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Speak up and know you will be heard
Interview with Lilly Platt on the importance of the Convention of the Rights of the Child
Lilly Platt is 11 years old and she is an international environment champion with her Lilly's Plastic Pickup movement, a Youth Ambassador for the Plastic Pollution Coalition, and a Child Ambassador for World Cleanup Day, HOW Global, The Ship of Tolerance London 2019 and YouthMundus.
1. What was it that inspired you to start Lilly's Plastic Pickup?

It all started in 2015 on a walk with my grandpa and we noticed all the rubbish and plastic littering the footpath, the cycle path and the verge by the road. I had just moved to the Netherlands from London and couldn't speak Dutch so well, so we decided to practice counting in Dutch and I counted 91 pieces in just 10 -15 minutes of walking. I didn't know whether to feel sad or mad. My grandpa told me that any rubbish that falls to the ground will somehow make its way to the ocean - it could take a day, a week, a month or even a whole year but it will make its way to the sea and into the plastic soup. Plastic gives animals the illusion it is food and so they eat it and this can have disastrous consequences. I decided from that moment I would pick up every bit of plastic I see to help protect wildlife. This is how Lilly's Plastic Pickup was born. So far I have picked up over 100,000 pieces of plastic and am Youth ambassador for many projects: Plastic Pollution Coalition, Youthmundus and WODI.

In 2018, I started to strike for the climate after I saw a video of Greta Thunberg talking about the Paris agreement, keeping to the 1.5C global warming temperature and reducing CO2 emissions. I thought I have to support this and I started my first climate strike that Friday outside the town hall where I live. I met Greta a few weeks later when she came to the Hague and we did a school strike together. I asked her what is the worst element of climate change – out of deforestation, rising sea levels, melting ice caps and global warming. She said all of them as we can't let them get to their peak of power. The peak of power is the point of no return, when forests cannot regrow, global warming temperatures are too high to reverse so we can't stop the melting of the ice caps. This is why we need to stand up and take action now and not wait.
The peak of power is the point of no return, when forests cannot regrow, global warming temperatures are too high to reverse so we can't stop the melting of the ice caps. This is why we need to stand up and take action now and not wait.
2. How are you connecting with your community and followers during the Coronavirus lockdowns?

We have been following the Dutch government rules of #stayhome #staysafe. This has meant that a lot of the conferences (also the AMI AGM in Amsterdam) and events I was due to go to are postponed. I am continuing to use my social media to share positivity during this time. I do a lot to help with the empowerment of girls and women especially in developing countries where education is the key to a better, brighter future. I belong to a project 'SheIsUniverse' and all the girls there meet and support each other through this time. I won the International Eco Hero award and they asked me to share encouragement and positivity through their social media. I also continue to use my social media to spread awareness of plastic pollution issues and climate change.

My climate strikes are now digital. Every week as I stand up for the climate I also draw attention to a different topic such as thanking the lorry drivers, cleaners and corner shop keepers who are also keeping the country going through this time of crisis. Also for children whose homes aren't a safe place during lockdown, for indigenous peoples and the threats against them, including biomass – how whole forests in Canada and America are being stripped and shipped to the Netherlands to be burnt so the country can meet its green energy targets. This is not sustainable. I also take part in a digital strike with climate activists from all over the world. We decided to stop picking up plastic and rubbish at the beginning of the health crisis but in our walks we noticed that the rubbish and littering were becoming a problem. We decided to pick up again in a more careful way. The litter we find now are lots of latex gloves and takeaway containers and still huge numbers of drink bottles and cans.
Lilly is number 28 in a list of top 100 influencers against plastic pollution.
Montessori said "When children come into contact with nature they reveal their real strength".
3. In the Convention on the Rights of the Child, article 12 says: You have the right to an opinion and for it to be listened to and taken seriously. How important is that to you?

This is extremely important. Children need to know that their voice is the most powerful thing that they have. I have met Dr Jane Goodall many times and each time she tells me never to give up and never to take no for an answer. It only takes one person to make a change and for that change to make a difference.

If I don't speak up then who will, for the animals, for nature, for the planet? They have no voice. Montessori said "When children come into contact with nature they reveal their real strength". We have only one planet and we need to care for this one.


4. Has your education played a part in your confidence to speak up about the environment?

My mum is a Montessorian. She completed the 0-3 and 3-6 training and from the moment I was born I was brought up the Montessori way! If I wanted to know something she always helped me find the answer, from dinosaurs to mythology to volcanoes to Frida Kahlo. No matter the question, I always had encouragement to know I could do something and if there was a problem there was a solution. The motto "help me to do it for myself" is what has helped me to always go on and to keep going. I feel positive that we are making a difference. All the activism is not something that I am made to do, I am doing it because it's the right thing to do. I am starting a green heart campaign. The green heart is the embodiment of a human's bond with nature. As we grow up, adults often lose the bond with nature and the passion to stand up for it. Politicians and lawmakers need to find their green heart again so they can make policies with our futures in mind and not for the short term.
5. The lockdown seems to have had an incredible impact on the environment – what are your hopes for the future as people are allowed to move around more?

The skies are clear and the seas and rivers are flowing unpolluted. Animals are walking back into towns and villages as life is quiet and still. People are working from home and there is home schooling. Covid has diminished pollution all over the world in a way that many governments have not been able to. People are seeing that we can't go back to the old ways before the health crisis and they don't want to either. While everyone was in lockdown, the one place they wanted to go to was to the nature. They realised its importance. I hope as the lockdown eases the respect for nature will be more of a priority. We can't continue to use nature like a limitless credit card. There needs to be respect.


6. What piece of advice would you give to children today who also want their opinions to be heard?

My advice to children is to speak up and to know you will be heard. Start small, even if it's just cleaning up your street as that one piece of litter you have picked up, could save an animal's life. You are important, you are needed and together we can save the world!
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