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31 Jan 2013

Uxbridge boy is inspired by Captain Scott… 100 years later

10 year old inspires a new generation

 Scott’s expedition in Antarctica.  Courtesy of the SPRI and Herbert Ponting.

Scott’s expedition in Antarctica. Courtesy of the SPRI and Herbert Ponting.

A letter written by 10 year old André Rai to Boris Johnson is on its way to Antarctica as part of a WWT London Wetland Centre competition to inspire future generations to get close to nature and protect our environment.

The competition, run by the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), celebrates the centenary of Captain Scott’s expedition to the South Pole and WWT’s link with that expedition. Knowing he was about to die, Scott wrote a letter to his wife which urged her to get their young son interested in nature. That son grew up to become Sir Peter Scott, who founded WWT so that future generations could have fun getting close to nature. 100 years later, the competition aims to repeat that inspiration through the simple act of writing a letter.

André was one of more than 600 people who wrote in. He wrote to Boris asking him to introduce a car free day in London once a year to help reduce pollution and to improve the health of Londoners. His letter was picked as one of the top 100 by a panel of celebrity judges including Gordon Buchanan, Miranda Krestovnikoff, Kate Humble, Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan, Bill Oddie and David Lindo.

Kate Humble is taking the top 100 letters, including André’s, to Antarctica where she will post them to their recipients from the most southerly post office in the world. Each letter will include an Antarctica post stamp and include a covering letter personally signed by Captain Scott’s grandson, Falcon. The letters are expected to arrive at their destinations later this spring.

Scott 100 Letters competition judge and TV broadcaster Gordon Buchanan said:

“We have to inspire our youngsters to get close to nature, not just for their own benefit but also so that they will protect our environment in the future. All the judges found it was really difficult, but also a real privilege, to pick the winners from more than 600 inspiring entries.

“It’s mindboggling how Captain Scott’s letter, written thousands of miles away and a hundred years ago, has resulted all these years later in WWT saving endangered bird species around the world and running wetland visitor centres around the UK which get people closer to nature. Just imagine what these letters might accomplish a hundred years from now?”

Alongside the competition, WWT’s Inspiring Generations Appeal has raised more than £60,000 to enable disadvantaged schoolchildren to visit their centres and get close to nature, as its founder Sir Peter Scott intended.

Here is André’s letter in full:

Dear Boris Johnson
I would like you to introduce a car free day in London once a year on a Sunday. Nobody would be allowed to use a car on that day.

This is important because:
Otherwise there is too much air pollution and this will harm people walking down the street and living near a road could have an asthma attack and health and breathing problems. If we did this it would improve the air for people, who work and live in and around London. To encourage people taking part, I would suggest to provide free public transport on the day.  I am counting on you to make the right decision.

André Rai

Other winners in the London area included

  • Rhiannon Ormerod, who wrote to fellow Londoners encouraging them to watch and listen for city wildlife and help others to appreciate the nature in the capital
  • Rhianna Smith, whose letter to singer Cheryl Cole to invite her to her school and write a song encouraging people to make people interested in nature
  • Sophie Baldwin who wrote to adventurer Bear Grylls asking him to create an outdoors appreciation week.
  • Les Burrows who addressed his letter to Chinese politician Xi Jinping asking him to encourage Chinese schools to work with other schools around the world on environmental projects.