IMELDA BELL | AUTHOR | CONSERVATION STORY FOR KIDS
I hope this story will be useful in explaining conservation and the subjects around it to children from late junior/primary school age upwards, as well as starting conversations about how people can help to conserve nature, wildlife and the environment around them. Please download the free pdf, Making a Difference – A Conservation Story which you are welcome to print and share to help spread the conservation message.
Making a Difference
A story about conservation
written by Imelda Bell
illustrated by Margaret Knight
Emily and her best friend Harry loved nothing better than playing outside and exploring the world around them. They were very lucky and lived opposite meadowland which had lots of plants, trees and even a little stream and a pond where they could explore nature.
Emily liked to chase butterflies and see how many different colours she could see on their wonderful painted wings. She loved to watch the fat, furry bumblebees going from flower to flower in their black and gold overcoats, getting covered in the yellow, dusty pollen as they went about their business. She could watch for hours as the bees and insects busied themselves getting nectar from the wide variety of flowers, which grew amongst the grass and trees on this little patch of our planet, which she loved so much. She would take a long, deep breath in through her nose and was delighted by the fragrance of all the plants and flowers that greeted her.
Harry liked to get messy and muddy and would often pull up his trouser legs and wade into the shallow water to explore amongst the pebbles, looking for tadpoles and the little fish, which darted about under the water. He loved the pond skaters, which skimmed along the surface of the water, as if dancing to music that only they could hear. Sometimes he would close his eyes to see what music he could hear, if he stopped for a moment to just listen to the world around him. It was a symphony of bird songs, insects chirping and the breeze swishing through the tall grasses and making the leaves rustle. It calmed and relaxed him and he would smile as the sun kissed his freckled cheeks and he lost himself in the wonder of nature.
The two children would spend hours outside and would often play until sunset, when their mothers called them inside for supper.
One morning, as usual, Emily and Harry excitedly ran out of their front doors, barely pulling their shoes onto their feet as they rushed out to make the most of the beautiful day ahead.
Harry stopped abruptly and Emily, who was so busy looking for butterflies, ran straight into him. Shocked, she looked at him and the smile left her face, as she followed his gaze.
There was rubbish everywhere; cans, plastic bottles and bags littered across this precious space they treasured. Harry took a deep breath and he held back tears and closed his eyes to listen, but all he could hear was traffic.
Behind a line of trees, a bulldozer started up and began to dig up the earth. Emily screamed and her mother dashed out of the house to see what was going on. “They are clearing part of the meadow to build some more houses, they had a notice up to let us know, but I didn’t realise it would happen so quickly,” she sadly explained to the children. “They will do the part behind those trees first and then start on the rest. I’m afraid you two are going to have to find somewhere else to play in the future!”
“There must be something we can do,” said Emily, as she ran over and started to pick up some of the cans. “A group of inconsiderate people must have had a party last night and left all this behind! I don’t know what to suggest about the bulldozers,” her mother replied, “but let’s get this litter picked up to start with, it’s not only ugly, but it can damage the environment and the wildlife.” Several people came to help and soon they had collected two large bags of rubbish, which Mr Roberts, who lived next door, said he would sort for recycling.
“Well,” said Mrs Edwards, “it is very special to us, maybe this meadow has some wider value as an ecosystem. An ecosystem is an area where all the plants and animals need each other as well as the soil, the water and the air where they live, to survive. If we harm one part of the ecosystem, everything in it will suffer. Our village is very lucky to have this ecosystem, where we can see so many species of insects, birds, plants and flowers, even fish in the stream and pond.”
“We need to tell everybody we can,” said Harry. “Someone will know what to do.”
“I’ll make a poster to hang up in our window,” said Emily, “and we can ask everyone at school to do the same.”
The children told all their friends and teachers about how they might lose the meadowland, and soon everyone was busy making posters and flyers and telling all their friends.
Soon the news spread and the local television station contacted Harry’s mum and a news crew came to talk to the children and their neighbours about how much this little plot of land meant to all of them. This was part of a much bigger topic about the environment and saving the planet.
The children had heard about global warming and all things that people do, which are destroying our planet and making it harder for us to survive.
