Pupils and staff challenged to go green during Perse Sustainability Week
7 May 2019
Former student Hugo Rainey, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) project director, returned to The Perse to give the keynote talk of Sustainability Week, reflecting on his career, which has been largely spent working on projects in Africa.
Having studied zoology at university, he explained how much he enjoyed working in Africa after taking part in placements with the Tropical Biology Association. He went on to work as a crop research consultant “counting cocoa pods on trees” in west Africa, using his spare time to indulge his passion for surveying wildlife.
From there, Dr Rainey researched hornbills in the Ivory Coast for his PhD with St Andrew’s University before joining the WCS to run the Lac Tele Community Reserve in the Congo, a post he said was “the most exciting job I’ve ever done”.
After a four-year period working in Cambodia, Dr Rainey returned to Africa to manage a marine project for WCS in Gabon, allowing fish stocks to become more sustainable while also benefiting the local population, before taking on his current role, where he advises the governments of Guinea, Uganda, Mozambique and Madagascar on how to reconcile economic development with the conservation of ecosystems and wildlife.
Dr Rainey explained that a road being built through a forest, often leads to settlements and industry being set up along the route and an increase in “resource uptake” – trees being chopped down for timber and fuel, land being cleared for agriculture and a loss of habitat for wildlife as well as an increase in hunting.
Dr Rainey said his task is to highlight how such “supply and demand” can be managed. He added: “You can have wildlife next to industry. There’s a way of doing it without destroying everything you’ve got there. Conservation isn’t a restraint on economic development.”
Sustainability Week also included a clothes swap service and a ‘go green’ non-uniform day, where pupils were encouraged to wear green garments to raise funds for the Cyclone Idai appeal and the water and sanitation initiative Toilet Twinning.
Students made ‘eco pledges’ of how they would do their bit for the environment on an ongoing basis and had the chance to sample different plant-based proteins at a tasting table arranged by the catering team. There was also an eco-poetry contest as well as the launch of a sunflower growing competition, which will be judged later this term.
Perse Green Team co-ordinator Natasha Cottingham said: “Sustainability Week really helped raise awareness of environmental issues within the school community. We had so many pupils talking about it which was great.”
David Palmer (Upper Sixth), who leads the Perse Green Team, added: “Sustainability Week gives us the opportunity to have a big presence in the school. We ran activities to try to open the conversation and lead the way towards changing attitudes and behaviour our world so desperately needs. Lots of pupils and staff got involved and it’s nice to have that acknowledgement that people have taken the messages on board.”
Listen to Dr Rainey talk about the importance of conservation and his response to the efforts of the Perse Green Team below.