UNESCO City of Literature Champion: Literature Review

The Writers’ Centre Norwich’s Young Ambassador programme, launched in 2016, aims for every school in Norfolk to have a UNESCO City of Literature champion. These ambassadors share a love of reading, writing and books in their schools and local communities and spread the word of Norwich as England’s first UNESCO City of Literature.

Norwich School’s champion is Billy White, who as part of his role was asked to review 'The Harriet Martineau Lecture: Speaking Truth to Power' at the Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2017. You can read Billy’s review below:

This year’s Harriet Martineau Lecture – named after the radical Norfolk journalist who campaigned for women’s rights and the abolition of slavery – dealt with the uncomfortable subject of speaking out against the government in Mexico. Lydia Cacho and Anabel Hernández both spoke passionately about their own experiences of revealing corruption at great personal risk.

Anabel Hernández spoke first, mainly about the dangerous nature of journalism in Mexico. I was initially disappointed that I would be hearing two discrete lectures, but they complemented each other very well. Anabel, whose death was ordered by the police several years ago, began by reeling off a list of journalists recently murdered by the government. She then launched into a shocking talk lamenting the complete lack of freedom of expression in Mexico. Lydia Cacho was visibly affected by the stories. Although not a particularly confident speaker, Anabel’s outrage was unmistakeable.

Lydia’s talk was a much more personal examination of the events that led her to become a journalist, from her childhood spent, as a girl, feeling objectified to being inspired by her family to expose lies wherever she found them. Her talk was better written – some passages were almost poetic. It was, however, strange that she did not mention her reported experiences of torture, which would have made the talk even more powerful. Again, it was impossible not to realise just how much Lydia and Anabel, and many other journalists like them, have risked and suffered to reveal the truth.

The lecture finished with a Q&A with the introducer. This provoked an interesting discussion on the ethics of presenting gangsters as glamorous and heroic. It was a shame that there was no opportunity for audience participation however – Lydia and Anabel stayed to talk informally with audience members afterwards but I had to quickly return to school. Speaking Truth to Power certainly wasn’t an easy listen, but it remained powerful, fascinating and shocking.

Pentecost, Knowledge and Understanding

Dr. Anthony Speca (Politics, Economics and Philosophy teacher and Oxbridge and Independent Study Co-ordinator) spoke to the school at assembly in the Cathedral the Friday before half-term. He managed to link the upcoming Pentecost and exams, find out how:

 

School—on your feet, please!  Thank you.  Now, listen carefully—we’re in exam season now, and this is a language comprehension test.  Don’t worry, it’s easy.  Please would you remain standing if you can fluently speak at least one language. If not, please would you sit down.

Are all of you still standing?  You should be—though I wonder if some your teachers might disagree!  Good—now for the next question.

Please remain standing if you can speak at least one additional language reasonably well—perhaps not fluently, but well enough to carry a decent conversation.  If not, please sit down.

[Repeated until all sat down.  The last pupil standing could speak five languages.]

I’m very impressed that you have such linguistic abilities at your young age!

When I was your age, it was common for friends to ask each other what they would wish for, if they were to find Aladdin’s Lamp in a cave full of treasure, and if the genie inside the lamp were to grant the customary three wishes.  Perhaps you know already what your three wishes would be.

As for me—one of my three wishes would be to speak, read and write fluently every language that has ever been spoken or written in the history of the world.

Imagine that!  Imagine travelling anywhere in the world and speaking with anyone you meet just as though you belong there.  Imagine reading four-and-a-half-thousand year old cuneiform tablets from ancient Mesopotamia written in the long-dead Akkadian language just as though you were reading this morning’s newspaper.  No conversation would be secret to you, no book closed to you, no culture foreign to you.

In Turkish, a language in which I could once carry a decent conversation, there is a saying—bir lisan, bir insan.  ‘One language, one person.’  Imagine all the different people you could be, if only you spoke every language that people speak.

