Youth produced photo book and exhibit documents climate and environmental impact on young lives

‘The Green Rising: Through a Fresh Lens’ photography project features the powerful imagery and stories of young people and their experiences of living through a changing climate and environment.

05 June 2024
A girl wearing a school uniform and with a rucksack on her back walks through floodwater.
UNICEFSouthAfrica/Sandile Xakaza
Sandile, one of the 12 participants, captures an image of a learner wading through floodwater to get to school in Qoloqolo village, KwaZulu-Natal.

JOHANNESBURG, 05 June 2024 – ‘The Green Rising: Through a Fresh Lens’ photo book and exhibit launched today at FotoZA gallery in Johannesburg to mark World Environment Day, with the young storytellers calling for urgent action to help tackle climate and environmental impacts on the rights and wellbeing of children and young people.

The powerful imagery and stories produced by twelve talented young storytellers, aged 15 to 24 years, are the culmination of a four-month journey through which they reflected on their experiences of how a changing planet is changing their lives. Guided by EPA Images Senior Visual Correspondent, Kim Ludbrook, the participants honed their photography and writing skills to capture the specific impact of the climate and environmental crisis on children, youth, and their communities.

“This is life through the lens of a student who lives near factories and smoke stackers, said Karabo Chauke, a Pretoria based student and participant. “In this work I get to show how we might not see it, but air pollution is a problem to all, whether it be workers of the factory or a student living close by. The effects are painful especially to those with breathing difficulties and respiratory disease,” added Chauke.

The project was a collaboration between the young climate advocates, from four provinces across the country, with support from UNICEF South Africa, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Regional Office for Southern Africa, Maverick Citizen and EPA Images.

“This powerful body of work gives the agency to young people, who are on the frontlines of today’s climate and environmental crisis, to tell their stories through their eyes,” said Etleva Kadilli, UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, at the launch event. “Increasing understanding of how climate and environmental issues affect the rights and wellbeing of young people is critical to in-turn drive tailored action to better respond to their specific needs,” added Kadilli.

The project also responds to the fact that children and young people are no longer willing to be passive bystanders to the climate and environmental crisis and have a right to be consulted and to participate in policy making and action on the ground.

“These images and stories show a deep awareness, mutual concerns, and a determination to drive change towards a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable environment,” said Abigail Noko, Regional Representative, Regional Office for Southern Africa, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. “Providing a platform and empowering young people to advocate and act is an obligation that we must all strive to fulfil,” added Noko.

“This unique initiative provided the opportunity for the twelve talented and young people to articulate their experiences, thoughts, and feelings about climate change and the environment to a broader audience,” said Kim Ludbrook, EPA Images Senior Visual Correspondent.

“To witness their growth, commitment and enthusiasm through this project is to witness the fruits of their development, and I hope they move forward to bring their unique and inspiring messages to an even broader audience,” added Ludbrook.

“Young people are the future generation who will grow up and inherit the planet,” said Zukiswa Pikoli, Managing Editor, Maverick Citizen, a section of the Daily Maverick. “Telling the story through their lens is essential for policymakers and all of us to understand the need for urgent climate and environment action,” added Pikoli.

The book and exhibit were made possible thanks to the generous support of UNICEF South Africa’s climate and environment partners, including the Governments of Denmark and Japan, and Accenture. 

Media contacts

Toby Fricker
Chief of Communication & Partnerships
UNICEF South Africa
Tel: +27 61 418 7486
Sudeshan Reddy
Communication Specialist
UNICEF South Africa
Tel: +27 82 561 3970

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