Flash forward to the Great Hall of Stormont in 15 years’ time and we can expect thrilling oratory on the threats to our environment.
That’s judging by yesterday’s Grand Final of a major Northern Ireland-wide public speaking competition which pitted a host of young speakers against each other.
A packed room for the Environmental Youthspeak Competition in Magherafelt listened to finalist Lauren McStocker from Derrychrin PS in Cookstown revealing how an apple core can be more than just an unwanted item of rubbish. Emma Gault from Fairview PS in Newtownabbey showing how many items of unnecessary packaging come with a McDonald’s Happy Meal.
But two winners should be buying flowers for their grannies after gaining inspiration for their talks from their frugal attitudes.
Jade Murray from Limavady Central PS took the junior title with an hilarious account of how her granny beat her in a competition to find the most uses for things that others throw away.
She told the Belfast Telegraph: “It took a lot of work and my drama teacher Mrs Caskie helped me a lot in putting it together. I’m over the moon.”
Jason Bunting from St Paul’s Junior High School took the senior honours, comparing today’s environmental buzz words with old mantras such as ‘make do and mend’ and ‘waste not, want not’. He said: “It was very good. I can’t believe it — I am elated.”
It was a difficult task for the judges — Ian Humphreys, director of Tidy Northern Ireland; Peter Fisher from sponsors Cookstown Textile Recyclers; and me.
The juniors were given the theme ‘My rubbish — is it a waste or a resource?’, while the seniors tackled ‘Back to the future! Learning from the past to reduce waste.’
There was little between them — some gave very well researched arguments pieced together in traditional debating style, while others opted for innovative story-style presentations that grabbed the attention.
The prizes were presented by UTV’s Frank Mitchell, while Environment Minister Edwin Poots squeezed in a visit.
Paying tribute to his young colleagues of the future, he said: “By educating our children about the need to reduce, reuse and recycle we can help ensure that future generations protect, conserve and respect our environment.”
Our environmental concerns: extracts from winning speeches
Jason Bunting, St Paul’s Junior High School, Craigavon, senior winner:
Waste not, want not! Make do and mend! These were the buzz words a generation or two back. Today our buzz words are reduce, reuse, recycle. We are constantly being told of the damage we are doing to the environment throughout our over-use and waste of energy and natural resources.
During the Second World War and on into the 1950s, people survived by the ‘waste not, want not’ ethos and they were encouraged to ‘make do and mend’.
When you look at what the government was advising in the 1940s, a lot of it is common sense and the same as today's advice — things like not wasting water and turning off lights.
I do believe if we were all to do our bit, we could do a lot to protect our planet by simply taking a leaf out of granny’s book!
Jade Murray, Limavady Central PS, junior winner:
I’ve been beaten by my granny! How embarrassing is that! Let me explain ... when our council launched a competition to find someone who makes the most use out of the things that other people just throw away, we both entered. And granny won! I didn’t think she had a hope.
I went straight round to her house to see how she’d done it. And there she was, coming with her little trolley on wheels (no plastic bags!) I helped her to put away her shopping and I saw that granny had bought all these items that had hardly any packaging — no wonder she has hardly any rubbish! But I did notice some bottles and jars. She took me into her pantry and I saw rows and rows of homemade jam and chutney. I had to accept that it does take a lot more energy to recycle glass than it does to reuse it — good for gran!