On saving the planet: “Don’t wait for someone else to do it because it just won’t happen” – Alicia Premkumar, age 13

Published by Dave Brooks on

5th February 2016

GN spotlightWhen you imagine the to-do-list of a thirteen year old, tackling climate change and increasing energy efficiency in schools around the country are not items you would expect to feature.

For Alicia Premkumar, a young environmentalist from Carlow, however, these issues are her passion. Since the age of three, when she used to pick her neighbours’ flowers, Alicia has had a keen interest in Science and Nature. In recent years Alicia has been spreading the word about environmental issues through the environmental group ‘Planet Pals’, which she and her friends at Scoil Mhuire gan Smál set up in 2012.

Now in secondary school at St Leo’s College, Alicia has re-established Planet Pals and visits local schools to teach children about environmental issues using puppet shows and competitions. “We are reaching out to our own generation. This makes it easier for children to understand” says Premkumar, emphasising that the group was set up “by children, for children”. The group does not only operate in Ireland however, Alicia collaborates with a friend in Spain, and they share videos and inspiration for new ways to make a difference in their own communities. Indeed, an energy saving initiative as part of the ‘Energy Challenge’ campaign that could be replicated in classrooms around the world is the Energy Patrol, which has volunteers monitoring when lights and appliances are left on when not in use.

Alicia and her Planet Pals are off to the national stage at the SEAI’s ‘One Good Idea’ competition in March, where they will present their model and awareness campaign to a panel of judges. While Alicia is no stranger to environmental award ceremonies – Planet Pals won the Eco Unesco Young Environmentalist Awards in 2013- it is clear that they hold little motivation for her, and that her interest in environmental issue is earnest. “We are genuinely interested in protecting the environment and it surprises people. People are shocked that we are doing so much at our age.” A list of Alicia’s role models confirms this, where Eco Eye’s Duncan Stewart and Gerry Creighton from RTÉ’s The Zoo are joined by Ireland’s 19th century physicist John Tyndall, who carried out early research into the atmospheric response to global warming. Alicia’s 2014 essay on John Tyndall won her a National Schools History prize.

Alicia’s can-do attitude has been fostered with the support of her teachers, such as science teacher Mr. Davey and Principal Ms. Ryan, and her mother Carole, who is with her every step along the way. “If you have a dream, if you are passionate about something and want to make a difference, just go for it!”, she advises aspiring environmentalists. With words that are wise beyond her years, Alicia’s sense that we can influence the world around us is truly inspirational: “Don’t wait for someone else to do it because it just won’t happen. Everybody can make a difference.”

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Dave Brooks

Dave works as Communication Assistant with the Environmental Pillar. His background is in psychology and he has a masters in Environmental Psychology from the University of Surrey.