If our children don't speak for the planet, who will?

Veg-in. A Copernican shift in our dreams. Making ornaments from human parts. A small island counselling session. Just get out there in the bush. These have been some of the topics of talks, performances and artworks in Speaking 4 the Planet competitions, Environment Consultant Phil Smith writes.

Speaking 4 the Planet is an arts based competition for high school students. It helps strengthen skills in advocating for healthy communities and a healthy planet. The focus of the annual competition is UNEP’s World Environment Day (WED) theme.

Commencing in 2013 as a public speaking and drama event, Speaking 4 the Planet has spread to half a dozen local government areas in NSW and expanded to include art and video making. A primary school version has commenced. It’s called Kids 4 the Planet.

Arts change the world. Much sustainability education is science or geography focused. Information. Research. Data. Yes, important stuff. But the arts are the drivers for action. Words and performances and artworks weave the realities of the present with the possibilities of a better world in the future. They capture extant cultures and imagine new ones. A sustainable planet won’t be achieved with information alone. Deliberate, focused human actions – at home and in businesses, communities and governments – are required. Speaking 4 the Planet makes an arts-based contribution to bringing about a more sustainable world.

Since the start, non government schools have been well represented as participants and winners. Last year, the WED theme was Connecting People with Nature. Students from St Philomena’s School, Moree, won the prepared and impromptu speaking sections at the Armidale competition. Their moving talks were about the importance of getting into nature and of protecting it for the future. In another competition, a student from St Patrick’s College, Sutherland, won with a speech about banning plastic bags.

Chips, no fish

The student said: “Okay, so we have to acknowledge the white and green biodegradable plastic bags. Research can confirm that these little tricksters are even worse for the planet than the plain old grey supermarket bags, as these bags disintegrate into smaller pieces, becoming micro plastic, causing marine plastic pollution. By 2050 we will have more plastic in our coastal waters than fish. Fish and chips, then fish with plastic and chips and then just plastic and chips. Yum!”

So forceful was the speech, it is being used right around NSW in the resource packages prepared to support the 2018 theme on plastics pollution. In south west Sydney, Armidale, Sutherland, the Hills and Orange, high school students will be speaking, painting and performing on the idea of beating plastic pollution.

Speaking 4 the Planet and Kids 4 the Planet help students connect local and global problems and solutions; the events also invite students to connect their own behaviours to these problems and solutions.

“Speaking 4 the Planet gives students an opportunity to think about their role in the future of the environment while helping them develop lifelong skills such as public speaking,” Chris Smyth, Director of Schools Diocese of Armidale said.

If you are interested in finding out more and maybe even supporting an event at your school or in your area, contact Phil Smith 0412 338 687 info@speaking4theplanet.org.au or www.speaking4theplanet.org.au.