Change through the eyes of a child
South African children speak about climate change
This publication presents a selection of quotations from South African children on climate change. It aims to give children a voice and illustrate their understanding of climate change, their involvement in environmental activities, and their views on government’s role in tackling climate change. The quotations were collected during focus group discussions with children aged 14-17 years from South Africa’s Girls and Boys Education Movement (GEM/BEM) clubs.
Climate change is one of the defining challenges of the twenty-first century. While climate change threatens all countries, it is increasingly clear that the world’s poorest countries and most vulnerable groups – especially children – are likely to bear the brunt of climate change. Urgent adjustments are required at various levels in society to reach more sustainable production and consumption patterns.
While children are often thought of as passive bystanders, the quotations in this publication illustrate that children are willing and able to actively participate in tackling climate change. Many children are already extensively involved in activities at household, community and school levels; as well as environmental networks. Children want their voices to be heard and are keen to become more active agents of change in addressing climate change.
As such, this publication seeks to help stimulate the inclusion of children in South Africa’s discourse on climate change. It complements a recent study on the impact of climate change on children in South Africa.2 Policy and decision-makers across society are encouraged to engage extensively with both the study and this rich compilation of quotations.
The publication is structured as follows: Section two contains the methodology. Section 3 presents a selection of children’s quotations on climate change. It covers three broad themes: (a) children’s knowledge of climate change, including how children learn about climate change and what they say about its causes and impacts; (b) children’s role in tackling climate change, including their involvement in activities and projects in their homes, communities and schools, as well as why children think it is important that their voices are heard; and (c) children’s recommendations to government and the President. Section 4 provides a conclusion.