School children are suffering from a "nature deficiency disorder" and should be encouraged to connect more with their natural environment, an ecologist has told The TES.
David de Rothschild, heir to the Rothschild banking fortune, also believes more should be done to promote sustainable schools and harness young people's natural enthusiasm for saving the environment.
A recent update on the Building Schools for the Future programme revealed some new schools were using far more energy than planned.
Mr De Rothschild (pictured above), who describes himself as an "adventure ecologist", said: "There have been a lot of attention-grabbing headlines in the past few months about climate change, and this can leave adults feeling powerless and despairing. But kids are eternal optimists. They think everything can be done until we tell them otherwise."
He said that by targeting young people in schools and helping them understand the issues, a "mass movement for change" could be created.
He added that schools were wasting large parts of their budget on energy because their buildings were still not eco-friendly enough.
Mr De Rothschild is promoting a free educational website, Adventure Ecology. Along with environment-related activities, the site allows pupils to access photos, blogs and recordings from his team on various trips that highlight environmental issues.
Their first - a three-month mission focusing on the threat of global warming - saw Mr De Rothschild and team cross the Arctic. The trip had to be cut short because of the ice breaking up.
Their second big mission, next year, will be to cross the Pacific Ocean on a raft, to draw attention to the problem of rubbish in the sea. Children across the country will be invited to produce ideas for the raft and follow the fortunes of the adventurers on the website.
Mr De Rothschild said: "Although they will not actually be coming with us, we want to get them involved in the mission and really engage them in something."