One of my favourite books, also made into a film, is Neville Shute’s ‘On the Beach’ (1957). A post-apocalyptic story of how the actions of mankind could destroy the planet. Now 60 years old, it still has a powerful message.
An understanding of our impact on the environment has never been more important. As a school we are delighted to have more and more opportunities to work with local groups who have a passion for the care of the natural world around us. Two of these are the Park View Rangers and the Lytham St Annes Wildlife Trust, who are working with all our senior students this week and junior students next week. Yesterday I saw students collecting flotsam and jetsam on the sand, then analysing how many years the materials would take to break down. It was alarming to learn how long the plastics and polystyrene we collected would take to degrade and at what rate we are accumulating this waste in the sea. I was genuinely interested and impressed to hear how the students considered solutions to the problem, with ideas about alternative packaging and recycling, also considering technological, financial and legal factors.
On the same day I was discussing junior school plans to connect with a school in Bangalore (through Round Square). The Indian school is interested in how we manage our beach environment, we are interested in how they manage their burgeoning landfill sites. Students will discuss the responsibility of, and impact on, people. In working together they will better understand the challenges and perspectives in different parts of the world. Thus they gain further insight into the cultural, scientific and economic factors that may empower or constrain us.
Neville Shute imagined global disaster impacting on the individual characters in his story, ending on an Australian beach. Happily, we are a long way from that. I would like to thank our wonderful community partners who help us to understand our actions and responsibilities. And what better place to learn than on our own beach.
M H P Walton