For most people, being a member of a famous band would be more than enough to get along. But not Dougie Poynter.
As well as being McFly’s bassist, the talented Essex lad is also a children’s book author and avid environmentalist – two strings to his bow that he wove together for his latest book, Plastic Sucks! You Can Make a Difference, and his most recent, The Whale Watchers, in collaboration with Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC)who will receive a portion of the profits from the book.
Although he does not yet have children himself, Poynter firmly believes that telling them compelling stories about the natural world and how to help save it is a crucial way to help improve the environment in the long term. .
“I want it to be less intimidating for the kids,” he explains. “I wrote a book about plastic pollution a few years ago and I’ve been to schools and I’ve given lectures and I did a school visit last week and the difference this year with knowledge what the kids have about the environment was amazing – I really felt like they weren’t telling them anything new, and they had big ideas, and that gives me a lot of faith.
“In 20 years, these young people will be the next leaders of the country and companies, and they will have this awareness instinctively. I’ve always loved animals and the environment myself, and felt the younger generation was the most important in terms of raising awareness, so with the amazing Whale and Dolphin Conservation, I took the opportunity to write the book.
The Whale Watchers, which was commissioned by water filtration experts BRITA (brita.co.uk), tells the story of a little boy called Finn, who finds a beached whale with plastic wrapped around its mouth . And in addition to history, the book presents easy-to-digest facts about whales and their crucial role in the health of our climate.
Poynter explains, for example, that whale poo is packed with nutrients that help phytoplankton – tiny sea plants – grow. Phytoplankton absorb dissolved carbon dioxide in the ocean from the air and release oxygen, some of which escapes into the air. Poynter says this process has, over millions of years, provided up to half of the oxygen we breathe.
And there’s also a section on what kids can do to help the planet, like reducing their use of single-use plastic and choosing clothes made from natural fabrics.
“I find the natural world fascinating – there’s always something new and often absolutely crazy and weird to discover,” says Poynter.
“I hope kids learn through the story, so it has a lasting impact, rather than just a list of facts. If it’s told in a story, then maybe they can. I know that’s how I digest a lot of information – if it’s told in a story, I’m more likely to stick with it.
He admits that the story’s main character, Finn, is “quite similar” to himself. “He’s not very optimistic, he’s jaded and cynical – so that’s me, having those ‘it’s gonna be okay’ moments every now and then. I’m like that.”
The 34-year-old musician/author/ecologist says his interest in the environment and nature began when he was around three years old and became a “big fan” of dinosaurs. “It was the beginning of my interest in the natural world – I guess I became aware from an early age of the fragility of life on this planet.
“Because of the dinosaurs, I always knew that nothing is permanent on this planet and that you have to take care of it, because if something so huge that has existed for millions of years can suddenly disappear, then we we can certainly do the same if we don’t take care of the planet.
Has this endearing and eco-conscious man always wanted to use his notoriety for the greater good of the planet? “I wouldn’t call myself famous or famous, it makes me a little uncomfortable,” he modestly admits, “but it feels good to be able to use whatever power or resources I have to good.”
Does this mean he will write more books?
“I don’t see why – I don’t have kids, so I find it very easy to find the time,” he jokes. “I’m down rabbit holes figuring things out, and I have a bunch of stuff on my laptop that’s never been released, probably because there’s really no point in it. There’s a whole article on spiders I wrote, but nobody cares about spiders!
He says his McFly bandmates are also environmentally conscious, explaining, “They all have kids and they’re very conscious of their children’s future. We all try to use very little plastic if possible on the road and on stage, and there is no single-use plastic in our studio.
He is keen to emphasize that everyone can make a difference and help improve the planet, and stresses: “If you drop something on the ground you might think it doesn’t matter, but everything is heading towards the ocean one way or another.
“Global warming and plastic pollution are so overwhelming and you feel so insignificant, and every once in a while I need a helping hand to reassure myself that one person can make a difference – c It’s just a very slow process.”
He is very aware, of course, that the precarious state of the environment is not only linked to the behavior of ordinary people, and that big business has a great responsibility to help heal the world.
“The industry follows what people want, and none of the companies want to be the bad guy,” he observes. “More and more companies are using paper packaging, and look at the plastic straw thing – it was huge to get rid of it, and now everyone is using paper straws and we don’t think about it more, even if it’s ridiculous that the drink is in a plastic cup. One step after another!”
He knows reversing the damage humans have done to the planet will be a long, slow process, but likes to think he’s doing his part to help, and adds, “After spending time with kids at school the other day, I feel a lot of hope for the future.
The Whale Watchers by Dougie Poynter is published by Owlet Press, priced at £6.99. Available now
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