Now, let me ask you this—what would you do with such immense power?  Would you make peace between all nations as an international super-diplomat?  Or build a globe-trotting multinational business and make yourself fabulously rich?  Would you go into television or film and become a world-famous celebrity?  Or perhaps you’d travel to distant lands, impersonate people you’re not, and spy on others who think you can’t understand what they say.  Would you use your powers for others or for yourself?  For good or for evil?

In our reading today, we heard that a small group of people once received this great power of languages as a gift from God.  And what did they do with it?  They didn’t use it to make themselves rich or famous, or to spy on others.  They used it instead to serve others.  To tell a good news story.  A scarcely credible story of faith and redemption and salvation that they believed would bring light and help and relief to all people.  A story that they thought had the power to transform the entire world for the better.

Those who heard them were staggered—they seemed to speak all the world’s languages at once.  Utterly incomprehensible, yet completely understandable.  ‘What does this mean?’ they asked.

But it wasn’t a story that everyone wanted to hear.  Certainly not those powerful people who had put to death the hero of that story—Jesus, the rabble-rouser, the religious radical, the false king.  In not just one language, but in all languages, Jesus’s disciples spoke truth to power, just like He did—and some of them were eventually killed for speaking out, just like He was.

Over half-term break, on Sunday the 4th June, Christians celebrate the day that Jesus’s disciples received their gift of languages.  That Sunday is called Pentecost—a Greek word meaning the fiftieth day, as in the fiftieth day after Easter.

It has another name in English—Whitsunday, from the Old English word hwitte meaning white, after the white garments traditionally worn by those baptised as Christians on that day.  But in the later Middle Ages, long after the Old English language had been forgotten, the hwitte in Whitsunday became confused with wit.  At that time, the word wit meant, not a talent for telling jokes, but knowledge and understanding.  We still use it that way today when we talk of someone’s native wit.

By now, the Whitsunday story has been told in just about every major language on earth.  Maybe you believe it, and maybe you don’t.  Either way, you still have to ask yourself—when you speak, do you also declare the truth as you see it?  Even if you have only one language at your command, you can still use that language to speak truth or to tell lies.

You have to ask yourself this question because, I’m sorry to say, all of you are growing up in a brave new world of inconvenient truth and convenient lies, of conspiracy theory, ‘alternative facts’ and ‘fake news’.

But at the same time, as you clearly demonstrated at the beginning of this assembly, just like the disciples you too are receiving powerful gifts to cope with the new world in which you find yourselves.  Gifts of languages, to be sure, but also of ‘wit’—of knowledge and understanding.

Indeed, it is the very mission of this school to nurture this gift of ‘wit’, to deepen and broaden it.  Formally in class, informally in our many societies and clubs and activities – and, yes, even in exams.

As I said at the beginning of this assembly, it’s exam season.  You’re all having to cram into your heads a year’s worth of ‘wit’ right now—and it’s stressful.  But I think I speak for all of us teachers here when I say that what we hope you remember most is that ‘true or false’ isn’t just a kind of exam question, and ‘right or wrong’ isn’t just about giving a good answer.

No, if we teachers have anything at all to do with your gift of ‘wit’, then we hope you’ll use it like the disciples did—in pursuit of truth and in the service of others.  That’s what you’ve received it for.

Being A Modern Chaplain

Our chaplain Reverend Child has recently answered some questions as part of an upcoming article for the Independent School Parent magazine. The article focusses on modern day chaplaincy, how the role has developed, and how it links to pastoral care and wellbeing programmes in schools.

 

What is the role of a modern chaplain?

A modern chaplain tries to serve the spiritual and pastoral needs of modern pupils and modern parents. It’s a role that changes as the world changes. Whenever there is a new emphasis or a new anxiety around (from Brexit to ISIS to Instagram), a school chaplain has new things to address. But some parts of the job never go out of date. People facing a crisis or a bereavement need the same care and sympathy they have always needed, and when I’m asked to pray for someone, I do so in the same way people have done for years.

