When I visit primary schools children often ask questions about recycling and show a great deal of concern about protecting the environment. World Oceans Day last month reminded me of just one of the issues which children have talked to me about.
Children at Vernon Park Primary school who had been learning about over-fishing of the oceans, and the appalling practice of shark finning wrote very passionate letters to me about protecting our marine habitat. They were very pleased to get a letter from the Minister at the Department of the Environment after I wrote to him about the children’s concerns.
The Women’s Institute, whose Heatons branch celebrates its 10th Birthday this summer, has also campaigned on environmental issues. The WI is now working to protect our oceans, with a campaign called End Plastic Soup. This is all about the tiny microplastic fibres which are shed from our clothing in the washing machine and flow into the sewage system and eventually into the ocean. They form a sort of plastic soup which is gradually clogging up the seas, and the WI want the government and industry to find a solution to the problem.
I think people were amazed and shocked by the extent of marine plastic pollution exposed by the Blue Planet TV series last year. People of all ages and interests are now campaigning on this issue, which is recognised as one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world.
The government has said that the UK should be in the forefront of world action to eliminate avoidable plastic waste to protect our rivers and seas – although I think their 25 Year Environment Plan could be more ambitious as far as the timescale goes. What we need is urgent global action to protect the world’s oceans from plastics, protect sharks and other marine creatures through strict international controls and encourage sustainable fishing. And of course this is a global problem, which needs global solutions.
Meanwhile, I hope people who care in Stockport, children and adults alike, will continue to campaign for action.