Breaking Barriers and Building Bridges

7 Dec

Not five minutes ago, Sarah, Alice, Olivia, Emily, Sylvie, and I walked out of our first conference event. Held by both UNICEF and the FAO, the Breaking Barriers and Building Bridges session welcomed ambassadors from the Children’s Climate Forum – mostly young children from developing countries –  such as South Africa, Zambia, Haiti, Bangladesh, Kenya, Maldives, and Senegal – to speak about issues regarding climate change. It is amazing how children can put things so simply and effectively. It is amazing how children are making decisions that their parents and elders do not make.

The children were asked to identify barriers they face in their home country and bridges they can build to overcome them. Here’s a sample:

  • Barrier: ignorance
  • Bridge: show the impacts climate change is having at home.
  • Barrier: failure to listen to children
  • Bridge: provide opportunities for youth to speak out such as the Children’s Climate Forum

The children were also asked about what role music can play for fighting climate change. Answers spoke of music as a universal language, able to cross borders with ease and unite different cultures. Additionally, music can be the dissemination of information through entertainment as opposed to through sources like speeches or documents and thus, has the ability to reach more people. On a side note, it was said that planting trees in African countries have purpose aside from those environmental – they provide shade, and through this they act as a gathering place as people escape the heat of the sun. People are united through the natural environment.

How we can change the mentality of adults was another question asked. It was suggested that people be shown the changes that have occured in their own country as a result of climate change. What existed at a time past that is no longer there? Show that this river has trickled to a stream. Then show people how to reverse the effect or prevent it from happening again.

The youth ambassador from Maldives brought us some interesting news as well that we had not yet heard. This small developing country of 300,000 people is striving to become the first carbon neutral country in the world, and while this represents a very small portion of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, it also represents a huge step and shines as an example of what a (developing) country can do.

There is no global action without local action. A take-home message in this session was to respect commitments, no matter what size. Humans take steps.

The quote of the day has to go to the ambassador for Angelique Kidjo of Cape Town, the ambassador for UNICEF, who said, “YOU CAN’T MAKE MONEY WITHOUT THE EARTH”. Simple, effective, 100% truth.

All in all, planting trees was a repeated idea of this session. In Canada, we take trees for granted. Trees are nice to look at. They are pretty to walk beside. We often forget about their ecological function and how important they really are. Trees can absorb water and therefore minimize the impacts of floods  and decrease risk of landslides. Trees (such as mangrove forests) act as barriers from intense winds, tsnuamis and other severe storms induced by climate change. Trees improve soil conditions enabling farmers to feed the word. Trees absorb carbon dioxide improve air quality for all to breathe. The list goes on. One simple act of planting trees goes a long way. Let’s not forget that.

IN REFLECTION, here are some issues to consider:

  • Transgenerational communication and values
  • Human desire to share experiences (e.g. childhood): “I am only seeing fragments of the beauty of my country”
  • Immigration issue where people go, where they choose to go, and if they have the choice to leave

Again, we  see how social and environmental issues are parallel.

– Tyler, Sarah & Alice


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