Old soldier Prescott takes climate message to the young

Author: By Andy McSmith

Mr Prescott is 71 and has almost completed 40 years as an MP, but he harangued a hall full of secondary school children with such enthusiasm that he could almost have been the same age as them.

He warned of the grim future for them and their children if something is not done quickly about climate change. Older people cannot be trusted on this subject, he said, because they do not think far enough into the future. It is up to the young to take up the fight.

“Go home, pester your parents, annoy people,” he exhorted. As if children aged between 11 and 15 need any encouragement to do that.

The Prescott school tour is part of the run-up to the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December. As the Council of Europe’s rapporteur on climate change, Mr Prescott is also seeking to have the right to “live in a healthy and viable environment” enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.

That convention was drawn up in 1949, with a view to preventing global war, but the former Deputy Prime Minister believes that the global threat now is not war but climate change, which could make the world almost uninhabitable in 40 years unless it is checked.

The first school to hear this message was the Globe Academy, in Walworth, one of south London’s worst sink schools until it was taken over two years ago by a charity. Its academy status meant that the headteacher could let in Mr Prescott to talk to pupils without any dispute about whether his lecture might be political.

The tour will take in a maths and computing college near Leeds, a technology college in Didsbury, Manchester, and a specialist science college in Birmingham.

Mr Prescott was preaching to the easily converted when he talked about environmentally friendly modes of travel like buses and trains, because they are all that most of these children have experienced. Not one had been driven to school by car that day.

They were shown an excerpt from the environmental movie, Age of Stupid, which Mr Prescott used as a cue to berate homeowners who oppose wind farms because they spoil the view. In this part of south London the view, frankly, is not one that a wind farm could spoil, so the kids were plainly on board on that one. Why, one asked, did not the Government make it illegal for people to organise protests against plans for wind farms?

The children broke into spontaneous applause as he finished, and seemed to have absorbed the general message. The verdict from one 14-year-old boy named Kieran was typical: “It was interesting, but I didn’t quite understand it all.”

Posers for Prescott: Questions from pupils

*When is the world going to end?

*When we have carbon rations will we be allowed to use hair straighteners?

*Since climate change is going to affect the younger generation, should we have a say?

*Why don’t they bring in a law to stop these people protesting about wind farms?

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