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Environment / ‘Journey of hope’ kicks off in the isles as educator looks to highlight environmental sustainability

David Roberts after arriving in Lerwick on Tuesday morning.

AN EDUCATOR looking to shine a light on some of the UK’s positive environmental sustainability stories has arrived in Shetland as part of a ‘journey of hope’ across the country.

David J Roberts, from Liverpool, aims to use what he sees on his trip from Shetland to Scilly to create an educational resource for schoolchildren.

He arrived in Lerwick off the NorthLink ferry this morning (Tuesday) and is due to learn about Shetland Amenity Trust and the popular Voar Redd Up.

Roberts will then head back on the boat on Wednesday evening to visit Orkney to find out more about the islands’ marine services and renewable energy.

“The Journey of Hope is something that I thought of about six months ago, just before we went into lockdown,” he said.

“I found that with my own sustainability studies and with working with schools as well on sustainability issues, there’s just so much doom and gloom.

“I think it works with adults, because we need a bit of a wake up call, but for young children – especially primary school age – it’s not the right message or story that we should sending out.”

He also said that most environmental stories that children see – such as the Amazon rainforest, Greenland or the North or South Pole – are not in the UK, and he hopes to create something a bit more relevant to young folk in the country.

Pupils clearing up plastic litter from a beach as part of Da Voar Redd Up. Photo courtesy of Shetland Amenity Trust.
Pupils clearing up plastic litter from a beach as part of Da Voar Redd Up. Photo courtesy of Shetland Amenity Trust.

Roberts said Da Voar Redd Up – the annual clean up of Shetland’s coastline and roadsides – struck him as positive example of environmental action.

He is impressed by the fact that over 20 per cent of the isles population tends to get involved.

“I just think if we could muster 20 per cent for every environmental or sustainability project around the country in whatever it is, we could be onto a winner,” Roberts said.

“Eventually I will develop a set of resources for schools for young children. If you want to do a litter pick-up scheme in your community, this is the most successful in the UK – this is how they do it, this is what they recommend you do.”

Roberts, somewhat ironically, arrives in Shetland as environmental issues remain at the fore of the long-running controversy over the Viking Energy wind farm, with peatland being dup up to make way for roads and a construction compound.

He said he has only looked at the Viking news briefly but “obviously peatland is super important ecologically”.

“Anything that removes any peat…it needs to be thought out very, very carefully,” Roberts said.

“I think sometimes we are looking for the technological answer when maybe the answer is let’s reduce our consumption first.”

Roberts plans to take “sustainable transport” on his trip through the UK and expects to end up in the Scilly Isles off the Cornish coast at the start of October.

Some other stop-offs on his journey include visits to a peatland restoration project in the Highlands, a social enterprise diverting waste from landfill in Edinburgh and Forest Green Rovers in Gloucestershire – the “world’s greenest football club”.