 

How do you balance chaplaincy with the increasingly secular environment of the outside world?

Conversations between the secular world and the church are actually quite interesting and dynamic at the moment, as the success of a TV programme like ‘Rev’ shows. At a time when society is re-evaluating all sorts of issues, from politics to gender issues to the role of religion, a chaplain can have a role in stimulating informed conversations. As part of my role, I teach our citizenship programme, where many of these issues arise. During these lessons, I’d rather pupils were thinking carefully for themselves and engaging in healthy debate than agreeing with me automatically.

 

How does it work in a more multi-faith setting and is there more of a multi-faith setting these days?

Norwich School has an obviously Christian heritage – it’s hard to miss the rather large building with the spire that watches over everything that goes on. (There are many connections with the cathedral that are hugely enriching, and you couldn’t wish for a better place to begin the school day.) The fact that we can explore this distinct heritage in depth means that we can do the same with other faiths and cultures, without needing to be embarrassed by the differences or pretend they aren’t there.

 

Do you teach in school/ do you work alongside the pastoral staff and how does this work?

I’m one of the people that pupils, staff and families know they can turn to if they need to talk something through, and at the beginning of the year I remind people that, like many clergy, I’ve talked to a wide variety of people over the years and I won’t be shocked if someone needs to get something out in the open. But one of my favourite things about school chaplaincy is working alongside gifted and caring colleagues. I think the pastoral work of the school is at its best when we are a team, making the most of each other’s expertise, having judicious conversations with each other and with parents. Everyone gets a better view of what’s going on and it can make all the difference.

I’m involved in a variety of subjects. I teach Religious Studies and citizenship with my chaplain’s hat on, but I also join in with sport, drama, debating and other subject areas. It keeps life interesting and is a great way to get to know people.


Is there anything unique about the chaplain/chaplaincy in your schools?

I have a background in literature and creative writing, and there are various opportunities to bring this into school life. One rewarding project was writing a Passion Play, blending the medieval tradition with our modern context. We had the perfect venue (the cathedral), some keen actors (Year 9 and 10 pupils), an audience (parents and friends) and expert advisors (the drama department). Where else could you find all these things in one place?

Norwich School Debating Society hosts Question Time political debate

Will Tremelling (L6C) writes for the blog about his experiences organising, and hosting, the first Norwich School Debating Society Question Time which was held last week at the Great Hospital:

Having been a keen member of Norwich School Debating Society since Lower 4 and in my Lower Sixth year becoming the President of the Debating Society, I wanted to arrange an event that could include pupils who although interested in politics had not necessarily been involved with the Debating Society. The idea was born from my keen interest in politics, spending time last summer working in a local MPs office and enjoying watching the ‘BBC Question Time’.

I approached Mr Bateman and Dr Cornell who were very encouraging and gave the go ahead for me to approach local politicians to take part in the first ever Norwich School Question Time Debate. Little did I know when first planning this that Theresa May would give us a ‘snap general election.’ The timing could not have been more perfect.

In my quest to find speakers from all the political parties and knowing that the success of the event relied on this, I approached the City Council and other local contacts I’d made over the last year or so. It was a process of emailing, phoning and even turning up at MP’s offices. Had I known who we would have at the outset in the final line up, I would not have had the sleepless nights worrying when various speakers became unavailable. With the local elections already in the calendar I was finding that it was a busy time for them all. Our speakers now confirmed as Martin Schmierer (Green Party), James Wright (Lib Dem), Andrew Wiltshire (Conservative), Jonathon Child (UKIP) and Mike Stonard (Labour), we needed to make sure we had a good audience and some interesting questions.

 

The Vice President of the Debating Society, Gillean Brook, and I arranged a school assembly to introduce the idea to our fellow pupils and encourage them to submit questions. Following this there was huge support for the event with pupils and even some parents begging for tickets! We wanted to include local schools so Notre Dame School and CNS were approached to see if they would have some politics students who were keen and the response was very positive with all available spaces filled.

