Today's theme at COP21 was Young and Future Generations Day geared towards bringing attention to the children who suffer greatly from climate change as well as including the next generation into the conversation. It is vital to include this population because they are the ones who will have to live with the consequences of climate change that the current and previous generations have caused and are leaving for these future generations of global citizens. Hearing their voices and stories are important to formally understand how they are already experiencing issues such as drought, migration, flooding, as well as agricultural failures/ poor soil quality which decreases in food accessibility and availability and can act as agents of change.
I attended a side event entitled, "Save the Children International Plan: Climate Change and Children's Rights: Children as Vulnerable Groups and Agents of Change." An important statement made during the event was that children today will be making the decisions tomorrow and we want them to start now. I thought this was a great insight because these children have first hand knowledge of what is going on and living witht the consequencs of climate change everyday. It is them, not us who will have to worrying about more loss and live with increased drought, floods, increased storms, melting polar ice, rising sea levels, loss of home, and even loss of life due to climate change and its implications on these communities. In addition, often times more than not, we have lost a sense of the future because all we can see is environmental, economic, and developmental degredation due to climate change. This implies that these future generations and youth today won't have a sufficient world to live on. Where is the hope? The children and future generations are our hope and by including them into the conversation and advocating for mitigation and adaptation techniques now they can become the agents of change we all need.
One of the three panelists was a young boy from Indonesia who gave his story about how himself and children where he lives are already living with environmental destruction and degredation due to climate change. What an eye-opening experience to someone who lives in a country that has the privilege to just turn on a faucet to get water with temperature control, not worrying about its
contamination and potential health implications. These children have to walk a minimum of 2km (about 1.3miles) one-way to collect water for their family, sometimes further distances since the rainy season is becoming shorter decreasing the water supply. This prevents them from attending school and getting an education leaving them in a cycle of poverty. What can we do to break this cycle? The young boy, along with others in his community, are taking initiative and action to fight climate change. They have a program to plant trees (a natural way of sequestering carbon from the atmosphere) and then when the trees are harvested for lumber, the profits are then used to send these children to higher education and create opportunities. What a simple yet effective way to mitigate climate change as well as provide a way to provide children with an opportunity to further their education to break the cycle of poverty. When asked what's next the young boy replied, "Let's go home and plant trees." A simple yet effective message that everyone should take to heart and do.
We need action today to protect the vulnerable. Let's advocate for language in the negotiation text that includes the voices of the vulnerbale in our global population.
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