19th August 2019 Guatemala City, Guatemala
Saving the Planet
In my last blog I talked about the power of British film and TV (and music). Today I want to make a very ambitious claim – that British TV is saving the planet, or at least helping to save the planet. In 2017 the famous British naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough made a programme – Blue Planet 2 – which had a global impact. Like all his programmes (and I have been watching them since I was a teenager – a long time ago!) Blue Planet 2 had some remarkable footage of the natural world in which we live and the amazing creatures, large and small, which inhabit it and, importantly, preserve it. The final episode of the programme showed, in glorious technicolour, the devastating effects of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans. As a picture paints a thousand words, the impact of the images of turtles tangled up in plastic bags, birds’ beaks unable to open and the sea awash with more plastic than fish, changed people’s attitudes. No longer did they think, “how dreadful. Something must be done.” They thought, “how dreadful. I need to do something.”
And we have seen exactly the same process in Guatemala. As more images of the devastation of plastic in Lake Amatitlan or the Motagua River emerge and more people become aware of the impact of their lifestyle on the natural world around them, change is happening. The villages around Lake Atitlan who have taken a stand against plastic bags are evidence of that.
This week I was delighted to attend the First Youth Leadership summit on the 4Rs at the University del Valle. If you don’t know, the 4Rs are – reduce, reject, reuse and recycle. The four verbs which set out clearly how we should approach plastics in our lives. Around 100 young people, from different parts of the country, took part in a two-day event to help them design and implement awareness campaigns about the damage caused by plastic pollution. I am expecting to see some great campaigns over the next few months!
In the UK, two months after Blue Planet 2, our then Foreign Secretary announced that the Foreign Office would eliminate all avoidable single-use plastic by the end of 2018 from our offices in the UK and from all our embassies overseas by the end of 2020. Our embassy in Guatemala has been one of the leaders in this effort. We have been single-use plastic free since the beginning of this year (well ahead of the target date). When we held our Queen’s Birthday party this year we did not use any single use plastic, nor do we do so at any events we hold at the Residence. We sort all our waste and recycle whatever is possible, using a bespoke provider here. We have taken part in beach and river clean-ups and while we recognise the size of the challenge, we are determined to do our bit. Are you?