Announcing the three most compelling stories from our Youth Write for Climate Campaign, which ran from March 11th to March 17th with contributions from youths in 23 countries. Congratulations to Bokang Luka from Mokobeng, Yishen Wang from New Jersey and Hassan Asif from Islamabad.
Thank you all who submitted your stories to Climate Tracker! Keep on writing and let your climate voices be heard. It is never too early.
“I still recall one Saturday afternoon when I was with my father under a morula tree in our compound. It was so hot that even an ice cream melted inside the fridge! Due to the heat, there was less movement in the village. People were in their yards under the tree shades trying to protect themselves from the heat. But what could we do? We do not have a remote control to change the weather.
Suddenly we heard screams coming from the lands. We quickly ran there to see what the problem was but to our shock our lands were on fire. People were running around with water and sand trying to put out the flames but they failed dismally. Our crops were burnt to ashes and some of our livestock too. We heard the cows mooing in the flames as if they were asking us to rescue them. People were crying out for help. ‘Please save our crops and animals.’ What have we done to upset the ancestors?
I knew that this had nothing to do with ancestors; we are the ones who caused all of this.
We all headed back to the village quietly. The next morning we gathered at the main kgotla to speak our hearts out to the chief. One of the farmers whose field was burnt stood up.
‘Chief, all of our efforts have gone in vain. We lost everything. We do not have anything to eat. How will we survive? Even our livestock is burnt to ashes,” he said. The chief asked who started the fire.
I stood up and told the chief and the entire community that we are taught about natural disasters in our schools. We also learned that veld fires are also natural disasters and they occur if the ozone layer is depleted. The ozone layer is depleted by activities such as burning waste and cutting down trees. It can be avoided by not cutting down trees and reducing burning waste.
The villagers were shocked because we never had veld fires before but due to the climatic change we experienced them. At the end of the meeting the chief said that we need to form groups that help fight global warming because it is one of the causes of climatic change. He also said that other villages were going to share their food with us since all of our produce was burnt. We headed back to our homes happy because we would at least be having something to eat.’
“I grew up in the bustling metropolis of Shenzhen, a city of 12.5 million people in southeastern China that also links Hong Kong to the mainland. Located in the Pearl River Delta, a special economic zone, Shenzhen at that time was surrounded by factories and chemical plants in neighboring cities; so smog always shrouded the beautiful Shenzhen skyline.
I could see the then-tallest building in Shenzhen from the balcony of our family’s apartment. As a child, I used to enjoy standing on a chair and tracing the structure with my fingers. But I wasn’t able to enjoy this simple pastime the majority of the time, no matter how hard I tried. Smog often dramatically decreased visibility in the city, making it impossible to see the building merely a kilometer away.
I felt helpless. Not only was smog physically harmful, but it was also mentally damaging. It blocked out the sun, and without sunlight, I felt like I was physically locked up and isolated from the rest of the world. I hated smog with a kind of personal vengeance normally reserved for the school yard bully. Understandable, I think now, because it had threatened my physical health as well as sucking away some of my daily joys.
Today, many countries, including my native China, have realized how aerosols, the building blocks of smog, damage the human respiratory system and they are desperately trying to lower the presence aerosol in the atmosphere.
While I am happy that the younger generation may never experience the hopelessness I experienced as a child because of the measures taken by these countries, I remain deeply conflicted and concerned. Other than direct damage to humans, the effects of aerosols are not well understood. However, historical data and regional climate models indicate that aerosols, which reflect sunlight, have been an inhibitor of global warming. No one knows how the reduction of their presence in the atmosphere will affect global temperature and climate change.
Of course, I am delighted to learn about the efforts of China and other countries’ efforts to clean up the atmosphere, but I am also worried about the potential consequences. Humans as a species must be ready to cooperate, but at the same time we must face the possible punishments nature may have in store for us for past actions that got us to this point in the first place.”
“Living in Pakistan has its pros and cons. You will have all four weathers round the year. But for the last 5-7 years, it feels like summer the whole year. The cities are crowded with people, cars and industries emitting green house gases, wildlife is being destroyed on a daily basis, pollution is increasing on an hourly basis and our future is becoming bleaker and bleaker on the basis of seconds. Some may ask if there will be a future for the upcoming generations, and the answer would be its better for them to have no future than to have such a future.
I remember when I was a kid: when it would get too warm, suddenly a splash of rain would occur and wipe off all the stress people were going through. People would come out of their homes, sit in their gardens drink tea and eat pakoras, kids rode bikes and danced in the rain carelessly.
Now, no one comes out of their homes (especially in summer) because they might faint from dehydration. People no longer drink tea and eat pakoras. That memory is all I have left to remember by. Farms are dying, water is getting scarce and kids are dying of malnutrition all around the world because they don’t get the right amount of food required for them.
In the past, long road trips went by really fast because all I would do is look outside onto the lush green forests and mountains. Now, I don’t even take long road trips because there is nothing to look out to. The world is dying, and we are doing nothing about it. What a shame that humanity will be the cause of its own destruction.”