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     Volume 7 Issue 22 | May 30, 2008 |

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Straight Talk

Young Conservationists Take the Step

The three founders of RHN - Robin, Harry and Nicholas.

If I think back to my childhood, seeing factories with smoke billowing from their chimneys was not an uncommon sight nor was it rare to see cars giving off dense exhaust fumes. While we were growing up, it felt as if people accepted that pollution would go hand in hand with industrialisation and economic progress. It was not a topic that was given much importance, but what we did not foresee was how our development was affecting the world around us. We had no concept of what global warming, climate change, greenhouse effect or terms such as these even meant. Up until a couple of decades ago most people had not really been aware of, nor were they particularly concerned about these things. It is only recently that we have started to become more conscious of how our actions have a direct impact on the environment. Combating global warming is now gradually taking a prominent place in government policies in many countries around the world. International concern about the environment led to the Kyoto Protocol. The protocol is an international agreement setting targets for industrialised countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions which are considered at least partially responsible for global warming -- which may have disastrous consequences for the our planet. The protocol was drawn up in 1997 in Japan to implement the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change. What worries me is that if we, as individuals, are constantly abdicating responsibility and hoping that someone else is going to help save the world, we may or may not -- live to regret it.

RHN organises fund-raising events for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

It was only a few months ago that I heard about an organisation called RHN Survey, which is an environmental organisation set up to raise awareness about climate change and the world's most critically endangered animals. RHN take surveys about climate change and talk to councils about improvements that can be made. You may ask what is so special about this particular organisation. The answer would have to be its three founders, who are in fact three of my son's friends, and happen to be only 12 years old. The three boys Robin, Harry and Nicholas have organised fundraising events for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and became WWF Student Ambassadors after their fundraising success. I have to admit I was so impressed by this information that I wanted to find out a little more about their organisation by chatting to them. Having seen Robin, Harry and Nicholas growing up with my son, it was fascinating to discover a totally different side to the boys. As Nicholas was away, Harry and Robin agreed to face my barrage of questions and answered with composure and eloquence beyond their tender age.

My first question was how on earth they came up with the idea of setting up RHN Survey. “We were at the park and were really bored so we decided to do a survey on what people thought about pet abuse and animal abuse,” explained Robin. The positive response to their survey gave the boys the encouragement they needed to take things one step further and deal with wider and more global issues. In September 2007, RHN Survey, named after the boys, was founded when they were only 11.

I asked them who had helped them with the website and Harry informed me that they had set it up themselves. They had found some information on the internet telling them how to create their own website and soon they had www.rhnsurvey.org up and running. Having had a look at their website, I was struck by the fact that they had obviously thought about what they felt were important global issues and therefore needed to be addressed. As all three boys are animal lovers, their focus is on saving endangered animals but their website talks about climate change, the greenhouse effect and deals with the effect on animals that are becoming endangered due to these phenomena and also how we can try and combat global warming.

RHN give numerous suggestions on their website as to how we can try and help the environment. Recycling, reducing harmful emissions, conserving energy are just a few of the basic things we, the general public can do to try and help alleviate the situation. They talk about buying seasonal foods or organic foods and preferably produce grown locally. They believe that this would help reduce carbon emissions as the products would not have to be shipped from countries around the world. The boys suggest that if you are travelling, to try and use trains instead of planes, if your destination permits it, as trains produce 10 times less carbon emissions than flying, and on a day to day basis to try to use public transport instead of cars.

The information given by RHN is that when you are looking to buy a new car, it is essential that you look at the emissions the vehicle produces and the fuel economy. They advocate hybrid cars which have “an outstanding fuel economy and the mixture of electric and petrol engine give a low output of carbon emissions... All you have to do is plug it in.”

The RHN website also encourages the use of renewable sources of energy. As we now know, the burning of fossil fuels to make energy has contributed greatly to climate change. They give examples such as wind turbines, solar, geothermal and tidal power to name a few of the many renewable energy sources available nowadays. According to their website, “still only 13% of all energy comes from renewable sources. We have all the technology to make all our energy renewable but if we continue to not show interest in it then all energy companies won't even bother to go green if no one actually is willing to look into it.”

RHN Survey has raised over £1,500 for WWF, especially to those projects that are not as well funded. More recently, they have arranged raffle draws and have started a campaign to clear rubbish off the streets by organising litter pick up days in London, Dorset and Suffolk. They also informed me that they were hoping to arrange a fund raiser on the anniversary of the inception of RHN. My last question to them was what plans they had for the future of RHN and the answer made me smile. “When we're older, we want to have an office and make it a global network. We want it to expand from three kids to as many people as possible. At the end of the day we want to save endangered animals and raise awareness of climate change and how we can help the environment.”

I truly wish them all the success and commend them for their efforts. Maybe we can learn from these children and realise that it is time we all became a little more proactive in saving our world instead of constantly passing the buck.


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