“If we don’t do something to stop it, we could end up like the dinosaurs and become extinct. Everything we do has an effect on not just our ecosystems, but also the whole planet. We are polluting the air and the water and cutting down huge forests. If we don’t start to love and look after our planet, we won’t have a planet left!” Emily told the news reporter. “We have to save our green spaces and do everything we can to protect the fragile planet where we live called Earth.”
The next day, everyone at school wanted to talk to Harry and Emily after seeing them on the news. The head teacher asked them to give a presentation during assembly about what they had learned about global warming and saving the planet.
Harry and Emily were very nervous when the day came to talk to the whole school, but they felt very proud knowing they were making a difference by telling other kids about what they knew.
“Global warming is about the earth’s climate, not just the weather”, Harry started off, “it is about the average temperate around the world getting hotter, which leads to all sorts of problems!”
“If the world gets hotter, “ Emily continued, “many glaciers, which are like big ice rivers and the ice around the North and the South Pole, known as the polar ice caps, will melt, and this has already started to happen. Sea levels will rise and there will be flooding. Weather patterns will also change and we could see more droughts, as well as heavy rains or monsoons. All of this will change the land and destroy the habitats or places where certain animals live. Animals will also be forced to migrate or move to new areas and this will interrupt food chains and many species of plant and animals will go extinct, which means they will be gone forever.”
Suddenly lots of hands flew up, with children eager to ask questions. “What can we do?” several asked at once.
“Well,” said Harry, “there are lots of little changes you can make in your lives to help stop waste. We throw away far too much stuff which is causing pollution to the land and the water.” The whole schools gasped as he showed them a photo of plastic waste floating in the sea. “Think about where you can cut down on using plastic,” he said, “plastic is a big problem as it does not biodegrade or break down. Did you know,” he told the concerned faces listening intently, “that every single plastic toothbrush ever made still exists today. That’s a lot of toothbrushes around the world. You can now get toothbrushes and other products made from bamboo instead of plastic. Lots of countries have banned plastic drinking straws, which is a great start to the problem, but we need to cut down on single use plastic items that can’t be re-used, much more than this. I’m not saying don’t ever buy plastic again, as that would be very tricky in today’s world, but think about the plastics you can cut out. If you go for a picnic, instead of sandwich bags, put food in re-usable containers, and do you need to buy plastic forks, or can you use the ones from your kitchen and take them home to wash and reuse? Obviously if you have plastic cutlery already, don’t throw it out, but use it until it breaks and then don’t replace it, but use your household cutlery in future. Just think about things that aren’t necessary and what you could use instead.”
“Have you heard people talk about a ‘carbon footprint?” asked Emily. “Carbon is found in all living things; people, plants and animals. People burn oil, coal and gas, which were formed from the fossils of plants and animals, so are known as fossil fuels. Because these were once living things, they contain carbon, and when we burn them, the carbon is released into the air as carbon dioxide. This is air pollution and a greenhouse gas, which means it makes the earth warmer. Lots of other things we do also produce carbon, we even breathe it out as carbon dioxide, but we can’t change that! The amount of carbon we produce from our energy consumption or the amount of energy we use, is known as our carbon footprint.”
Harry continued, explaining that everything we eat or wear or have in our homes has also used energy to be grown, farmed or made into materials we use. Transporting it from one place to another uses more energy and produces more air pollution. The distance food travels to where it is sold is known as food miles.
“You can help save energy by using energy saving bulbs and turning off lights and electronics when you leave the room. Simple things like not filling the kettle when you only want a cup of tea, or not leaving the tap running when you brush your teeth can all help to save both energy and water.” he told the other children. “These small things are just as important as making choices about where things come from and how far they travel to get to us. ”
“Plants and trees remove carbon from the air, so are very important in preventing climate change and this is one of the big reasons why we need to stop chopping down forests faster than they can re-grow.” said Emily.
“Forests aren’t just homes for animals, we need forests too! They give us not only wood for building our homes and furniture, but medicine and food too. Forests and green spaces are also so good for our mental health. There is nothing like a walk through the woods or meadows to make you feel better on a bad day.
Plants absorb the carbon dioxide in the air and give off oxygen, which we need to breathe, so they are very important in making sure our air is clean. Trees and plants stop the soil from eroding or wearing away and they help the climate of the earth to produce rain, so are vital to the whole planet.”
