Children are on the Front Lines of Climate Change
According to the UNESCO report The Challenges of Climate Change: Children on the Front Line, children are among the greatest victims of a warming world, as well as the most powerful protagonists for change. In 2012, the World Health Organization estimated that children suffer more than 80% of the morbidity and mortality produced by climate change – with those in poorer areas being the worst affected. Children and young people are the generation that will have to deal with the future impacts of climate change and deliver the very deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions that will be essential in the coming decades.
UNESCO recognizes that children are among the most powerful protagonists for change and that they have an essential role to play in climate action.
Involving children and young people in the process can help to unblock the logjam that currently exists in climate negotiations. The participation of young people is no longer something to which international organizations can simply pay lip service – it is a necessity if the interests of future generations of humanity are to be safeguarded.
Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), children have the right to participate in matters that relate to them. The report suggests that all governments, international organizations, private-sector and civil-society groups should aim to partner with young people on climate change and that such partnerships contribute not only to children’s individual development and well-being, but also promote community-building and ensure the sustainability of initiatives on climate change. They recognize that
Catalysing young innovators is a long-term investment not only in climate change solutions, but also in human capital and a better future for all.
Starting the Conversation about Climate Change with Children
The report suggests participatory games as an approach for bridging the gap between climate science and climate action at the local level. Games can provide compelling, memorable and fun ways of learning about climate science and action. Games can reflect complex systems with a range of plausible futures and illuminate the likely trade-offs, feedbacks, delays and thresholds involved in disaster events. Such experiential learning can drive meaningful dialogue on what appropriate planning in climate change and disaster mitigation might look like.
Participatory games are, however, an event and require significant organizing and coordination. Hence, they not well suited for the average parent or small groups of children.
Like games, entertainment is something that children enjoy. Since children are on screens an average of 7+ hours per day, there is great potential for using children’s entertainment to spark the child’s curiosity and interest in climate change.
At BALANCE, we produce nutritious children’s entertainment that supports the healthy development of today’s children. Our flagship story Pacha’s Pajamas is a modern fairy tale about climate action.
Pacha’s imagination is bigger than the Andes Mountains, homeland of her ancestors. In a schoolyard daydream, Pacha is transported to the outback where she meets a breakdancing platypus, MC Plat, whose dream is for the waters to stay cool. The video is embedded in the animated book (iBook) and accessible with the softcover book via the Aurasma augmented reality app. The video is inspired by research published in Global Change Biology that predicted that more than 30% of current platypus habitat will become too warm for the species by 2070.
UNESCO reports that despite the limited participation of children and young people in high-level climate discussions, young people have for many years been raising awareness in their own communities, organizing conservation projects, promoting renewable energy and taking political action in support of sustainability and climate justice.
Eleven-year-old Itzcuauhtli Roske-Martinez is saying nothing to be heard. On Oct. 27th, he made a vow of silence until world leaders take action on climate change. When classmates suggested that a sixth grader couldn’t influence leaders, Itzcuauhtli (pronounced “eat-squat-lee”) responded, “When I say world leaders, I’m talking about us.”
Itzcuauhtli’s vow of silence is becoming a movement. His Climate Silence Now website is asking people to join the revolution by making a vow of silence and/or wearing a green wristband for climate silence.
Itzcuauhtli has a lot of supporters but he has other detractors in his school and among his friends.
It has been hard and this will be my last week in the public school system. I am feeling sad that many of my friends in my school didn’t support me in this action and discredited me. But I want to thank all the new friends who have stood by my side…
Learn more at https://crowdfund.pachaspajamas.com