Imagine

Youth and adolescents are raising their voices for the better

Мина Бонева, 18 г. София, България
Мина Бонева, на 18 години се усмихва на камерата по време на представяне в Деня за безопасен интернет
UNICEF Bulgaria/2019/Yotova

19 July 2019

Imagine a child, a girl with short loose hair. She is happy, truly happy. She’s playing in a garden, sort of like the Secret Garden. Imagine the pink, blooming trees, the tweeting birds and the sweet smell of juicy apples. Imagine the other children too. Sniffing the lilac trees, chasing butterflies, and running around. Giggling and enjoying the sunshine. Of course, the sky is blue.

Now, have you ever climbed up a rooftop? Cool breeze playing with your hair, your hectic life left downstairs… you are in a place of complete serenity. Has it ever struck you how magnificent the sky looks right before sunset? Have you seen the Milky Way? Not a picture, not a photograph, not a painting, but the actual Milky Way as seen from the ground?

It takes your breath away, leaves you speechless even. It inspires you.

The Earth is so beautiful. Life is so beautiful. Read poetry and listen to folk music, go to the forest and lay on the wet grass, inhaling Earth's breath. Listen. Listen to the songs of the birds, listen and stay still because nature senses your heartbeat, your mind is visible. It wants to harmonise with you.

The little girl I mentioned? That’s how she feels in this Secret Garden. Nature resonates within her. Her blood races through her tiny body, her lips don’t ever close from smiling, and her legs don’t ever stop running. She is complete.

That’s up until you walk in, set this beautiful place on fire with some deadly chemicals and grab her delicate neck, lifting her from the ground. Slowly taking her life away.

No one pays attention.

She is now coughing heavily, her little body is severely damaged from the horror you caused. Your hands are scratching her soft skin while she’s struggling for air. The girl can’t breathe, her lungs are burning. Your gruesome grip is tight on her neck and she can’t fight back. She. Can’t. Breathe.

She suffocates. And dies.

Imagine that little girl is me.

I am an actual young person from Bulgaria. I go to ballet classes, I love painting watercolour landscapes and when I fall asleep I admire the night sky through my window (cuddling up in the fluffiest bright pink blanket you can imagine).

Right now you are slowly eradicating my Secret Garden, my Earth… and us along with it:

Me. Your daughter. Your son. Your nephew, your neighbour’s child, even a stranger's child. It is you who will be the death of us. The death of a whole generation.

You are turning our blue sky foggy.

You are setting our magical Earth on fire.

You are suffocating us.

Right now you are slowly eradicating my Secret Garden, my Earth… and us along with it:

No science-fiction here, it’s called global warming. And you are the cause of it. You prevent warmth from escaping and asphyxiate our own planet with carbon dioxide. The dusty fog is not caused by a single man, it is all your machines that run on oil. I cough but it’s not someone choking me, it is the deadly chemicals from all your factories around my hometown.

I am scared. Believe me, I am frightened. I scream on the top of our lungs to make you save us, save me. To make you stop your spree of destruction. The oil and gas industry is on the verge of leading to a world catastrophe and this is not something to be expected some day in the distant future: it has us coughing and fighting for breath NOW.

I couldn’t be happier when I heard the news of the single-use plastic ban but, with all my respect, dear representatives of all of Europe, what is it good for if in 30 years we’ll simply boil to death? Once again, no science-fiction here, skin cancer cases have reportedly increased exponentially and Earth’s surface is heating up irreversibly.

I shout to all of you, politicians and people of power on the old continent: End this now.

Restrict oil consumption by businesses and vehicles. Provide money for electrification and/or further research on renewable resources of energy. Tell the people how dangerous this is because adults won’t listen to us, the victims of this catastrophe. Adults don’t see us coughing on our way to school, burning under the hot sun in the summer, striking for our future. Adults see a bunch of privileged guff. And for once they’re completely wrong.

So tell them that this is actually a crisis. Call it a crisis. Tell them what will happen after all the bees die. Tell them about all the animals that died. Tell them we will die. Descriptive words only, it’s time for clarity.

Tell us what to do to help. Make a mandatory class about sustainability. Give us specific instructions and the reasoning behind it. Set rules.

Stop fooling around. Start changing Europe for the better. I understand that Brexit is a big deal but the literal collapse of the world is kind of bigger. So stop fighting with your ex over custody and both of you pay attention to your children. They are begging for your help. Do something.

Raise alarms. It’s late for awareness.

And most importantly: let us survive.

Because otherwise very soon you won’t need to imagine.

Mina, 18, is a student in Sofia, Bulgaria. She is passionate about civic engagement and was a UNICEF youth delegate to the European Parliament in Brussels during World Children’s Day 2018 advocating for child rights. Her passions are music and art - she manages an Instagram account dedicated to digital and watercolor paintings. She is an eco-activist and tries to live a plastic-free life.

Children and young people are one of Europe’s greatest assets. For the European Parliament elections in May, Voices of Youth ran a special blogging series to ensure that the opinions and voices of children and young people were heard during the elections and by incoming European politicians.

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