Letters to the editor – January 7, 2022

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Bringing our seas to life

Sir,

The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust has been inspiring children to cherish their marine environment for over 15 years.

More than 200 schools and 10,000 children have taken part in the charity’s educational programmes since 2005.

Connecting young people to their marine environment is crucial if we want them to help protect it. It’s so heartening to experience the children’s energy, enthusiasm and awe when learning about whales and dolphins.

Our sessions are so important as they spark passion and interest in the local environment and encourage conversations about the actions that we can all take to help protect it, now and in the future.

Players of People’s Postcode Lottery have supported the charity, raising £80,000 since 2017 to support the development and delivery of new and immersive learning experiences that bring the marine environment to life for children in coastal communities.

Our latest creative project, funded by People’s Postcode Trust and Sea-Changers, has been to launch the best of their education sessions online, working with schools and home educators across Scotland and England.

Based around the trust’s research expeditions, these digital sessions introduce the amazing diversity of whales, dolphins and sharks in Scotland and give children a glimpse into what it is like to work at sea, studying and protecting ocean giants.

Prior to the pandemic, every year school groups would join the charity’s crew on board their research vessel, Silurian, as she was temporarily transformed into a floating classroom.

The famous yacht has now visited communities on most of the larger Hebridean islands; Mull, Skye, Islay, Lewis, Harris, Uist, Barra, Coll, Tiree and the Small Isles; as well as some of the largest towns along Scotland’s west coast, such as Oban, Mallaig and Ullapool.

Raising awareness and aspirations for green careers features at the centre of the charity’s education strategy. Each year the trust runs dedicated research expeditions for 16- and 17-year-olds on board Silurian.

These young adults gain hands-on experience monitoring marine life, including collecting data as part of the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust long-term citizen science project, which informs local and national conservation efforts.

Anyone can help the charity monitor marine life, by reporting their sightings of cetaceans – the collective name for whales, dolphins and porpoises – and basking sharks online.

The trust also offers guided field trips for schools, so that younger children can take part and experience the thrill of spotting seabirds and marine mammals from land.

Local wildlife is not only amazing to see, but each species also has an important biological role to play.

By protecting whales and giving marine ecosystems the chance to recover, we can improve the health and resilience of our seas and in turn the climate and planet for us all.

We’re really proud to support the next generation of ocean ambassadors and look forward to when Silurian can once again become a floating classroom and set sail for island schools.

In the meantime, teachers or home educators keen to take part in our online sessions are encouraged to get in touch at info@hwdt.org.

Pippa Garrard, education manager, the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust

Prepared for a digital future

Sir,

With record demand on our broadband and mobile networks – and periods of extreme Scottish weather to contend with – I’d like to thank all our front-line colleagues for keeping our customers and communities connected during a challenging year.

The pandemic has accelerated Scotland’s shift online. We’ve learned new terms like ‘Zoom calls’ and ‘vaccine passports’. With the average home predicted to have 50 connected devices by 2023, families need better and faster connections, no matter where they live.

To future-proof our networks, BT Group confirmed plans to invest around £15bn so that Openreach can extend their ultrafast, full-fibre broadband network to 25 million UK homes and businesses by 2026.

More than 438,000 Scottish premises can already order full-fibre, with thousands enjoying ultra-reliable, ultrafast speeds.

Our mobile network, EE, has already reached around 40 per cent of the UK’s population with 5G, with plans to offer the service in every corner of the UK by 2028. And on 4G, we’ll expand our network to 600 more rural Scottish communities by 2025.

This ultrafast connectivity is being expanded on a daily basis. We’re building like fury, and we know there’s more to do.

To make sure this digital future benefits as many people as possible, we published a ‘manifesto’ for the next decade, setting out how we’ll support responsible technology, become more inclusive and do more on climate action, including electrifying our vehicle fleet.

Despite these challenging times, we’re working hard to bring next-generation networks and digital services to millions more in the coming years.

Jane Wood, BT Group Scotland director, Edinburgh

The purpose of pylons

Sir,

The members of Tarbert Poetry Group have suggested that you might wish to publish my seasonal and topical poem:

Eco Claus

Old Santa’s sleigh’s no longer what it was

since Prancer, Dancer, Rudolph and the chase

were boss. More eco-friendly now because

the methane-making motion’s been replaced.

 

With fossil fuels now considered bad;

Internally combusted products out;

what could poor Santa do when all he had

was half a dozen reindeer – and the gout!

 

He’d have to go electric, so he thought;

but where are all the sockets in the sky?

Then Santa’s fertile fancy something caught –

those shiny pylons! Some are really high!

 

So if they bother you, just think this way:

They’re really charging points for Santa’s sleigh.

Rebecca Pine, Tarbert

Editor’s note: Unless you happen to be a jolly chap in a red suit with flying reindeer, please keep well clear of all electricity-carrying structures.