Page last updated at 12:58 GMT, Friday, 17 September 2010 13:58 UK

Creative thinking to save planet's threatened species

Dr Matt Prescott
VIEWPOINT
Matt Prescott

People using their creative energies in the E-Day Ark can help raise awareness of the plight of some of the world's most threatened species, says Matt Prescott, founding organiser of E-Day. In this week's Green Room, he encourages people to get involved to help give biodiversity a voice.

E-Ark puppet (Image: Matt Prescott)
It is going to take a lot of imagination to make the world a better place

The aim of this year's E-Day is to encourage children to explore the world, to learn about the world's animals and to use their creativity to help the environment.

In particular, I would like to invite any young person who loves nature to make a puppet of the animal that they are most passionate about, and to share their creation with the rest of the world by sending it to E-Day's online Ark.

During the build up to last year's E-Day, I asked the primary school pupils on the Isles of Scilly to pick any island in the world, to pick an animal from this island and to make a puppet of their chosen animal.

This year, I would like to invite you and those around you to make a puppet of your favourite animals using old wrapping paper, socks, buttons, clothes or whatever else you have to hand.

While you are feeling creative, why not write a poem, compose a song or give your puppet a voice?

The possibilities are almost limitless and the more personality you can give your puppet the better.

There are millions of interesting animals out there, so if you want to avoid picking the same animal as everyone else perhaps take a look at some of the world's lesser-known animals, such as the giant salamander of Japan or the long-nosed potoroo of Australia.

Excellent online resources exist for researching the world's animals including Arkive, the BBC's Wildlife Finder and Wikipedia.

Inspiring change

The children on the Isles of Scilly made puppets of the tree kangaroo from Australia, a sea slug from the Isles of Scilly and a lemur from Madagascar, and it was a delight to see every single child producing a beautiful and unique artwork, which captured what they cared about.

Isles of Scilly
The communities on the Isles of Scilly was the focus for 2009 E-Day

After investing so much time and effort into finding out about an exciting animal and making their puppet, it was clear that each child wanted to keep their puppet and cared what happened to their animal in the wild.

The parents of the children were also delighted to see their children so excited, full of questions and enthused by telling them about what they had discovered.

The children's enthusiasm proved particularly contagious after the children from the Five Islands School staged an Animal Earth Summit musical extravaganza with their puppets for their parents, so please don't hang back from developing your own ideas for expressing yourself at home or school.

Many parents and community groups on the Isles of Scilly were so taken by the children's work and passion that it seemed to be a natural progression to get behind E-Day's live energy saving experiment, which involved seeing how much their community's electricity use could be reduced in comparison to the rest of the UK.

Over the 24 hours of E-Day, simple actions - such as turning off hot water tanks when they weren't needed and using power showers for as little as possible - resulted in the community on the Isles of Scilly reducing their electricity use by approximately 3%, compared to the rest of the UK.

If this 3% saving had been replicated nationwide, approximately two power stations could have been turned off and £1bn could have been saved over the course of a year.

Outside of the box

Even more impressively, the staff and pupils at the Five Islands School reduced their electricity use by approximately 10% and a local family achieved a massive 52% reduction, and this shows what is possible when small groups of motivated people decide to work together.

E-Ark puppet (Image: Matt Prescott)
Children, when engaged, often come up with the most creative solutions

For this year's E-Day, Jane Goodall, a world expert on chimpanzees, has offered to make a special puppet for display on E-Day's online Ark and Jane's youth network Roots and Shoots will also be supporting E-Day.

In addition, Jon Plowman - the former Head of BBC Comedy - has written a script about a Puppet Odyssey, which is being turned into a stop motion animation, and a sock puppeteer will be using his animal characters to record some funny songs.

E-Day's online Ark is being launched mid-September and E-Day itself will take place on Tuesday, 17 November 2010, so many children should be able to make and send in a puppet or stage an E-Day event before or during the school half-term break.

As 2010 is International Year of Biodiversity and many of the world's leaders will be going to Nagoya, Japan in October, to discuss the future of the world's natural environment, all of the animal puppets sent in will be forwarded to the United Nations as personal and collective expressions of support for helping the animals of the world.

Many environmental projects rely on asking for your money, making you feel guilty or offering to save the planet for you.

E-Day does not want to change the world for you, but does want you to participate and to do something concrete, which will excite you and inspire those around you.

We might not change the world overnight, but at least we will have demonstrated to ourselves, and others, that we care and agree that looking after the planet is worth some personal effort.

Beyond effort, it is going to take a lot of imagination to make the world a better place, and I have found that best ideas are often unexpected and provided by talented strangers.

Matt Prescott is the founding organiser of E-Day, an annual co-ordinated attempt to help reduce the impact humans are having on the planet

The Green Room is a series of opinion articles on environmental topics running weekly on the BBC News website


Do you agree with Dr Matt Prescott? Can collective creative energy help raise awareness of the plight of the planets most threatened species? Are you planning to make a puppet for the E-Ark? Or does the world need more than an E-Ark to save its dwindling biodiversity?

I agree with the Dr. This summer I published a fictional children's novel, Iris, which highlights the symbiotic relationship between mankind and the multi-diverse wildlife that cohabits the earth. Our actions or inactions will dictate our future and the that of the planets.
C.A. Martin, East Grinstead



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