We have a winner for our Climate Change Essay competition

We have a winner for our Climate Change Essay competition. Congratulations to 9-year-old Sophie Clough from Mayo! We will be in touch with you directly. This competition was a really difficult one to judge because the standard of the entries were so, so high. The essays we received had wonderful imagery, fantastic ideas on climate change action, and were so full of passion. We sincerely hope that taking part in this year's essay competition helped children, classes and families across Ireland to reflect on the role we all need to play in fixing our fractured planet. Thank you so, so much to every single child and teenager who entered our competition this year - your essays were truly amazing! We hope to bring this competition back next year, so keep an eye on our website for more updates.

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This is the winning essay, from 9-year-old Sophie Clough -

How we can save our planet?

Using our 2020 World Vision!’

I began writing this essay many weeks ago. I thought about issues that many are familiar with. The earth is getting warmer. Huge glacial drift is melting and causing our sea levels to rise. This causes flooding in coastal areas, including near my home in the west of Ireland. Climate change is a hot topic. Greta Thunberg has motivated thousands of young people to take a stand for the planet and to stand up to politicians. David Attenborough told us about plastic oceans wiping out many species and threatening many more. My school is a ‘Green school’. We learn about biodiversity and global citizenship. We all have ideas of how to save our planet.

I was thinking about these ideas when suddenly and unexpectedly, I was at home! Covid 19 stopped us in our tracks. Everything stopped. Not only was grounded, planes were grounded, boats were docked and cars left in their driveways. The Taoiseach spoke seriously about staying at home. My family reassured me that I was safe, even though things were going to be very different for a while.

I began to think; maybe this is the way to save the planet; by caring for each other, our families, our communities; by slowing down and letting the earth breathe. And it seemed by staying apart, everyone was beginning to pull together. Community groups formed to help the needy. I’ve enjoyed baking and building Lego with my family. I skype my friends and write letters to my Grandma. I go for walks with my dog, by the sea near my home.

What was happening to the planet around us as we stayed at home? The International Space Station has been seeing blue skies all over the world, as air pollution falls drastically. Dolphins are swimming up the canals of Venice. Foxes are roaming around the Ha’penny Bridge in Dublin. Ducks are happily bathing in Rome’s Trevi Fountain. For the first time in 30 years, the Himalayan Mountains can be seen in India. The birds seem to be singing so clearly. Was this due to reduced traffic? Or maybe I was just tuning in to nature more? It seems nature is getting a break, as we all stop to pause. What an opportune time for our sick and ailing planet!

I recently learned about a family in Honduras. Their home, air, and rivers destroyed by corporations, logging for palm oil. These trees are so valuable for absorbing carbon dioxide. Many animals are losing their habitats. I learned about Madris’ family in drought- ridden Kenya. They wait for the rains that don’t come and watch with broken hearts, as their crops wither. Unfortunately, the developing world takes the brunt of climate change generated by the developed world.

President Higgins spoke about the importance of having an ‘aisling’, a dream. He believes we will feel differently after this time. We won’t be thinking like individuals but will have more of a collective outlook. I think he may be right. People are expressing gratitude. I feel grateful every day for my home, family and healthy environment. Thousands are volunteering to help in this crisis and while many have died in this pandemic, many more are risking their lives to help others, including Covid 19 patients, the elderly and vulnerable. As people turn to each other and away from materialism, the earth is getting respite and feeling loved.

So what will happen to our planet from now on? I hope we will learn from this time lived through Covid 19, when the earth, water and air become pure, because we became still. We’ll remember how we looked after each other. We are all interconnected in the circle of life. ‘Humans ARE nature’, Greta said.

The earth is our common home and in the year 2020, I hope that we will use our ‘2020 vision’, our ‘2020 world vision’, to let the earth continue to heal and flourish for generations to come. Global warming is decreasing and our connections are increasing. Was Covid 19 a blessing in disguise?! Only time will tell what lessons we will have learned. But we know there is no going back. There is no ‘Plan B’ and there is definitely no ‘Planet B’!

But hope springs eternal. Although construction sites are silent, the swallows have arrived and are busily building for their impending broods. My cherry blossom tree has bloomed. As the sun’s rays shone on me today, I heard the first cuckoo’s call; heralding the promise of Summer. Delicate primroses are scattered along the hedgerows. As I paused on my walk, I noticed their shining yellow faces smiling up at me. In that moment, I truly believed the earth knew I cared.