Dr Nial Moores, Director, & Ms Park Meena, National Coordinator, Birds Korea.
Based on the kind recommendation of an environmental studies teacher, Birds Korea was asked by Hapcheon Pyeonghwa (Peace) High School if we were able to visit their school to present about the environment in the DPRK. We were delighted to accept the invitation.
On August 31st, both Ms Park Meena (Birds Korea National Coordinator) and myself (NM) went to the school in Hapcheon County, not far from the Nakdong River. We were both immediately impressed by the school, the staff and the students. Set among rice-fields against a backdrop of forested hills, the school grounds contain several buildings, a grass soccer field, and gardens full of flowers. Both teachers and students were very welcoming.
Our presentation was delivered in the spacious library to 60 students and perhaps eight or so staff, including the wonderful Head Teacher Lee Mi-Gyeong.
We covered several inter-related themes, all aiming to answer the question – asked by Birds Korea members back in 2014 – of why we helped to conduct bird surveys in the DPRK (North Korea) when people there might have been starving. The presentation therefore introduced the concept of bird as bio-indicator; listed some of the many benefits to people provided by birds as part of functioning ecosystems; and explored the sustainability of various projects against the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This included commentary on tidal flat reclamation, at Saemangeum and throughout the Yellow Sea; and on conservation projects in the DPRK, including the ecosystems approach taken at Mundok and ecotourism to Rason pre-COVID.
We were both genuinely impressed by the students’ level of interest and engagement, and by some of the ideas that they came up with. People all too easily say cliches like “children are the future”. The truth is more nuanced. Our planet is facing climate and ecological breakdown largely because of the actions and lack of action by those aged fifty and above. And unfairly, it will be largely up to those who are now in their teens and twenties to solve these failures. Fortunately, based on these students and their teachers we met at this school, this younger generation looks like it will soon be ready to face the challenge.