By Ammara Farooq Malik
Volume 43. Issue I. 2019.
Published in Natura, WWF Magazine.
With climate change impacts affecting us globally in a more pronounced manner since the past 50 years, the question that is most pertinent at this point is: what and where do solutions lie, and more importantly where to begin from?
According to the World Bank, by 2050 the population of the world is expected to cross 9 billion, out of which 40 percent of the youth of the world will be found in Asia. The present water scarcity issue found in the Himalayan region due to glacial melting will result in directly affecting the availability of water to Pakistan, India and Nepal.
Water is already scarce in Pakistan and the emergency need for building the Diamer Bhasha dam was echoed by the outgoing Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mr. Saqib Nisar. Yet, the biggest stakeholder of this water scarcity crisis, our children who will inherit this earth and what we leave in it for them, are generally not present at the policy tables or even trained on how to live a life that will require them to adapt to the effects of climate change in a sustained manner.
One such effort to try to train young children in climate change adaption was initiated by the SEPLAA Young Leaders’ Club International, a social enterprise initiated by two young sisters Amal Malik then 9 and Dina Malik then 7and a half, that aimed to contribute towards teaching underprivileged children about climate change impacts. With every paying child who took part in the SEPLAA Young Leaders’ Club activities, the young co-founders were able to support the activities of teaching two to five underprivileged children about climate change adaptation, without any fee.
As these children grew older, they also felt that their voice needed to be heard at the policy level. They were able to participate at the 5th Asia Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum organized by the UNEP and ADB in Sri Lanka in 2016 and speak at the Global Youth Forum on Climate Change also held in Sri Lanka in 2016. The children participated eagerly at the forum and ran their own awareness campaign with the other over 800 international delegates present. The campaign was run by the name of the ‘SYLC 100 Leaves’. In this campaign, the children interviewed over 60 international experts on their take on climate change adaptation. Their findings were recorded in the form of small quotations with pictures of the experts that were put up on social media.
The 5th Asia Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum established Amal and Dina as the youngest international delegates of the forum and inculcated in them, a desire to do more for other children who could not afford to travel to such forums. Upon their return to Pakistan, they held several tailor made climate change adaptation activities with underprivileged children in Lahore and embarked on documenting about their experiences in the form of a book.
In 2018, when the 6th APAN was scheduled to take place in Manila, at the Asian Development Bank’s headquarters, Dina Malik by then 13, was invited to participate in a unique inter- generational opening plenary of the 6th Asia Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum. Apart from the fact that it was a huge honour, it was a win for children all over the world because their voices were represented.
It is important to include climate change adaptation education in schools and communities so that children, are trained well in advance in what they will have to experience and worst yet, combat, in the years to come. The SEPLAA Young Leaders’ Club co- founder Amal Malik was even able to conduct recycled art work activities with Syrian and Afghan refugee children whom she met in February 2018 in Istanbul. The activity helped established that children from diverse backgrounds can all come together for the common good of the environment which everyone shares regardless of nationality and geographical location, and no child should be left behind when imparting such education.
Social enterprises thrive on promoting the environment and creating green solutions. If schools are able to teach children about climate change from the early years, this will transform school units into social enterprises as well. The need of the hour is for all schools to engage in healthy activities aimed at climate change adaptation and resilience so that not only are children trained in how to take small yet important measures to curb the ill effects of climate change but also, through the efforts of hundreds of small children, positive green impact is created for our environment. This impact is will become more pronounced in the years to come, because these children will eventually become the 40% of youth bulge of the future.
In their upcoming book ‘Journey of a Hundred Leaves’, Amal and Dina write exactly how even a small social enterprise can help create an impact in climate change adaptation. The time is ripe for social enterprises to be developed, supported and encouraged, with the aim to create green adaptation measures and greater awareness, particularly amongst children, who will be the adaptation leaders of tomorrow.
The writer has over 20 years’ of experience as a lawyer, development practitioner, academic, founder of the SEPLAA Foundation & Think Tank, and is presently a doctoral candidate in social entrepreneurship, gender and climate change at Business School Netherlands.