Two Tasmanian teenagers have experienced an adventure of a lifetime through a $5000 prize, which allowed them to represent Australia at an international climate change summit held in London for students.
The students, 16-year-olds Rebecca Byrnes and Karyssa Arendt, from Riverside High School in Launceston, Tasmania, won the British Council competition by designing the best climate-change website.
Their website is a passionate call for people to resist climate change and encourages people to adopt a range of ideas, including emailing the Prime Minister and putting mirrors on the top of cars and buildings to reflect sunlight.
Students from most states in Australia entered the MyClimate! contest which was launched by climate change guru, Sir Nicholas Stern.
Students designed websites that included a range of videos, cartoons, facts about energy and water consumption, a children’s story, a superhero and other artwork.
In addition to Rebecca and Karyssa’s success, two pairs of runners-up also received $500 for their school libraries. They were:
• Second prize: Stephanie Alexander, 16, and Georgia Crowley, 16, from Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar School in Victoria; and
• Third prize: Michael James Dundas, 16, and Antoni Dundovic, 16, from De La Salle College, Cronulla, NSW.
Students aged between 16 and 18 from more than 20 countries ranging from Singapore to Slovakia took part in the three-day international conference at the Natural History Museum in London.
They got a taste of university life by staying at Imperial College and had the chance to make international student contacts at networking events ranging from a BBQ to a hydrogen bus tour of London.
The summit featured talks and discussions from world-renowned specialists. Visit http://www.nhm.ac.uk/education/activities/school-activities/green%20cities/ed-greening-cities.html for the full program details.
Speaking to the student participants, British Council Director Mr Christopher Wade, explained that time was simply running out.
‘We’re running out of time to rescue the climate from global warming and it is young people who will bear the brunt of climate change,’ he said.
‘That’s why the British Council set up a competition for 16- to 18-year-olds, to show them how to solve the problems.’
On their return, both Rebecca and Karyssa said that attending the London conference was an incredible experience.
‘London is a great place, everything is so old compared to Australia,’ said Rebecca, ‘but despite it’s size, London will soon implement a CO2 reduction strategy that will see emissions reduced by 40% there.’
The conference was a great opportunity for the students to meet and network with like-minded delegates from 30-plus countries attending the MyClimate! meeting.
‘We made heaps of friends and we’re keeping in touch through MSN and MySpace. It seemed a pity not to and, who knows, it might lead to further projects in the future,’ Karyssa says.
The students haven’t been idle since returning home, taking on a local golf course, which had been burning off scrubland excessively.
‘Some locals told us what the course had been doing and we’ve written letters to its management, we’re still waiting on a response.’
The winning students’ Principal, Ms Roxanne House, was overjoyed with the girls’ achievements.
‘Rebecca and Karyssa are two outstandingly articulate and independent-minded young women. We and our partners Virgin Atlantic were delighted that they could represent Australia in London and help to strengthen the relationship between our countries.’
‘We are thrilled with this success,’ she said. ‘The girls thoroughly deserved this experience and it just shows what can happen when you put talented students, dedicated teachers and a can-do attitude together.’
Visit Rebecca and Karyssa’s website at www.myspace.com/XxThe_ResistancexX
For more information you can also visit www.britishcouncil.org/au-myclimate