‘Everything Boris Johnson says is just slogans’: 14-year-old schoolboy fights to save the oceans | Activism
VSLime activist Finlay Pringle doesn’t mince words. Boris Johnson? “I hate him,” said the 14-year-old from Ullapool in the Scottish Highlands, before correcting himself. “Okay, in polished terms, I totally disagree with him. He’s like the British version of Trump. When he talks, he sounds like an Oompa-Loompa. everything is fair slogans.”
And its future? “I’m angry,” he said. “I was deprived of my future. People are dying because of climate change. Australian wildfires have claimed lives. The people of the Maldives will lose their homes.
Pringle is furious, sometimes in a hilariously neutral way. He is also one of the longest-serving school strikers in the UK. As of this writing, he has been on strike for an hour every Friday morning for 164 weeks. The worst thing about knocking, he says, is not standing in snow or sleet in winter, but highland gnats in summer. “I know they’re important to the ecosystem,” he says, “but, man, do I hate them. They’re horrible. I get bitten loads.
Some people have speculated that his environmentally conscious parents forced him into activism – but that frustrates Pringle. “It’s always my decision,” he said. “If they’re cleaning up the beach and I say I don’t want to, I don’t have to.”
Pringle became an environmental activist when he was 10 years old. It all started because a water company was planning to discharge sewage into Loch Gairloch. “I wasn’t trying to be an activist,” he says. “I was just trying to do the right thing.”
Pringle loves the sea and often snorkels with his family. “When you’re in and out of the water,” he says, “you’re consumed by it. Nothing else happens. All you see is what’s in front of you. And when you sees plastic floating in the water, we don’t beat around the bush.
He campaigned with other members of his local community and helped secure a U-turn: the water company pledged not to discharge raw sewage into the loch. “Getting a positive result helped motivate me,” he says.
Pringle’s most famous campaign to date saw him take on TV survivor Bear Grylls. In 2018 Grylls opened a dive experience at the Birmingham NEC. Visitors pay to go snorkeling in a tank with blacktip sharks and nurse sharks. The Shark Trust partnered with Grylls on the project, from which he receives donations. Pringle was appalled: “Sharks and captivity don’t go together,” he said. (The Shark Trust disagreed, saying in a statement: “Tens of thousands of people have dived with sharks and learned about sharks on the Bear Grylls adventure – they leave with a desire to support shark conservation.”)
When Pringle found out about the attraction, he started “talking about it on social media.” He made national headlines after telling Grylls that he “sucks” and is the “worst scoutmaster”.
“Oh my God,” Pringle recalled, “it was a Pandora’s box.” A spokesperson for Bear Grylls Adventure noted“We’ve partnered with the Shark Trust and will donate a portion of every ticket sold to bolster the association’s undeniable contribution to saving the wild shark population.”
Sharks are Pringle’s favorite animal. “They are my real passion,” he says. “It’s so wrong, the way we treat them. They deserve our respect, not our fear. His favorites are, in order: goblin sharks (“they look weird as hell”), cookie cutter sharks (“they’re tiny but can tackle much bigger things”) and Greenland sharks (“they can live up to 400 years”).
Pringle is scathing about the solutions to climate change advocated by world leaders. “You know that only one country in the world is on track to meet the Paris climate agreement?” said Pringle. “Do you know which one it is?” Gambia! If this small, poor country can do it, why can’t we? The UK is a joke, he says contemptuously. “Coal Mining in Cumbria. Expansion of several airports in the UK. Logging of ancient forests for HS2. The list is lengthened increasingly.”
Pringle plans to become a marine biologist, so when I ask him what he’d like his treat to be, he suggests a pair of binoculars to use on his wildlife-spotting trips. “Observing animals and birds was one of the few things that helped me get through confinement,” he says. “Just being able to take that daily walk and see the gulls.”
Swarovski Optik provides a pair of pocket binoculars. He takes them for a ride almost immediately. “It’s shocking how good they are for their height,” he says. He plans to go whale watching once the weather is good enough. “Whales always disappear behind cliffs,” says Pringle, “so you have to run to see them. But these binoculars will be perfect to see them. They are brilliant.
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