Time for Change – Young islanders share their dreams for a sustainable future

A young Orcadian artist's work was chosen to front the project report

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The latest in a regular series of opinion columns by members of climate campaign group Time for Change Argyll and Bute

By Bethany Walsh

Young islanders across Scotland are using their creative skills to influence the movement towards a more sustainable future.

Climate Change Message in a Bottle is a project based at Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law and Governance (SCELG) which has been encouraging young islanders across Scotland to think creatively about their carbon neutral island futures.

Through the project primary and secondary school pupils across the islands have been producing artwork and stories to represent their hopes for a sustainable, climate-friendly future on their islands.

The project is funded by the Scottish government which will release a progress report in June this year for the Carbon Neutral Islands project – a programme for government commitment aimed at supporting up to six islands in their journey to decarbonisation by 2040.

One piece of artwork produced by a young islander for the Message in a Bottle project was selected by public vote for the front cover of the Carbon Neutral Islands progress report. The winner was Emily from Kirkwall Grammar School in Orkney.

Across 140 stories submitted from 14 Scottish island schools the most commonly mentioned themes were renewable energy; local food production; active, public and shared transport; waste management and circular economy; and climate friendly transport services.

Pupils at schools on Tiree, Islay and Mull wrote futuristic stories set in 2040 with Eva from Tiree Primary School writing in her story: ‘With the new electric boat, it managed into the pier even though it was such bad weather. But when it used to be the Clansman it would have never get into the pier.’

Port Ellen Primary School pupil Callie’s piece said: ‘We plant many trees on a daily basis; our island powers houses with renewable energy and most important for me we use sustainable fishing techniques.’

Honey-Jane at Tiree High School wrote in her story: ‘Shops right now are very different to what it was back then, like we use paper instead of plastic for different types of fruits, we have glass for the drinks instead of plastic or metal, and we also give out cardboard boxes for the people that go grocery shopping. … Here on Tiree you would see solar panels on shops, and you would also see hundreds of windmills in the sea.’

The young islanders’ stories are now available to view in an online gallery hosted by Youth Scotland.

Youth Scotland is currently establishing the Young Islanders’ Network, which aims to help young people offer meaningful contributions to the delivery of the National Islands Plan, to benefit from training opportunities, and to access support to implement changes in their own communities.

The project has also produced an illustrated zine with artists Melanie Grandidge and Hannah Riordan inspired by the young islanders’ stories of 2040.

By the end of April this will be distributed across the islands providing information about the Carbon Neutral Islands project and how to access funding for climate-related initiatives on islands.

In April SCELG will release the Climate Change Message in a Bottle report which outlines the children’s responses in more depth.

It will be available at: www.strath.ac.uk/research/strathclydecentreenvironmentallawgovernance/ourwork/research/labsincubators/eilean/climatechangemessageinabottle/.

If you’d like to find out more about Time for Change Argyll and Bute email timeforchangeargyll@gmail.com or visit the group’s Facebook page.