“There are a lot of people in the world, who need food and shelter. As the population of the Earth increases and we build more houses, more forests are being cut down to make room for farms and houses, but this deforestation is destroying habitats and ecosystems, and is causing problems to people, as well as animals and plants. Animals are being forced to live closer to humans and diseases which haven’t bothered us before are being passed to humans, making us sick and even causing pandemics!”
The children look scared and concerned, but Harry calmed them, “It’s not too late and you can help!” he said. “It is important that whatever we take from nature can be replaced, so businesses need to make sure they plant new trees and leave enough fish in the sea, but we can help when we buy food and other products. We can check that it is from a sustainable or responsible source. Sustainable means that it doesn’t run out, and a responsible source is when getting the products for us to eat or use hasn’t caused any harm to nature or the environment.“
“Does anyone know of labels we could look out for when we go shopping?” asked Emily.
“Fairtrade” called a voice from the second row, “they make sure that the farmers in poorer countries have decent working conditions and fair pay, and that the food is sustainable too, so it improves lives and the environment.”
“RSPCA Assured”, said someone else, “they make sure the animals are treated well. I’ve seen it on free range eggs, where the chickens can roam about and aren’t stuck in cages all their lives.”
“Can anyone think of any that aren’t about food?” asked one of the teachers.
“Oh yes,” called out a girl with long blonde pigtails, “FSC is the Forestry Stewardship Commission, that’s found on any forest based products like wood and paper. It means it comes from sustainable forests or from recycled materials.”
“You can also look at energy star rating on electrical items to make sure they use less energy. I saw those when I went with my dad to buy a new freezer last weekend.” said a small boy.
“Great idea,” said Harry, “every little bit helps to make a difference to the world.”
“The important thing to remember”, said Emily, “is to reduce, re-use and recycle wherever you can.”
“We love our meadowland and spending time with nature helps us to be relaxed and happy,” said Harry. “It is important that we fight to keep it, not just for the environment and the wildlife that lives and grows there, but also because it makes us feel happy to be there. I love to watch the frogs and lie in the long grass for a bit before I go indoors to do my homework. It helps me to concentrate if I have had a break in the fresh air, and my mum says I am way less grumpy than on days when I sit indoors and watch television or play on my Xbox!”
“Please,” said Emily, “tell all your friends and family what they can do to stop climate change and save the planet and don’t forget to let everyone know that we are trying to save our local ecosystem on the meadow!’
The school hall was buzzing with excitement as the children filed out talking about what they could do to help save the planet and the meadowland close to their homes.
A few days later, just as she was sitting down to eat her supper, there was a knock on the door. Emily’s mum went to answer it and Emily could hear happy voices coming down the hallway. Harry and his mum walked in with a man Emily had never seen before.
“You’ll never guess what, Emily,” Harry shouted, as he jumped up and down on the spot, “it’s saved, the meadowland is saved!’
“Indeed it is,” said the man and he introduced himself as Mr Merryweather, “I am from the Wildlife Trust. We heard about your fight to save the meadow and thought we would take a look. It is a wonderful natural area and we were amazed to find a very rare water snail living along the stream that leads to the pond. We have stopped all construction and the area is going to be protected as a nature reserve from now on. Well done, both of you, your efforts have paid off and you will be able to enjoy all the meadow has to offer for many years to come.”
“Hooray!” everyone shouted together, as Emily and Harry ran out of the door to celebrate, running through the tall grasses on the meadow.
As the children sat on the banks of the little pond, it occurred to Emily that even though you might think you are too small or too young to do anything, and you might be thinking how can one person make a difference in the world, you can, if you just try!
“Imagine what we can do, “ said Emily, “if we all work together to do our bit to help save the Earth. It all starts with one person and one little change to grow into something big. Just imagine what millions of people could do!
A flowing river starts with just one drop of water, one grain of sand can become a vast desert and one tiny tree sapling can become a mighty forest. Together we can accomplish great things.”
Think about what you can do to help save the planet:
These are just a few suggestions, you don’t have to do them all at once, just choose one or two and build from there. You too can make a difference to the future of our planet.
