Secondary Schools – Special Prizes

Anthea Laurence

Environmental Education Unit, Seychelles

Dear UN Secretary General


I’m a young Seychellois who believes in the conservation of my country’s environment. Seychelles and other small island states (SIDS) are the most sensitive countries when it comes to climate change. We are the victims of big countries like yours. We have been trying to get our opinions of the effect of climate change to your attention but so far it’s been in vain.

As tourism is our country’s main source of income, our environment is important. Without our environment we are doomed. Like every underdeveloped country, tourism brings a lot of foreign exchange to the country’s economy. It also creates lots of employment for our people.

Everything big countries do against the environment reflects on us. Our country and other small island states are completely different from yours. We don’t have enough resources to protect us from the impact of climate change. If a tsunami occurs in your country I bet you would have some kind of protective shield to reduce the impact; but we only have a bunch of sand bags to use, therefore the tsunami would sweep us like a speck of dust.

As a teenager on a small islands developing state I can’t have a say in big forums and summits. So, that is why we have the country’s leaders, the governments and the world representatives to speak for us. But, you are not taking your work seriously. You have met several times but there is little that has been done. Developed countries are still polluting the environment and underdeveloped countries are still crying out for help. If the situation is going to stay like this, we suggest changing strategy to solve the environmental issues.

I believe that if we children, the next generation are going to rule the country in a few years’ time, we should have a say in the forums and summits. In that way, we should plan our future planet and guide the leaders in the path of sustainable future.

The world’s leaders and government should all agree on a decision to make the world balanced in terms of the environment. Each country should contribute its part somehow in the world to make it sustainable.

All countries should avoid all sorts of pollution. Furthermore, actions should be taken to those who don’t follow the law. Every kind of pollution affects us small states in some way. We should also avoid cutting trees because the more we cut the more carbon dioxide we will be exposed to. As a result, the hole in our ozone will enlarge. With no trees there would be nothing to absorb some of the carbon dioxide! With no trees, how are we going to survive?

Moreover, climate change also affects our agriculture. Since we produce our own fruits and vegetables we depend mainly on the weather for the production of fruits and vegetables. If we don’t have production we don’t have food either. Even our fishing industry depends on our climate. We try to protect our food supplies but with changes around the environment it’s been very hard.

We small islands states, we would like and very much appreciate if developed countries could take responsibility for their actions and take us in consideration. If we don’t act now as a united world in time small islands would cease to exist. We will also be grateful if all world’s leaders and governments work together to provide a sustainable Earth for us children, for our own benefit, for the future generation to make this world’s future sustainable. We all need each other to make this happen. Big countries needs small countries and we need you. A helping hand at the four corners of the Earth will make a sustainable Planet Earth.

Kanu Brian

Jephthah Comprehensive Secondary School, Nigeria

Dear Mr. UN Secretary-General


I want to thank you, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, for all your efforts towards the renewal of our planet. I most especially want to thank“The Living Rainforest Organization” for allowing my voice to be heard on a global basis. I believe that we, together, can work hand-in-hand to stop the destruction of our planet earth. Sir Isaac Newton said “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” I believe that if we take action against our old ways, that in the end, the reaction will be beneficial to all mankind.

Man as an animal is a very unique kind. The reason why man is seen as the most superior being is because man is the only living being capable of changing the world. Who created the car? Man did. Who created the plane? Man did. Who is destroying our planet? Man is. Who can fix our planet? Only man can. The human race is responsible for what is happening to the world. We can either benefit the world or destroy it. Recently, the UN has been working vigorously to meet up with the millennium development goals. As an activist, I have been able to stop many activities such as indiscriminate bush burning, littering and many other things in my local area. But this is just the beginning. I am only one person and I could make a big difference. Imagine if all the governments of the world were to come together against these problems.

Day by day, the condition of the world is worsening. Global warming is reaching dangerously new heights. Ice caps are melting and flooding is causing havoc around the world. If we continue our ways, we will end up being responsible for the end of our planet. God said he will do his part only if we do ours. Governments should start by implementing laws that ban activities that lead to the emission of greenhouse gases. Ignorance and illiteracy are other key elements that need to be eliminated. The government can eliminate these elements by including “The contemporary earth’s condition” as a topic in our academic system at both the primary and secondary levels. All of these steps might sound small, but as Neil Armstrong said “this is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

A few years ago, I was staying with my family in the United States of America. While I was there, things such as water supply, power and many other utilities never crossed my mind. Early 2011, when I moved to Nigeria, I saw many things that changed my life forever. I saw people who valued electricity. These people wouldn’t waste resources, but rather would conserve as much as possible. I saw people my age walking to school instead of using a car. It’s not that they didn’t have cars; it’s just that they didn’t see the use of using it when they could use their legs. This is the kind of mentality that should be instilled into the upcoming generation. The UN should help Nigeria by providing funds that will be used in the development of new energy sources. If we could stop these things, many innocent lives will be saved.

These are all steps that can be taken to help us. I am only an SS1 student. What I say may not be as effective as that of an expert. But very soon, all these problems will begin to fall on my generation, and if we don’t start now, I don’t believe my children will be able to see the world the way I dream of it to be. But hope lives on. Hope will never die as long as we still have a desire for a better future. Time is running out. The time for action is now.

Amy-Christina Slater

Girls Secondary School, St. Theresa College, Malta

Dear Mr. U.N. Secretary-General


Twenty years ago, your organisation met up to decide what sort of world I was to grow up in. It was a meeting full of challenges and hope. I was supposed to be born into a world that was better than that of Rio 1992.