Our venue was Birkbeck Hall, Great Hospital, Bishopgate which is a wonderful space and the staff there were so helpful and accommodating with over 100 pupils and staff from Norwich School, CNS and Notre Dame School attending.

Having studied the BBC Question Time format and timed how long they allowed for each question and realizing how very talented the veteran broadcaster David Dimbleby is, there was a certain amount of pressure.

The calibre of questions submitted was fantastic and it made it difficult to choose which would be asked. We wanted to have a good balance of local and of countrywide issues and with the looming election there was plenty to cover.

The afternoon kicked off with a question from George Clements on whether the panel thought the snap General Election was a fair move and what the consequences would be, followed by Joanne Reed on what could be done to encourage young people to have a positive attitude to politics and prevent apathy. Benjy Fischer asked how Norwich’s economy will be affected by Brexit. Benjy Stimpson asked about what the parties would do to protect the earth and Calum Watkin’s question was about the reaction to Theresa May not taking part in a televised debate.

Our politicians were incredibly knowledgeable and engaged with each other and with the audience. It was a lively but well-tempered debate, really highlighting the differences between the parties, and I’m sure will shape our views in the future. Gill Brook did a fantastic job getting round the audience with the microphone and encouraging them to ask follow up questions.

I am incredibly grateful to a number of other sixth formers who were so helpful at the event, helping to welcome the guest speakers and with the general organization. An enormous thank you goes to Mr Bateman and Dr Cornell who were incredibly supportive and helped to make the event run so smoothly.

The feedback was great, with the audience and our speakers thoroughly enjoying the event. The politicians welcomed the opportunity to voice their views, especially before the local council elections and of course the forthcoming General Election.

Young Enterprise: Inceptum

Managing Director Tom Osborn (L6B) writes about his Young Enterprise experiences with Norwich School group Inceptum. The team were by far the most financially successful business at the Norfolk finals, winning the Aviva trophy for Enterprise and another for Customer Focus:

During the Michaelmas term the L6 was approached to sign up to take part in this year's Young Enterprise competition. After writing a letter of application, 17 of the successful applicants were placed into our group. At first we struggled to come up with a product which hadn't already been created and was possible for a group of Sixth Formers to develop. Eventually we created the Norwich Colouring Guide, a unique product which combines colourable images, facts about Norwich's landmarks and a map. The main problems at this stage were producing the book to a high standard, something which took a long time as some of the images needed to be hand-traced, and getting the books printed in time for Christmas. Unfortunately we were unable to have the books printed by the time of our first trade fair and so had to create a mock-up version to try and attract pre-orders.

Inceptum after linking with the Maids Head

Inceptum after linking with the Maids Head

 

The sales process was successful to a level beyond our wildest expectations. We took 25 pre-orders in two days and sold out of our first batch of 200 in a matter of weeks in the run up to Christmas. Shortly after we sold out the first time, we received a large order of 100 books from the Maids Head Hotel who wished to include the books in their Historic Norwich package and sell them. This order meant we had to have a second print run and, since the Christmas market was over, look for new ways to attract attention to our product. With the help of the Maids Head we ran an article in the EDP and Evening News and on both their website and the school's, resulting in more sales as people read these articles and went to Jarrolds, where we had 30 books on sale, and the Maids Head to buy a copy. Recently we sold out of the book for a second time and have now sold 521 out of 530 copies with books now in seven countries around the world including the USA, Canada and China.

Part of the Young Enterprise programme is a competition against other Norfolk companies with the possibility of reaching the regional and national finals. For this we had to prepare a presentation and company report to highlight our achievements, product and solution for problems we encountered along the way. This was a daunting exercise and the first time some of us had spoken in front of a large audience but in the Norfolk semi-final we were one of the six groups to progress to the final. The final took place at the UEA and we had the added pressure of interviews with judges and running a trade stand. Despite not progressing to the regional finals in Cambridge, everyone who attended, whilst obviously disappointed, enjoyed and learned from the experience and we were delighted to come away with two awards.