- Don’t waste food
- Eat less meat
- Eat more plants
- Eat local produce where you can
- Check the labels for responsibly sourced products
- Buy food with biodegradable packaging
- Use less water for baths or have a short shower instead
- Turn off the tap while you brush your teeth
- Don’t put more water than you need in the kettle
- Use low energy light bulbs and appliances
- Turn off lights and appliances when they are not in use
- Try chemical free alternatives to protect our waterways from pollution
- Use your bicycle or walk rather than asking your parent for a lift in the car
- Use public transport or car share with your friends who live nearby
- Use your local green spaces and stick up for them
- Don’t litter
- Always care for the plants and animals around you
- Don’t pick or trample wild flowers
- Tell everyone what you are doing and supporting
- Give ideas on how to be ‘green’
- Support local environmental projects by volunteering with your friends and family
GLOSSARY OF TERMS YOU MAY HAVE HEARD
Atmosphere – the layer of air around the Earth.
Biodiversity – all living things on Earth – animals and plants and the ecosystem in which they live.
Carbon dioxide – a colourless, greenhouse gas. Some is exhaled by animals, and it is produced naturally when dead animals or plants decay. Plants absorb it and use it for photosynthesis.
Carbon footprint – the amount of carbon we produce from our energy consumption or the amount of energy we use.
Clean Energy – Renewable sources of energy that generate power but do not contribute to global warming e.g. the wind, sun or water.
Climate – the average weather in a region including the temperature, rainfall, wind speed, etc.
Climate change – major changes in climate that lasts for many years. It does occur naturally, but is also caused by human activities.
Contaminant – something that shouldn’t be there, usually unhealthy.
Decay – the process of rotting.
Deforestation – Cutting down of trees to make way for crops, farms or houses.
Environment – everything around us.
Extinction – when a species disappears from the earth forever. This can occur naturally, but can also happen due to pollution, habitat destruction (e.g. deforestation or building houses on green spaces), climate change, poaching, over fishing, invasion of new species, amongst other causes.
Fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas, which formed from fossilised plants and animals. Fossil fuels are non-renewable, so will eventually run out and they release greenhouse gases when they are burned. Most plastic is made from chemicals taken from fossil fuels.
Food miles – The distance that your food has travelled from where it’s grown to where you buy it. A high number doesn’t always mean it is bad for the environment, it could have been transported using a lower carbon footprint than something closer that has travelled less miles.
Food waste – food or parts of food that are thrown away. Some food waste is unavoidable, as some cannot be eaten, e.g. eggshells.
Greenhouse gas – a gas that traps heat in the atmosphere e.g. carbon dioxide.
Habitat – the place or environment where an animal or plant naturally lives.
Habitat Destruction – when a habitat is damaged or ruined.
Illegal Wildlife Trade – the selling of at risk wild plants and animals that are protected by law.
Landfill – waste buried in the ground.
LED – LED stands for light-emitting diode. LED Bulbs are use less energy and last longer, so are better for the environment.
Overfishing – When too many fish are caught, and there are not enough adults to breed and restock the population.
Ozone – a gas high up in our atmosphere, which shields the Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation that comes from the sun.
Pandemic – when a disease is spread from person to person throughout the world.
Photosynthesis – the process plants use to make their own food from sunlight.
Poaching – the illegal (against the law) killing or capturing of animals for food, or for parts used as medicine or ornaments. e.g. rhino horns and ivory from elephant tusks.
Pollution – when the environment (e.g. air, water, soil) is not clean.
Population – all the people that live in an area or all the animals of one kind that live in an area.
Precipitation – any moisture that falls to the Earth. e.g. rain, snow, mist, hail.
Recyclable – something that can be reused to make new products.
Recycling – remaking materials into either the same product or new products, rather than throwing it away.
Single-use plastics – An item of plastic that is only used once before it is thrown away. e.g. drinking straws, food packaging, etc.
Species – a word for a type of living thing e.g. humans, dogs, cats.
Toxic – poisonous.
Waste – anything discarded or thrown away.
This story and it’s appendix are available to download as a free pdf by clicking the link below.
Thanks so much for reading.
Reduce, re-use, recycle.