DPS Head Girl)

Nelly Bryan (DPS Deputy-Head Girl)

Ben Vass (DPS Deputy-Head Boy)