The experience was very rewarding for us all and we have all learned more about running a business, communicating effectively both within our team and with suppliers and customers, and have become more confident.

We would all like to thank Young Enterprise and Mr White for giving us this opportunity and Irina Vakh from HSBC, our business advisor, and Mrs Hood for their help and support.

Norwich School Pupils Attend The UK's Largest Model United Nations

Dr Speca fills us in on a successful trip to Haileybury School for the Model Diplomacy Society:

On the first weekend of the Easter holiday, ten pupils from Norwich School travelled to Haileybury School in Hertfordshire to participate in the UK’s largest Model United Nations conference.

Representing Canada were Ambassador Harriet Watts (L6E), and Delegates Tom Brandford (L6N), Guy Cranfield (U6R), Izzi Ferguson (U6R) and Nik Koch (U6P).  Representing South Africa were Ambassador Sri Vulla (L6R), and Delegates Tim Bishop (U6E), Lauren Reid Edwards (U6V), Gabi Smith (U6B) and Harriet Williams (U6B).

Our delegations played the Model UN game of persuasion and influence very well – alongside over 600 pupils from schools around the world, and across topics as diverse as Disarmament, Ecology and Environment, Society and Economics, and Geopolitics.  They saw two of their resolutions passed, and offered amendments to many others.

Special mention goes to Guy Cranfield, who was highly commended for his committee work, and to Tom Brandford and Gabi Smith, who were voted the coveted Distinguished Delegate award for theirs.

Overall, our Delegates had an even better conference this year than they did at their highly successful debut last year – and we all look forward to our third Haileybury experience in 2018.

If you’re interested in politics, diplomacy or international affairs, and you’d like to get involved with Model UN, our model diplomacy society meets every Wednesday Period 5A in Dr Speca’s classroom E24.  The society is open to U5 and above – but we’re now planning for next year, so all interested M5 are also welcome.

The Head Master's end of Lent term address

The Head Master's address to the school during the final assembly of the Lent term:

Cup Run is a great window into what someone is like. Just as people’s faces and body language when singing tell much about their personality and attitude, so the way pupils approach our annual cross-country race potentially gives an insight into the way they go about things more generally (and it is related to but in my experience distinct from their talent): those who go haring off to lead for the first 50 metres and play to the crowd but are soon puffing at the back; the gifted like Dr Bendall and this year’s Head of School whose pace at an aerobic rate would quickly take the vast majority of us into the anaerobic; those who keep so much in reserve that they can afford an extraordinary, lengthy kick finish; the very many who work hard, settle into a sustainable rhythm and push themselves to the end of the race. And of course, there are those who do not run and that might say something too. I should particularly like to hear from those who did not run but would like the opportunity to do so…

 

I will do my best to avoid making tortoise and hare comparisons, but it is the end of the Lent Term and, knowing what many of you towards the top of the school are contemplating over the next 3 weeks, please indulge your Head Master in allowing me briefly to make a different type of race comparison: the pacing of revision. Consider whether you intend to be a greyhound out of the blocks, a sprint finisher or a steady-state merchant. You will not be surprised to know that I strongly recommend the last option: set up a good plan (including breaks); stick to the normal rhythms; and, most of all, make sure that when you are in the exam room and open the envelope in August, you can comfortably say that you were as well-prepared as possible and that it was therefore the best you could have done.

Whichever type of runner/reviser you are, at some stage you are likely to be confronted by the situation of wanting to do something recreational but feeling that you should work instead. At that point, it will be your determination, stickability, resilience, grit (call it what you will), which will keep you on-track.

