Bring on the Kids

But what about the people who will be living in the city of tomorrow? What do they see waiting in the future? Children are remarkably perceptive about the way life will treat them as adults, according to a report by Gillian Symons in a study by the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF). This asked pupils in schools ranging from inner-city Glasgow to the Welsh Valleys and rural Fens to conjure up images of the year 2012 - the 40th anniversary of the first UN conference on the human environment.


Dire warnings overshadowed any sense of optimism. "I don't think much will have been achieved in the fight against congestion," said one child at Thomas Mills School in Woodbridge, Suffolk. " Even more plans will have been laid out for more roads."

Transport appears to dominate their imagination. Solutions include a Metro rail system to carry people around Aberdeen. Pedestrianised main streets and park-and-ride also rate several mentions. One London school near the channel tunnel rail link saw its purpose purely for outsiders to race through their area. They preferred a future where cars are banned and trams and hired bicycles carry people on everyday trips.

. Optimism still peeps through, however. One Peterborough school saw a future of pollution-free cars powered by water. Pupils in Bradford advocated a 25mph speed limit and the imaginative solution of tackling global warming by planting trees to absorb CO2 emissions.

This is of more than academic concern to some children. In Islay High School they have a special fear of their town in the future. Predictions are that this part of the Inner Hebrides, could be overwhelmed by rising sea levels because of global warming.


Personal experience is also important in children's opinions of other areas. They see towns already changing and pick up many of the reactions among adults. Pupils at Boundstone Community College in Lancing, West Sussex, were frightened about the threat of "Superstorus" in the future. A new store on the edge of their town had taken up to 40% of trade from shops and was leading to dereliction.

"No-one between the age of 30-50 can be seen walking down the high street," they told the WWF study. This meant lost trade from those with cars, who are biggest spenders. The pupils predicted that by 2012 there would be no small shops left and the high street would be derelict. Naturally, they want this trend reversed.

At Woodbridge, Suffolk, another school reacted to a superstore opening this year with fear for both village shop closure and the visual impact on environment. Children at Cymer Afan Primary School in Port Talbot, South Wales, reported local settlements where food shops and newsagents in surrounding settlements had already gone.

There are positive projections even in this area. Some pupils look forward to virtual shopping via a TV and are excited about the possibility of electronic shops like huge vending machines. Others predict strict environmental standards in future, making it illegal for new shopping centres to sell environmentally unfriendly goods. Hypermarkets would be built from recycled materials.

But pessimism seems to carry the balance among the town and city dwellers of tomorrow. Children at Deepings School in Peterborough, predict that the only shops on high streets by the next century will be pubs or those selling electronics, guns, hovermobiles or technotoys.

Inner Cities

Inner city schools in areas such as Forest Gate in London forecast unemployment, racism and more people living on the streets. Another sees collapse into vandalism, gang warfare and sophisticated police weapons. But Ridgeway High School, Birkenhead, took a different view of the same scenario. They see a safer city centre because of alarmed cars, buildings and more police.


This will be more environmentally friendly - and more pleasant to inhabit. One school, for instance, forecast the demise of tower blocks, with a limit of four stories on homes of the future. Many people would be working from those flats, as computers became commonplace. But the government would have to weigh in to provide facilities outside the home, such as sports and leisure facilities. Pollution would need to be controlled to make it worthwhile going outside.

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