Maddie Lucas blogs about her involvement in My Guernsey Future where she met and inspired school pupils who are interested in climate change, policy, science and our work.
On an unusually warm Thursday this October, I had the privilege of representing the Pollinator Project at My Guernsey Future, a networking and discussion which aimed to bring young people who are concerned about climate change together with island leaders who have the power to make change.
The event, hosted at Government House by the Lieutenant-Governor of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, opened with speeches from students. The speakers and audience included pupils from primary schools, secondary, sixth form and colleges across the island. They expressed their concerns about the impacts of climate change on our island community, including sea level and temperature rise, more erratic weather events, and the knock-on effects this will have on our society.
From my own reading, I know that coastal communities like Guernsey are on the climate change frontline, facing increasing flooding, temperature, and precipitation as well as a rise in sea level, wave heights, and accelerated erosion (Zsamboky et al., 2011). Couple this with the fact that research shows children born in 2020 will experience a two to sevenfold increase in climate-change induced extreme events compared with people born in 1960 (Thiery et al., 2021), and you can understand the younger generation’s worry about the world they will inherit.
After the speeches, I was excited to have the opportunity to speak with some of the young people about the Pollinator Project’s work. I spoke to year six students about the importance of the ecosystem services our pollinating insects provide us with, for example, supporting the reproductive cycle of nearly 90% of flowering plants and pollinating our crops to provide us with food (Ollerton, 2011). I was incredibly pleased to see that the students were so passionate, well-informed, and eager to relay their own knowledge of pollinators!
I also emphasised the ability of each person to support our pollinators through individual actions including planting native wildflower patches and pollinator-friendly plants in their gardens, reducing mowing, and getting rid of pesticides such as weed killer and bug spray. Cutting out insecticides directly helps our pollinators by limiting their exposure to the accumulation of harmful toxins, which can have both lethal and sublethal effects. For example, Neonicotinoid insecticides have been found to reduce bee memory and navigational skills, fertility, and disease resistance (Lewington, 2023). Planting pollinator-friendly plants, ending herbicide use, and reducing mowing all help to increase habitat connectivity and provide our pollinators with vital food sources to support declining populations. Habitat loss and degradation have been key drivers in pollinator population declines. With approximately 30% of Guernsey’s land cover being gardens, there is a huge opportunity for local people to make a difference. Making space for pollinators wherever possible is crucial to reverse these declines.
The harmful impact of pesticides on pollinator populations is one of the issues that the Pollinator Project are proactively working to address. Dr Miranda Bane, co-director and science lead at the Pollinator Project has secured a Natural Environment Research Council grant with the University of Bristol to continue research in this area. I spoke with some of the older students about the opportunities this grant will bring to the Channel Islands over the next four years, including funding to continue the internship position I undertook this summer conducting bumblebee DNA surveys The survey data collected will be analysed to find out how Bufftailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) colony density across the islands is influenced by pesticide reduction, and to measure the presence of pesticides in our pollinators. There are also other opportunities soon to be announced, including master’s thesis projects and PhD opportunities.
The evening was thoroughly enjoyable, and Guernsey’s younger generation astounded me with the level of enthusiasm each student held about the protection and conservation of our islands. I left the event with a fierce sense of pride and no doubt in my mind that Guernsey’s future will be in safe hands. However, until the younger generation has the capability to enact change themselves, it is more vitally important than ever that we listen to their fears, use our voices, and encourage action now.
With thanks to Lieutenant-Governor Richard Cripwell for kindly hosting, and to Mia Edgworth, one of 2022’s Lieutenant-Governor’s Cadets who organised the event.
Thiery, W., Lange, S., Rogelj, J., Schleussner, C.F., Gudmundsson, L., Seneviratne, S.I., Andrijevic, M., Frieler, K., Emanuel, K., Geiger, T. and Bresch, D.N., 2021. Intergenerational inequities in exposure to climate extremes. Science, 374(6564), pp.158-160.