Take Time to Change. Please.
16-year-old Amy Bray from Matterdale in Cumbria, UK has recently established her own environmental charity Another Way and is currently working towards its first event, Another Waynwright Day, in The Lake District on 31 August 2019. Here she reflects on the incredible work she is doing to help and advise people on how they can make changes at an individual level that will contribute to averting the natural disaster the world is facing.
There is no doubt our planet is suffering. There is also no doubt the world is waking up to this fact. Very recent activities such as the Extinction Rebellion in London; Greta Thunberg’s remarkable impact with schoolchildren, governments, and corporations throughout the world; Sir David Attenborough’s Climate Change: The Facts BBC television documentary, and most recently the United Nation’s Global Assessment Report are all helping to raise the awareness of the crisis facing our earth. Thank you to them.
Now it is time for you and me to make changes.
Since a very young age, I have been fascinated by the natural environment and have adored all living things. In more recent times, I have set my path towards becoming a marine conservationist and through this journey have become more aware of the acute danger facing our planet. I realised that the time to act is now. After influencing my family to go plastic-free and to live more sustainably, I wanted to share our discoveries and the motivation to do this with the wider public.
Early in 2018, an accumulation of ideas led to the creation of my marine conservation campaign Devotion to Ocean. My aim is to give people the motivation to change their lives to make a difference and to unite people in contributing to the solution, not the continued destruction of our earth. It started with a conversation on a sofa and has now directly educated over 700 people about marine pollution and sustainability together with an Instagram following of over 2,000. I believe that education is a force to be reckoned with. I believe the power of people can change the world, especially if young people are heard. Teaching people that being environmentally friendly can be fun, adventurous, healthy, and achievable is key to creating change.
Everyone in our fast-moving society seems to think that the problem should be solved by other people. It doesn’t matter who, as long as it’s not them. Countless times I have heard, ‘but the government needs to change first’ or something similar. The world’s alarm bell is ringing. We have no time to wait for anyone else to change. The time is now, and it starts with every single one of us. People need first to care, and then to know how to act on that. I want to empower everyone to make a difference. Each one of us has the power within us to speak out.
My aim is to give people the motivation and to give people the faith that voicing their opinions will make a difference. It is the public who drives the consumerism of the world, and so it is us who make the decisions about which products are successful. It is us who hold the power to phase out harmful items, such as those containing palm oil or products covered in plastic packaging.
I began my project at a school meeting with the headmaster and our catering team to talk about reducing plastic use, and we then gave an assembly to the whole school about our reasons and our plans. This has led to our school shop selling reusable and plastic-free products, an Ecobricks project turning plastic bottles into building structures, and a significant reduction of single-use plastic in the school.
Sadly, it has also shown me how reluctant people are to change, but this has taught me to be patient and to find ways to address concerns and to influence habits and opinions personally. However, there are some people who share the same passions and objectives and who have supported me through thick and thin along the way.
When teachers come up to me and excitedly tell me about their latest efforts to reduce the plastic they use, or how they’re getting solar panels installed, or cycling to work instead of driving, that makes it worth it. My heart is warmed when people tell me what a wonderful thing I am doing, how I have achieved so much already. My bursar once said to me, ‘everything that the school has achieved is down to you, you have made people change. The world needs more Amy Brays’.
After creating a collection of activities for young people, tailored to teach, inspire, and provoke thought, I made an interactive awareness programme for youth groups. I spent a day delivering this to a junior school and by the end of the day, every child knew how they could help reduce plastic pollution. I have taken this further and taught Scouts and explorers, pupils and staff. After each programme I ask people to provide their own pledge in the form of green and blue hearts. On each heart, a person writes a promise to the ocean and I have collected over 300 of these to date.
Through Another Weigh, a zero-waste shop in Penrith in the UK which I was instrumental in establishing, I have created a physical base for my conservation charity, Another Way. This base is an education centre, giving local people the opportunity to learn, engage, and act on their desire to help the environment. Through this and active educational talks and courses, we hope to unite people and organisations in striving to change the wasteful and harmful way in which society functions. To do this, we will create and support a network of volunteers to run education programmes and to inspire people to behavioural change. Our work in Penrith has already produced success stories across the community as individuals change their lives, often quite significantly, and I hope that this will be replicated across the country.
In August this year we will be holding Another Way’s launch event. Instead of a mass demonstration we will be staging a ‘mass hill walking expedition’ – Another Waynwright Day. Walkers and campaigners from around the UK are joining us, walking to the tops of a cluster of 214 hills across the Lake District as a symbol of their dedication to the health of our planet. The range is named ‘Wainwright's Lakeland Fells’ after the celebrated writer and fell-walker, Alfred Wainwright. On the tops, there will be activities such as yoga and choirs and talks from leading conservationists. So, please come and join me if you can by signing up on our website.
With statistics such as those below, included in the United Nations Global Assessment Report, May 2019, it is time for us all to wake up, acknowledge our responsibility and act:
Global population has doubled since 1970, global economy grown fourfold
Urban areas have doubled since 1999
Only 13 per cent of wetlands in existence in 1700 were present in 2000
One million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction
Between 1980 and 2000, 100 million hectares of tropical forest have been lost
At the end of my latest awareness session, I asked a group of explorer Scouts who would be prepared to make changes in their everyday lives to help our wonderful environment. Every single person raised their hand. I was genuinely stunned. Personal engagement and education are truly the key to behavioural change and to finding Another Way.
Amy Bray is a passionate advocate and activist for a healthier planet. Her work includes educational talks, including to the Young Marine Biologists Summit and local community groups. She has directly educated over 700 people through awareness courses, talks and education events for Scouts, community groups and schools, and attended Plymouth and Newcastle University marine biology work experience courses to gain greater knowledge and academic links. She has also made connections to and received support from important conservationists and existing charities, such as Prof. Richard Thompson, Prof. Dan Laffoley, the Marine Conservation Society, Marine Biological Association, and Kids Against Plastic. Her work has seen her attend local council conferences on circular economies and reducing waste, and advise local businesses about reducing their waste and environmental footprint. She is a founding member of the Lake District Foundation youth panel and organised a Zero Hour march in London. Recently, she established Another Way, an environmental conservation educational charity and enabled the establishment of Another Weigh, a zero-waste shop in Penrith, Cumbria, UK. Her activism has won widespread acclaim, and she has featured on BBC radio and a wide range of Cumbria media.