Wednesday, 21 October 2009


It’s a worrying fact that around 400,000 British children are on behavioural drugs like Ritalin. Some no doubt need the treatment, but the sheer number of children taking these drugs suggests that in our society, childhood itself has come to be seen as a disease.

Children spend an average of 13.9 hours in front of their televisions, and 6 hours in front of their computers every week. It can’t be healthy. According to UNICEF, our children are the unhappiest in Europe, despite unprecedented material wealth.

There are many reasons for this, but one, surely, is the fact that children have become increasingly insulated from the natural world. We’ve all heard of the surveys revealing that young teenagers think cows lay eggs, and others where children can identify more brand logos than trees, by a staggering margin.

My view is that children will form a significant part of the green fight back. Children instinctively understand the value of the environment. Ask any 10-year old if Google – at its height – was really worth more than the Amazon rainforest, and they’d laugh.

But if the current crop of children is to emerge as a generation that cherishes the environment, they need to understand it, connect with it and love it. That goal must form part of the school experience. And if that’s not sufficient reason, schools collectively are huge energy consumers, huge producers of waste and consumers of resources.