An afternoon in the park not like others

Photo © Lea Jaecklin
Photo © Lea Jaecklin
Article by Patrycja Perek, traduction française Kate O'Dwyer, traducción española Diego Beamonte
18 August 2011

From July to August 2011, 18 GreenVoice workshops involved over 200 children from Geneva in different education activities around the environment, discovering nature, recycling and soil cleaning. 

It was a sunny Saturday afternoon, perfect weather for a walk in the park at Quai Wilson. If I did not know what was happening there, I would have thought that the descendants of Indiana Jones were scouring for treasures. Ten children, approximately twelve years old, armed with metal detectors were searching designated sections of the park. Unlike the famous movie archeology professor, rather than finding precious treasures, these children found trash which has been decomposing in and polluting the soil for years or even thousands of years.

Looks can be deceiving and what at first looked like great fun turned out to be a valuable learning experience about the environment. The activities at the park were part of the GreenVoice workshops organized by ICVolunteers, cin collaboration with Passport Vacances of State of Geneva and different partner associations, in this case AGAD (Association Genevoise Action Dépollution) – an association whose main objective is to raise awareness, first and foremost among young people, about the environmental effects of pollution. “Why young people? Because if it is just adults, it will not have the same kind of impact in the future,” stressed Frédéric Renaud, President of AGAD. Impressions made on the young have a much more profound impact and influence on their future behavior, as well as that of their surrounding.

Throughout the day, the children excavated objects including glass, bottle caps, cans, aluminum paper and other metal objects including some which contain lead. These were mostly the remains of past picnics in the park. Those who left the trash probably did not even realize that the garbage they left behind can come back on their plates. How? It is simple. It was explained to the children that metal objects oxidize within the soil. This results in chemical elements contaminating the ground which are subsequently absorbed by plants. It comes full circle when these harmful substances are consumed by animals and humans. The biggest problem is that the metal absorbed cannot be eliminated and it accumulates in the body. “Green Cross reported that lead is the worst environmental pollutant topping mercury, pesticides and radioactivity. It is estimated that twenty thousand people in the world suffer from lead poisoning”, pointed out Frédéric Renaud.

Much of this information was presented at the workshops with a strong emphasis placed on the importance of recycling. Together with playing and competing to see who will find the most amount of objects, the children learned a valuable lesson. And if in the future they will ever want to grow their own vegetables, hopefully they will first check what lies in their garden beneath the soil.

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