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  • Writer's pictureThe Bridge Burford

The Bridge Essay Competition Winners (1)

We announced in our April edition that we were holding this competition in conjunction with Burford School. Entrants were invited to submit an essay on one of several subjects, divided between years 7 to 10 and years 11 to 13. The judges were Lucy Staveley, organiser of the 2020 tree planting challenge: Ashley Smith, founder of Windrush Against Sewage Pollution; Ashley Count of the Burford School environmental group; and the editors.

We received a number of entries and the standard was very high. We are pleased to announce that the winners are Jennifer Sawitzki in the year 11 to 13 category and Isabelle Rose-Leahy in the year 7-10 group. Each will receive a prize of £50. Jennifer’s winning essay appears below and Isabelle’s will be published in our July edition.

Five other essays which were close runners-up can be found on our website These are by Luca-Louis Scott and Mimi Beale (years 11-13) and Kenya Morena, Ava Wilson and Beatrix Rose-Leahy (years 7-10). Beatrix’s essay on the case for reintroducing fairies to the Cotswolds was praised for its originality and its entertaining qualities. We encourage you to read them all.

Climate change: what can we do?

by Jennifer Sawitzki

If we don’t tackle climate change now, the backlash will be catastrophic. Now, I know you’ve probably heard all this before, and you’ve likely been lectured on it too much than you’d like, but it is really a huge issue; not just another trendy activism thing to be brushed under the carpet. It will affect whole ecosystems, generations to come, and current generations. Even the big money-makers and their huge companies’ finances will suffer.

To start off, let me elaborate on the effect ironic of climate change on business (or more suitably, business’ effect on climate change). What makes this ironic is how the most ‘eco-friendly’ big companies, like Shell, are the most damaging. I’m choosing to talk about these big companies early on, firstly, because workers for these companies are often blind sighted to its consequences because, secondly, they profit off environmental damage, and thirdly, they’ve covered up the huge amount of greenhouse gases they release into the atmosphere. The sheer volume of pollutants the biggest companies have released in the last 30 years is equivalent to seven hundred billion elephants. Can you imagine that? Some of the companies releasing these almost unimaginable emissions are: Chevron, Exxon Mobil, BP, (Royal Dutch) Shell, and Abu Dhabi National Oil Co.

But what can we do?

Frankly, being vegan arguably (and scientifically) is the best way to reduce your impact. Now, I’m not here to shame, guilt-trip, or offend anyone. I’ve likely already offended many of you by just simply saying I was a negligible member of Extinction Rebellion for a few months, and presumably a lot more of you by coming out as a vegan.

“But that’s too much of a change to make!”, “Free range is great!”, “I can’t stop buying fuel…I have a car, need to actually drive places, and can’t just hug trees all day!”

I know, I know. Lucky for you, little and often is the best way to go. If you can’t stick to a different diet all the time, that’s okay! Maybe go for a walk around your town with a friend instead of driving to some picturesque spot; explore a local street you’ve never been down before. Without trying to push anything on you: try a lentil lasagne, attempt to master a chickpea omelette recipe, buy nut milk instead of cow’s once a week. Looking into these, as well as documentaries easily available on Netflix, YouTube, etc., has really widened my perspective on the little things as well as big issues (and, excluding breakfast, I used to devour chicken at just about every single meal).

Additionally, I recommend Earthlings or Cowspiracy if you’d like a shock one night. Admittedly, these may be perceived as vegan propaganda (they’re not, even though the reality of the ‘organic’, ‘free range’ farms shown seem unreal), but the effect that a little meat a little too often has on the environment is almost unimaginable.

The newly released Seaspiracy is also fantastic, and some of the points it makes are good for your wallet as well as the environment. One thing it mentions often is how simply eating less fish is much better than investing into a pricey £12.99 set of metal straws to offset the plastic ones. It is very informative – the opposite of propaganda; backed up with lots of statistics from reputable studies and universities.

On the other hand, if you can’t bear to watch those, their main motif is: if we don’t reduce our carbon and methane (4x more potent than CO2) emissions, a whole range of fun things could happen…Species used to colder environments will move closer to the equator (think of the recent Arctic walrus ‘Wally’ found in Wales in March this year), water levels will rise due to melting ice caps, ergo polar bears will drown due to a lack of those ice caps and will have no energy to swim due to their depleting food sources, your favourite coastal towns that you visit in the summer will become the next Atlantises, and hotter places will become hotter, and colder places will become colder (remember the extreme heatwave last year, and the extreme change of weather we had this Easter?). The list goes on.

However, once again, doing small things (albeit over a long period) really can help. I’ve seen a few groups (pre-coronavirus) on Facebook jogging and picking up litter simultaneously. Although a Walkers packet on the side of the road might not seem dangerous - just ugly - it is. Over time if it isn’t picked up, it will likely end up in our local Windrush river. This is another issue (like global warming) that will make ecosystems eventually collapse. Lots of people doing lots of little things to help, or to hinder, will (and has) had an enormous effect on nature.

Anyway, back to the documentaries – how come we never hear about these incredibly shocking statistics and images from the government, only small filmmakers partnering with Netflix as a one-off? One major reason could be because not enough people have publicly jumped on that bandwagon yet (if someone you’re close with was presenting you the information found in documentaries, would you consider changing more?). But why can’t it be you, and why isn’t it the norm already if being vegan and ‘living sustainably’ is so incredible?

Well, the simple answer is money. But luckily, the answer is also money. The government pays people involved with ‘traditional’ British agriculture subsidies in order to keep their business afloat. This lowers prices and therefore makes items such as cow’s milk less costly than almond milk, and in turn makes it so much more accessible, when in reality the market for almond milk is growing and is far more profitable for everyone.

A chief reason why vegan and more eco-friendly products and produce are more money is because of government subsidies. But, as of recent, these subsidies pumped into the UK’s dairy industry (the money comes from our tax, by the way) are almost pointless. They keep farmers going, yes, but we actually lose money by doing this. According to NIESR*, up to 50% of money all received by farmers is in subsidies. The industries for meat, each type of dairy, and fish are falling and losing to plant-based alternatives (a google search will show you that, yes, they do contain enough protein, and yes, they may actually be better for your body).

Although this obsolescence may seem unfortunate and as if it cannot change, things are looking up. A lot of things, actually. Farmers have started to diversify into plant milk using subsidies from some charities and organisations due to a lack of profit from cow’s milk. This means they can keep farming on the same part of land, keep passing it down to generation to generation, and keep doing what they love.

Another positive still allows farmers to keep their cows. A study focusing to reduce beef, veal, and dairy emissions showed that by adding a miniscule amount of a certain type of seaweed – Asparagopsis – to their diet cuts their flatulence, and therefore emissions, down by 98%. 98%! For some perspective, the US Environmental Protection Agency recorded that the agriculture and forestry sector of the economy is responsible for 24% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Transportation worldwide only makes up 14%.

With all these facts, figures, and my personal take on things (that I’ve tried to make as non-biased as possible), it is up to you to make sure there is a future. Do you want your grandchildren to have one?

Jennifer Sawitzki

*National Institute of Economic and Social Research, (Climate Accountability Institute, 2019), (‘Adding Red Seaweed to Cow Feed Could Cut Bovine Flatulence’, NPR, Tim Flannery – scientist at the University of Melbourne)


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