In Syria, a mother and daughter look out over a dried-up lake that has suffered due to the climate crisis.

You Cannot Separate Children from Planet

April 22, 2022 marks the 52 annual Earth Day, and this year’s Earth Day theme is “Invest in Our Planet.” Save the Children believes that every day is the perfect day to invest in our planet, with children and for children. But why?

 “You can’t separate people from planet,” is how activist and author Leah Thomas chose to describe her vision for intersectional environmentalism – the inclusive and just environmental movement that recognizes the overlap between social and environmental justice.[1]

We want to take such a vision a step further by showing how you can’t separate children from planet. While climate change affects people globally, those who have contributed the least to the crisis—children, women, those in poverty, and future generations—are the most affected. According to the UNICEF, 1 billion children live in countries that are at high risk of the impacts of climate change.[2]

We spoke with 13-year-old Bailasan, one of the millions of children who are exposed to the immediate impact of climate change in the form of droughts.[3]

“Nothing is left because there is no water…all of my memories are gone with those trees. I loved those trees,” said Bailasan who lives with her family of 12 in a small North Eastern Syrian town along Al Khabour River, a region heavily hit by drought. While many children get to learn about climate change in science classes, Bailasan said she now understands what drought is because she has seen her favorite greengage, fig and pomegranate trees dry up and dieShe remembers the rituals and games she used to play with her siblings and how happy they used to be on their land before it dried up. Because of the current drought, all her memories are being threatened as she thinks about the possibility of having to migrate with her family.

“My father is telling me that if the water remains unavailable, we might migrate. I’m worried about leaving for a place that I don’t know anything about. I don’t want to migrate and leave all of my memories behind. I want my memories to stay here and I stay with them.”

Balisan’s reality is one of 160 million children whose families are left with less food, less clean water, lower incomes and worsening health due to extremely high temperatures and drought.[4] Many families are already having to choose between starvation and migration, both which threaten their children’s right to grow up in a healthy, stable and safe environment.

 

Sahra* (8) is another child heavily impacted by climate change. Her family were forced to leave their home in 2017 when the majority of their livestock perished in a severe drought. Sahra’s family has struggled to recover ever since. (to be inserted: video- hyperlinked in the image above)

Youth Taking Action

Children and youth worldwide realize the impacts climate change has and are choosing to take action. Although Ada and Eisha, two teenagers from Peru and Pakistan, live in different countries with different geographic and climate features, they decided to be active voices in the fight against climate change in their own unique ways.  

17-year-old Ada’s interest in climate and her journey as an activist started in 2020 when she decided to take part in the “Zoom to your rights” competition, an initiative co-set by Chicos.net and Save the Children in Peru. The competition encouraged children and adolescents to send in contributions illustrating issues and potential solutions connected to climate change and environmental destruction.

Ada and her friends decided to address an issue that they witnessed firsthand: the contamination of the Huallaga river. “In the past, locals could make a living off the Huallaga river as fisher folks, but these days the waters are too polluted to sustain any sort of fishing. How can I feel proud to live here when it looks like this?” Ada explained. With such motive, Ada’s group won the competition and were given prize money used to help turn their solutions into a reality.

On the other hand, for 16-year-old Eisha from Pakistan, it´s all very simple: “Everyone is equally important in the fight for a better climate.” Eisha considers herself a climate activist and continuously tries to spread awareness by travelling to rural areas and organizing public discussions around climate change, a topic that is rarely thought of in rural Pakistan. Eisha takes those opportunities to openly speak up about her opinions and thoughts on how to better address climate change.

“Working to save the climate is a collective task and there are an infinite number of ways to get involved,” said Eisha. With such belief, Eisha took it upon herself to build the Morph Matters Manifesto, an online platform that amplifies and promotes youth voices. Morph Matters Manifesto highlights youth-led success stories to motivate others to take similar actions and get involved in protecting the environment.

So, what does Save the Children do to address climate change?

  • As a Green Climate Fund accredited entity, we help scale up locally-led approaches to adaptation.
  • We help families act promptly based on data warning systems and other emergency triggers.
  •  With a youth livelihoods program that has already reached 1,000,000 young people in 47 countries, Save the Children’s experience and our network of private and public partnerships makes us uniquely positioned to connect young people with green jobs.
  •  We engage children in educational opportunities around climate change to build knowledge and awareness.
  • We lead a global Safe School approach to ensure that all children of school-going age are safe and protected from all hazards and threats.
  • Most importantly, we stand behind, and alongside, the student activists demanding action on the climate crisis. Our Shift For Our Planet is campaign accelerator supports change makers 15-25 years old to transform societal norms that lay at the heart of global sustainability issues.

In our fight against climate change and all our other programs, our experts go to the hardest-to-reach places where it’s toughest to be a child. We ensure children’s unique voices are heard and their needs are met. Together with children, families and communities, as well as supporters the world over, we achieve lasting results for millions of children. With over 100 years of expertise, we are the world’s first and leading independent children’s organization – transforming lives and the future we share.

We know that we can’t protect all children and end climate change alone. Working together with local communities, partner organizations, individuals like yourself and the international community is a crucial step in the path towards a sustainable and green environment. Our team went ahead and put together four keys asks for the international community to address climate change, shown below.

Climate crisis share card asks for the international community

Save the Children believes every child deserves a future. All around the world, we do whatever it takes – every day and in times of crisis – so children can fulfill their rights to a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm.

Like Ada, Eisha and many other children around the world, we at Save the Children truly believe that you can’t separate children’s experiences from climate change. In fact, recent research shows that children born in 2020 will face 2-7 times more extreme weather and climate events than their grandparents. Unless action is taken to stop this cycle, such numbers are expected to increase. [5]

How Can You Help?

On this Earth Day, you may be eager to contribute to the fight for a better climate. After all, Eisha could not be more correct when she said “everyone is equally important in the fight for a better climate.” Below are a few actions that you can take to contribute towards a greener future for our children and planet:

Welcome!

We’ll be in touch! By signing up to receive emails from Save the Children you will receive a subscription to our monthly eNews, access to breaking emergency alerts and opportunities to get involved. To ensure delivery of Save the Children emails to your inbox, add support@savechildren.org to your contact list.

By providing my mobile phone number, I agree to receive recurring text messages from Save the Children (48188) and phone calls with opportunities to donate and ways to engage in our mission to support children around the world. Text STOP to opt-out, HELP for info. Message & data rates may apply. View our Privacy Policy at savethechildren.org/privacy.