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Starsky and Hutch on French eco-mission

A retired British fireman is cycling around France with his dog, telling school pupils about how everyday awareness can help save the environment.

Martin ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson, 57, tours the world with his dog Starsky, on an ecological mission, and is looking for teachers to contact him if they are interested in him visiting their school.

It is the third time he has cycled through France and – like most places – his prolific  YouTube channel shows there has been plenty of roadside rubbish on the way, however he told Connexion he was especially impressed with central France.

“It is the benchmark for the rest of the world. The way they live with nature is incredible. There’s no litter. Nothing.”

He said he has received a very warm welcome in France and people have been very supportive of his goals.

He pedals along in a recumbent bicycle, complete with rear plates that read “you are following the world environmental tour” and a neon yellow flag with the motif “re-cycling to freedom.” On his way, he collects litter, organises clean-ups that he posts on Facebook, visits schools and creates YouTube clips of the areas he passes through to make residents realise the scale of their plastic pollution.

In previous campaigns Mr Hutchinson walked 34,000km through 21 countries in Latin America. On the way he picked up Starsky, who had been abandoned in Portugal. His videos show his companion trotting along beside his bike, occasionally picking up the odd piece of plastic and placing it on doorsteps - if a dog can pick up litter, then so can humans, he says.

This month he will visit Châtenois, Langres and Dijon then continue from there to Lyon and Nice before heading into Italy.

He sleeps wherever he can; in his tent, police stations, hospitals, even a prison in Bolivia. “You name it, I’ve slept in it,” he said.  

During 45 minute sessions at schools, Mr Hutchinson shows some of his many videos (there are over 7,000 on his YouTube channel, mostly of rubbish in the street) to wake students up to the tonnes of plastic waste our societies are producing. He says there is no language barrier thanks to his visual approach with his bike, dog and self-explanatory videos. “It’s something different that they remember. In Europe, I haven’t had a school that hasn’t appreciated me being there.”

After having a “fantastic” welcome at primary schools, Mr Hutchinson says he now wants to focus on secondary schools as he believes that 14-16 is the crucial age when teenagers form their opinions about the planet.

“It is frustrating when we can’t even get the basics right,” he said. He struggles to understand how we are still unable to tackle an issue as simple as litter when there are much greater environmental concerns facing the planet.

He advocates everyday activism, little individual acts that can collectively make a big difference. “We adults have got to change our attitudes and lead by example. Learn how to respect the planet,” he said.

Mr Hutchinson blames the rapid pace of life today that he thinks encourages lifestyles that disregard environmental cost. “In modern day living everything is meant to be faster and everything is about convenience.”

One of Mr Hutchinson’s recent videos of someone’s dinner is telling: plastic-encased chicken and a plastic packet of instant rice. He says not only is the waste harmful, but broken down bits of plastic in the environment can have a toxic effect on our bodies.

If you are a teacher and would like Mr Hutchinson to visit your school, you can contact him via his Facebook page.

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