The timing couldn’t have been better. On Wednesday, December 11, the day Greta Thunberg was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year, a new competition on the theme of climate action was announced in Athlone.
The inaugural Arcadia Creative Climate Awards were launched in the civic centre at an event attended by the ‘Junior Mayors’ from nine primary schools, and four secondary schools, in the Athlone and Moate areas.
The competition, which will get underway in January, asks each Junior Mayor to put together a team from his or her school and devise a creative project to reduce environmental harm and make a positive difference locally.
A prize fund worth €2,000 is on offer, including top prizes of €500 each for the two schools named as the overall winners at primary and secondary level.
At Wednesday’s launch, the details of the competition were outlined by Cllr Frankie Keena and Fiachra McLoughlin, director of Arcadia Retail Park, which is sponsoring the awards with the support of Westmeath County Council. The Junior Mayors we spoke to said they were looking forward to taking part in the initiative.
“I think it’s really good. It will help people get more active about the environment,” said Sean Farrelly, the Junior Mayor from St Oliver Plunkett Boys NS in Moate. “We do the Green Flag initiative, so we do a lot about the environment, but I think we could do even more.”
Donnacha Lee, the Junior Mayor from Scoil na gCeithre Máistrí in Athlone, agreed. “I think it’s a good idea because it’s getting our opinions on what will affect our future, as well as other people’s future,” he said.
In his presentation, Fiachra McLoughlin said he was delighted when Cllr Keena suggested Arcadia Retail Park get involved with the Junior Mayor initiative, which is now in its second year.
He said the guidelines for entering the competition would be submitted to the participating schools in early January. Primary school pupils are being asked to come up with an idea for an environmental project in their area which would seek to involve parents, school teachers, staff, and the wider community.
For the competing secondary schools the competition is slightly different, in that they are being asked to consider what Athlone, and in particular Arcadia Retail Park, will look like in 2050. They are also being invited to make submissions on how the owners of Arcadia Retail Park should prepare, in the next 5 to 10 years, for future environmental changes.
“By 2050, Athlone will probably have more than doubled in population. It will be a busier town, almost the size of Galway,” said Mr McLoughlin. “Some climate change will have happened, but also there will be new laws about the environment. By 2050, it will definitely be the case that single-use plastics will be banned. You won’t be able to go into Applegreen, buy a bottle of water and just throw it in the bin.
“Electric cars will be everywhere, so the way we move around will be quite different. The way we work in offices will be quite different, we’ll be able to work from home more. We have a pharmacy (in Arcadia) and the ways we deliver drugs to people will be quite different as well.”
He explained that students taking part would be asked to come up with their own thoughts on what life would be like locally thirty years from now. “There are no right or wrong answers, and it’s quite fun to speculate,” he said.
A summary of each project is due to be submitted by March 12. There will then be a Young Scientist-style exhibition in Athlone towards the end of March, at which the projects will be assessed by a four-person panel of judges.
CREDIT: Adrian Cusack , Westmeath Independent