 

There is a book called Grit, The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth, which discusses that quality people show to do the extra revision session, train for Cup Run, etc. You will be aware that there is a good deal of focus on the notion of character education in schools and the media at the moment; this could be described as how you are prepared for the challenges of 21st century life, what you get from school in addition to your curriculum subjects. In some ways, Duckworth’s book is a response to Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours rule: the amount of time he states you need to spend to achieve mastery of something. That was then challenged for not taking sufficient account of natural talent, with another researcher, David Epstein, stating that the rule should be 10,000 hours plus or minus 10,000 hours.

Duckworth is a clinical psychologist who cites evidence of large-scale studies to back up her arguments, so there is more rigour and less psycho-babble than in some books in this area. A central case study comes from work she did at West Point, an elite military training academy, the basic training section of which is called Beast. One cadet described as “challenging you in every developmental area – mentally, physically, militarily, socially” with a wake-up call at 5am; you get the picture. She found that the best indicator of likely success in Beast was not academic ability or physical strength but a score on a questionnaire she had devised to test perseverance, something she called the Grit Scale.

Her work on Grit has led her to the view that on the road to mastery there is a combination of effort and natural talent but that the relationship is weighted in favour of effort. For Duckworth, talent x effort= skill; skill x effort = achievement. Let me say that again: talent x effort= skill; skill x effort = achievement. The main point here is that effort counts twice: you acquire a skill or learn how to do something by practising it, but you also then get better at it, and potentially get really good at it, by practising.

Duckworth goes on to assert that grit is teachable and applicable in different contexts, citing several elite environments from sport, music, academia and military selection. I would not want to get drawn into the finer points of her research, but the essential message about the importance of effort and perseverance does resonate with my experience of watching young people operating in schools. There is obviously a combination of effort and talent in what makes people good at something, but you have such potential and excitement about things at your age that enthusiasm and determination do get young people a long way. Yet I would add one caveat which is vital at this time when mental health is such an issue in schools and wider society: do your very best to make an accurate, honest assessment of your own grit. Often, those who are think they are gritty are not and those are gritty fret that they are not; both errors can lead down dangerous paths.

I’m going to pause now while you think about your own levels of grit and ask the Senior Pop Choir to sing a song from Jazz Nite: Adele’s Rolling in the Deep.

 

Without wishing to embarrass them too much, I asked these girls to perform because this group is itself an example of the grit I have been talking about. They have been singing together for 5 years; they were the very first Pop Choir. Given how busy they are all with other activities, they could easily have stopped this particular voluntary activity. That they did not stop and continued to produce music of quality says much for their enjoyment, both of the music and each other’s friendship. Thank you girls.

A final thought from me: Pop Choir is a group of girls but I am also delighted that an acapella group of boys in M5 has sung at the opening of the Blake Studio earlier this term. We saw yesterday at Cup Run an example of boys and girls at all levels of the school trying their best and supporting each other. At a time of a hardening global discourse in respect of equality and diversity, it is important that we reflect on the ethos of Norwich School being a loving, compassionate community, particularly at this time of year when the Easter message of self-sacrifice in the name of love is emphasised. I want Norwich School to be tolerant of diversity, but not just because I want to avoid problems connected with the Equality Act and protected characteristics. I want us to be good at issues such as gender, sexual orientation, and ethnicity because there is great power in harnessing the power of such diversity. Benedict Smith’s address earlier in the term talked of a request for tolerance and understanding; I agree wholeheartedly with that but would add the carrot of greater productivity and benefits. Don’t get more women or ethnic minorities or members of the LGBT+ community onto FTSE boards, parliament, High Court benches, expecting them to behave like the existing white, male patriarchy. Do it to celebrate and benefit from their different experiences and expertise.

I wish you all well for the holiday.

Going Green on St. Patricks Day

Maths teacher and proud Northern Irishman Dr. Richardson’s assembly address from last Friday’s St. Patricks Day:

Thank you Aoife, and all the best for the weekend.

