This group seemed
to begin the project with a moderate amount of knowledge about environmental issues,
almost none of which, apparently, had been acquired in school. The environment
was said to be 'the surroundings, like the trees', and on a bigger scale, 'the
world'. The children quickly thought of places where they wanted to film - notably
the canal and Burley Park - and were aware that the local factories, although
often producing 'not a lot, any more' (Aaron), created pollution - 'Rubbish, different
gases which they release into the air' (Sam), 'Carbon monoxide' (Aaron).
The group were
able to name many environmental problems, such as pollution from factories, cars,
general rubbish, oil tankers, sewage, radioactive waste from Sellafield, and nuclear
bombs. Some of them, at least, understood and were able to explain about acid
rain, the ozone layer and global warming, and they knew about recycling: glass,
plastic bottles, paper, tin cans, clothes, and Aaron knew that polystyrene can't
be recycled - 'You can't burn it and it doesn't rot down'.
Phrases such as
'Save the whales' came readily to their lips (with Aaron indulging in an explanation
- 'Hunting, greed, slaughter - it's the Japs'). They also named several endangered
animals, and were aware that the rainforests were being cut down, with Tom explaining
that land was cleared so that animals, being reared for meat, could graze.
These rather abstract
concerns were related to the local area, with it being mentioned that the lions
by Leeds Town Hall have been eroded by acid rain-like pollution, for example,
and that factories were polluting the local canal. Demonstrating some imagination,
in the first week it was suggested that we could take a sample from the canal
and compare it with tap water - a suitably visual thing to do on the video.
As an abstract
'issue', the environment had only moderately enthused the children. In the second
week, however, they had a lot to say on the matter of the local environment
of their school, and, to a slightly lesser extent, the surrounding area. They
were keen to bring up various matters - which, without prompting, they all seemed
to quite correctly think of as environmental - about the school field, pond and
gardens, and litter dumped by the school. Agreement that parks with flowers are
good things was immediate, and not gender-specific.
The children were
enthusiastic about filming in the area, came up with many ideas, and were keen
to fit as much into the available time as possible. Concerns which emerged during
the production process included the children's awareness of crime in the area,
and a drug problem, which they understood to be linked.
each other, the interesting question 'Would you live in Burley by choice?' came
up, with most of those asked deciding that they probably would. The video project
was seen as enjoyable and interesting.
you enjoy making this video?
it's really good fun. You can get some laughs out of it as well.
Aaron said that
'a lot of the good points [about the video project] are walking round looking
at things that you'd never notice before'. In common with the other children,
he had an awareness of the area 'starting to go downhill [...] My Nana says you
could swim in the canal and things like that [years ago], because it wasn't as
dirty'. In addition, the economics of environmentalism had not gone unnoticed:
would you do to improve the area?
of all I'd clean it up, then -
How, how would you clean it up?
I had the money I'd pay for it cleaning, hiring a lot of people to clean it and
getting the streets cleaned properly.
would you get the money from?
I didn't say I had the money, I said if I had the money...
More than any other,
this group repeatedly made clear the view that Leeds City Council had a responsibility
to fix almost any local problem. The Council was far from deified, however, as
we can perhaps most simply note from one boy's unmailed letter to them, which
expresses the concerns in a manner not uncharacteristic of this school's population:
'To Leeds City Council, Do some people cleaning up Burley or you're dead. You
better clean up our street or you are dead, sucker'.
This group, a random
selection from what was not regarded as 'a good year', seemed to surprise their
teachers with the quality of their video work. The more truculent and undisciplined
children were still able to contribute something to the project, and showed a
concern for their area which avoided easy cynicism. As at Royal Park, although
most of the children had been far from committed environmentalists in a general
sense, when faced with their local surroundings they became enthused with ideas
and complaints, and apparently came to see both good and bad aspects which they
had not previously noted or discussed.