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We are mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers. We are adults, part of the ruling generation, and we care about the future of our children–and their children’s children.” from James Hansen’s project Our Children’s Trust

And so we begin. The first of a 48 hour People’s Climate March Storm, tasked with inspiring 10,000 to RSVP to participate in New York City’s September 2lst march.  And while the logistics of the campaign have been expertly and creatively organized to make participation simple (a relatively carbon-friendly transportation network of buses, trains, ride shares at numerous destinations in most every state, Amtrack discounts, and Big Apple housing in churches, dorms, people’s homes), I’ve been ruminating over  what might instrinsicly motivate thousands upon thousands to travel thousands of miles for a few hour march in the Big Apple.

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Estimates suggest by 2050 150-200 million people will be forced to migrate as parts of the globe become uninhabitable. Children are more at risk of surviving.

For me it’s a no brainer.

I’m marching for the kids of 2050.

Let’s say you are a grandparent or a parent whose last child is off to college this fall. A young parent, whose children are just now entering primary school or a parent of tomorrow.  You might be a teacher, a minister or mentor, a coach. An aunt, an uncle, a godparent. A babysitter or bus driver. A school crossing guard. You owe it to the children whose lives you touch to show up and march for their future.

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By 2050, 2 in 5 children will live in Africa, the continent which will be most impacted by global climate change.

The facts are raw. Simple.

In the release last fall of its 5th Assessment Report  the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) announced that "children will bear the brunt of the impact of climate change because of their increased risk of health problems, malnutrition and migration."  

And while children, particularly those living in poverty and in developing countries, are must threatened by global warming, recognition of the threats to them and engaging them in solutions to the problem have been piecemeal. "We are hurtling towards a future where the gains being made for the world’s children are threatened and their health, wellbeing, livelihoods and survival are compromised … despite being the least responsible for the causes," said David Bull, Unicef’s UK executive director. "We need to listen to them." (The Guardian, September 23, 2013)

Most of us are aware of the United Nations projection that by 2050 the world population will reach 9.6 million. What most of us are not yet aware of is that when 2050 rolls around, 2 in 5 children will reside in Africa.  (World Population Prospects: the 2012 Revision)

And that impacts us? Yeah, big time.

Experts in the field of agriculture, venture capitalists, NGOs, researchers and scientists have long been aware  that the African continent contains about 60 percent of the Earth’s uncultivated land. Since 2012, leaders in the area of sustainable development have pinpointed Africa for its potential to feed much of the world by 2050, and have focused on educating small scale female farmers in the efficient use of the land, climate smart agriculture and in the use of cutting edge technology to improve productivity.

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The role of climate change in increasing the frequency and intensity of natural hazards such as cyclones and extreme flooding can increase the risk faced by children to water borne diseases, and health risks such as contaminated food and water supplies. from…

Over half of the world’s food is grown by female farmers (some 1.6 billion women work in agriculture) and their success in overcoming cultural and institutional barriers to achieve equal access to credit and education is integral to global food security. According to Worldwatch, "when women’s incomes are improved, when they have better access to resources like education, infrastructure, credit, and health care, they tend to invest more in the nutrition, education, and health of their family, causing a ripple effect of benefits that can extend to the entire community."

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The World Health Organization estimates that more than 88 percent of the existing global burden of disease due to climate change occurs in children less than five years of age. Although children everywhere are affected, most of the impact is felt in populations of low socioeconomic status, squarely raising the issue of environmental justice. The impacts will continue to grow under the projected trajectory of climate change and fossil fuel emissions. from…

The role of educating children in addressing climate related problems is evidenced in projects across the world.

Rwanda’s  Farmers of the Future Initiative (FOFI) works with young girls by incorporating training in agriculture into their school curriculum to ensure they are prepared to work in their communities as knowledgeable farmers. Not only does this project serve to empower women so they can avoid depending on men for both financial and food security, it also provides them with the opportunity to pass on these skills and this mindset to their children so that as future farmers they are equipped to feed themselves.

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By 2050, runaway food insecurity will increase the number of malnourished children by 25 Million.

In rural India, where 60-70% of the children do not attend elementary school, Barefoot College has established night school, where kids come to class  after they have helped gathering wood and water or babysitting younger siblings.  Upon graduation, many of these children work in their villages as water and solar engineers, doctors, teachers, or elected officials.

World Washup: With some 894 people worldwide lacking access to safe drinking water, the dramatic increases in the prevalence of water-borne illness due to climate change is a huge issue. Projects like Global Handwashing Day spotlight the importance of teaching kids around the world about hygiene. GHD has delegated October 15 as the official global handwashing day,  with  over 200 million people from 100 countries participate in the annual celebration.  

• Indonesian school kids create plays about hand-washing.
• Pakistan doctors visit schools to show cartoons promoting hand-washing.
• In Bangladesh in 2009, 52,970 children seat a Guinness World Record by simultaneously washing their hands in different locations across their country
• Kenya set a 2010 Guinness World Record when 19,352 people washed their hands in the same place and  at the same time

Turning handwashing with soap before eating and after using the toilet into an ingrained habit could save more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention, cutting deaths from diarrhea by almost half and deaths from acute respiratory infections by one-quarter. A vast change in handwashing behavior is critical to meeting the Millennium Development Goal of reducing deaths among children under the age of five by two-thirds by 2015.

Global Handwashing Day focuses on children because not only do they suffer disproportionately from diarrheal and respiratory diseases and deaths, but research shows that children – the segment of society so often the most energetic, enthusiastic, and open to new ideas – can also be powerful agents for changing behaviors like handwashing with soap in their communities.

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88 percent of the existing global burden of disease due to climate change will impact children less than five years of age.

We, in the developed world, need to learn from these examples  and radically change our traditional methods of educating our youth to ensure they are equipped with the skill sets to survive and thrive in a 2050 world. And we need to start that work now.

Former Vice President Al Gore last week announced a global campaign to engage young people in challenging leaders to take action now to ensure their future. They are being instructed to ask two simple questions about addressing climate change right now and in the future.

“Climate change is the number-one issue facing humanity today and should be acknowledged as such by our leaders. It is important for the future of our children to ask world leaders “Why?” and “Why not?” and drive our elected officials to act on climate change,” said Al Gore, Chairman of The Climate Reality Project. "Why? and "Why not?"

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Scientists agree that climate change has already significantly impacted children, with WHO estimating some increasing malnutrion and other health problems directly related to dramatic climate change shifts are responsibile for over 150,000 children’s deaths every year.  These estimates are expected to double by just 2030.

And so I will be marching for the kids of 2050 in New York City on September 21st.

I hope you that you will join me.

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