So what happened?

In preparation for this essay, I interviewed the general public, politicians, NGOs and the Prime Minister of my country. Little progress has been made to meet the goals of Rio-92. It’s true that we are being educated to reduce, reuse, recycle, but the enthusiasm brought with that is slowly dying out. We all practise the relatively easy measures: recycling, using energy-saving light bulbs, walking short distances; but when it comes to the most important ones, measures that require more effort than simply throwing plastic in one box and paper in another, our enthusiasm dies and lethargy takes over.

In a survey I conducted with the general public, 96% of people use energy-saving light bulbs (which were provided for free by the government in 2009), 65% of people recycle… yet only 28% of people buy products with less packaging and only 27% of people use renewable energy.

Malta’s ecological footprint is 3.9 hectares per person, almost double the global average of 2.2 ha. Various measures are taken to reduce this footprint. We get taxed on electricity use, water, fuel, packaging, even carrier bags for taking the shopping home. Yet we have a massive fuel-burning power station whose emission covers half of the island with a film of black dust, resulting in alarmingly high rates of asthma and cancer. People may want to make a change, and they might take the small easy steps, but most people feel that the first step to change must come from the people in power. In the last three years alone, junk mail from polticians has trebled, air quality is still one of the worst in Europe, and land use is not sustainable, especially when it comes to big businesses. New buildings arise, yet 54,000 houses on the island are vacant. We are told to carpool, while politicians drive into the capital city in gas-guzzling cars. We’re told to ride our bikes to help the environment, but few bike lanes can be found in large cities. People cannot see the connotation between acting locally and thinking globally because of these huge discrepancies between what the common man does and what the politician does. On interviewing the Prime Minister, he agreed that “politicians have a duty to lead by example”. Some large businesses aren’t bothered by the environmental law, since fines given are relatively spare change.

Sustainable development in my country is not even a legal priority yet. The Parliament is still in the preliminary stages of debating the first draft of the Bill, in the year 2012. Agenda 21 hasn’t even started to take effect here, and it’s been twenty years. Are we still going to be in the same spot twenty years from now? Rio 2012 needs to be a summit with hard-hitting goals, something that will make the world sit up and take notice of the problems that needed to be addressed twenty years ago. “Green Matters is a relatively new concept here, as in the rest of the Mediterranean. It will take a while longer…” says a representative from BirdLife, one of Malta’s biggest NGOs.

How much longer can we wait for this change? It’s close to getting out of hand, and who knows how much longer it is until the planetary boundaries are overstepped and the damage already done is irreversible?

I urge you to keep the zero draft alive and active for the twenty years to come, and take heed.

Dear Mr. UN Secretary-General and world leaders, can we take you seriously this time?

Daniel Starks

Haybridge High School and Sixth Form, UK

Dear Mr. UN Secretary-General, what on Earth are we going to do?


What on Earth are we going to do! It is easy for any Tom, Dick and Harry to stand up and say we need a sustainable way of living, but what is the might of one man against his country. It takes his government to stand up and say “This is the way forward.” So why do we still choose to poison the world in which we live. How have we allowed governments to litter our society with broken promises? Why have we have become so desensitized to the issues that surround us, believing that a few mere promises will save us from a dystopian future? We must unite and realise that now is the time for change!

Sustainable living is the way forward. So what can be done to secure our future? Granted each individual person doing their own little bit to help is all well and good but we have done this and are probably doing it now but if it was working successfully then I would not be writing this letter. As we can see, more is required for our survival in the future. Government action is a necessity without which sustainable living can not be achieved. But what can the government do to make the ideals mentioned become a reality?

What should probably be noted is that the objectives set in the Rio Earth summit of 1992 and the Kyoto agreement are the answers, this of course rests solely upon the ability of governments to adhere to them. This will move the great chain, when government takes action the people will then take action, when other governments see the people taking action they will act and eventually the world leaders will. We all move the great chain but in the end the great chain moves us all forward. On that note it’s probably best to start looking at specifics.

Energy is the key to the future. Energy keeps transport moving, energy keeps factories producing, energy keeps hospitals full of life, the list goes on, one way or another energy is vital in our lives. So it is important for governments to explore ways of obtaining a sustainable energy source that does not compromise economy. These methods could include but are not limited to the use of solar power, wind power or hydro-electric power. One such way in which governments could produce sustainable energy is making the presence of solar panels on roofs of buildings (mainly houses) a legal requirement. But one may argue that electricity is not the answer to powering cars which have become a day to day necessity. So investments into the fermentation of sugars can be made. This process uses yeast to turn glucose (sugar) into alcohol which can be used to power machines (cars) although carbon dioxide is produced both in the anaerobic process and combustion process but this is required for the sugar plants to grow and in turn creates oxygen through photosynthesis, it’s a win win situation that provides sustainable energy and consequently increases revenue in developing countries that could choose to grow sugar helping to end poverty something that also arose at the summit.

Granted there are many other problems that one could mention, for example drought but it takes time for change and changes should be made slowly with lots of thought and discussion made about them. This is why I have only chosen to go into specifics about one major issue whilst still highlighting the steps world leaders and governments should be taking in order to build a more sustainable future on planet Earth. I have also shown that it is not just the world leaders and governments who have to act, but the people they represent.

One man can make a difference but if everyone tries to make a difference anything becomes possible, in this instance sustainable living.


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