Galvanising Youth Interest

As the youngest member of the team here at Willow4Wales, it falls to me to inform our slightly older team members about how ‘young’ people engage with us.

It’s really quite the challenge, especially when you consider how little most adult people engage with our issue. For most, the environment, and how we deal with protecting it for the future, is not an emotional issue. It’s an ongoing problem that faces us daily, and something our writers have written on before.

classChildren in England and Wales are, on the whole, well versed in basic environmental practices. They know about the ice caps melting, they understand how to recycle and why it’s better than dumping in landfills – and what’s more they have a firm grasp on renewable energies. Although you may be hard-pressed to find a kid who’s passionate about the environment – you’d be surprised to discover how much of, what we deem to be, specialist knowledge is now second nature the children as young as 8.

Although Wales and England’s younger generations are well versed on the general theories and ideas of environmentalism, their specific knowledge, especially when considering alternative forms of energy such as Biomass Fuels.

It’s not something that us here at W4W hold personally. We are well aware that our cause is a niche one – that’s why we’re focusing on raising awareness for our issue with this website. My challenge now is to somehow re-market our cause into a package that will not only interest young people, but get them actively talking about growing willow coppice for the purpose of Biomass fuel.

Burning Willow, usually in the form of processed pellets, is not a go-to choice for most people when they consider renewable energies.

The concept for most people, especially children, is counter-intuitive.

burnerThe educated kids of today might well know that recycling is good and fossil fuels are bad, but if you ask them if they think burning trees are good for the environment – they’ll probably shake their heads. The notion of burning trees is simply incongruent with an environmentally friendly lifestyle.

Getting children to engage with detailed environmental issues is a challenge that can’t be answered by simply creating a questionnaire and sourcing answers from a few thousand kids. The answer, I believe, lies in our choice of medium.

In my home country of South Korea, we have adopted technological advances much more readily than other countries. We’ve got one of the highest broadband subscriber populations (along with one of the biggest ratios of population to broadband subs) in the world. More than half of our 50 million strong population regularly play video games, and competitive ‘e-sports‘ garner a similar level of recognition and reverence that your Premier League Football gets here in the UK.

Why is it that the people of South Korea have got behind video games and internet use so much more other developed countries, to the point where some commentators see video games as a fully developed medium?

pc-bangThe answer lies in the environment. High population concentrations, coupled with limited space, have lead South Koreans to spending a large majority of their leisure time in virtual spaces.

We can’t force information about your cause into school syllabuses and it would be difficult to impress the urgency of our issue into the minds of children who are no doubt dealing with, what they deem to be, more important issues.

It’s up to us to make our issue as relevant and as necessary as video games are to my country folk – there’s a long way to go yet!


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