As some of you will be aware, Aoife is part of the senior netball squad who travel down to Brighton later today to take part in the national finals. Also tomorrow we have 6 runners in the English Schools x-c championships, which takes place at the Norfolk Showground. Both of these events represent the pinnacle of school sport in this country, and our netballers and runners deserve great credit for reaching this elite level. Former winners of the x-c include Mo Farah and Paula Radcliffe, and it is reasonable to assume that the future stars of your generation will be competing in both events.

Despite this, both events will be largely ignored by the media. You won’t find either of them on TV or in the newspapers. Such is the place of school sport in England, where professional sport, mainly football, keeps schools, universities or any amateur sports out of the limelight. Things are rather different where I come from, particularly today.

Today is St. Patricks Day. People sometimes ask me how I, as an Irishman, celebrate St. Patricks Day. Well if I were back home, I would be looking forward to a half day, followed by an afternoon of celebration of school sport. The centrepiece takes place at Ravenhill, where a capacity crowd of nearly 20,000 will watch the 142nd Ulster Schools rugby final. A similar number will be in Armagh to watch the MaCrory cup gaelic football final. For those who can’t get tickets, both matches will be broadcast live on BBC1 in Northern Ireland, followed by highlights of the hockey and soccer finals. School sport generally has a higher profile in Ireland, and St. Patricks Day is our equivalent of FA cup final day, for all sports.

As you may be aware, St. Patrick’s Day isn’t only celebrated in Ireland. Events will be happening all round the world today. There are street parties in Tokyo, Moscow and Buenos Aires. The Empire State building turns green for a day and the Chicago River is dyed green. And here at Norwich School, we are celebrating Green Day, when we are encouraged to think about the environment, and what we can maybe do to help.

This morning’s reading tells us that God put humans in charge of the Earth, to rule over every living thing. Now whether or not you believe God put us in this position of authority, the bible passage certainly does describe the way things are in the 21st century. As a species we have filled the earth, and we do rule over all the other creatures. Since the Industrial Revolution, we have destroyed habitats, wiped out entire species, and developed weapons capable of wreaking unimaginable destruction. On the other hand, we have also developed a conscience that has motivated us to preserve species and habitats, and to try to reverse some of the damage we’ve done to the planet. The pressure of hunting and habitat destruction means that many of our most iconic animal species, like tigers, gorillas and blue whales would almost certainly be extinct by now if we as a species hadn’t decided that we wanted to protect them. But while conservation and other ‘green’ issues have become mainstream causes in recent decades, we are still using up Earth’s resources at an ever increasing rate.

As Benedict said a few weeks ago, the basic message of all major religions is the same – that we should try to show love and compassion to one another. One way that each of us can do this is by using up a little less of the earth’s resources each day. There are many ways we can do this, some as simple of turning off the light when you leave a room. This morning I want to encourage you to think about one thing in particular – these. Bottles of water.

 

Today you are all out of uniform, and hopefully you have brought in a pound for the privilege. That money is to be given to Water Aid, which is a charity that aims to bring clean water to parts of the world where it doesn’t come out of taps. We are all incredibly fortunate to live in a country where safe drinking water comes out of every tap. The infrastructure required to get safe drinkable tap water to every house in the country is a wonder of engineering, and to keep it working requires annual investment of millions of pounds. And yet, many people would prefer to drink water that has been put in a little plastic bottle and driven across Europe in lorries.

Bottled water is an environmental nightmare from start to finish. Materials for the bottle, pollution and congestion caused by delivery lorries, litter, and ultimately plastic ending up in landfill sites, or even worse in the ocean.

Every day, at least a couple of these bottles end up in the bin in my classroom. These were yesterday’s contribution. Please, if you want me to have a happy St. Patrick’s Day, and show some love for your planet and the people who live on it, keep hold of your bottle and refill it with lovely fresh drinking water from a tap or water fountain.

Whether you believe it’s God’s will or not, the future of our planet is in our hands. And I would hope that as followers of any religion, or none, you would all want to look after it, for all our sakes.