Children in a Changing Climate

by Deepika Khatri

‘The principle of inter-generational justice argues that there should be distributive justice between generations, and that the rights of generations should be considered equal over time.’

– Climate Change, Child Rights and Intergenerational Justice, Policy Brief 13, Institute of Development Studies

The climate crisis will have a profound impact on the lives of children and affect the quality of life of future generations. Yet, a child rights approach to the climate crisis is still to become a central aspect of discussions and decision making by governments and civil society. Engaging with children is critical to integrate the best interest of the child who will be most affected by the climate crisis. We talk to Keshav Jaini, a resident of Garden Estate, Gurgaon, who has been working with children on issues of waste management. He talks about different ways to engage with children so that they become active participants in shaping the response to the climate crisis.

Keshav uncle dressed in shorts and standing next to a pile of leaves.

Q. What motivated you to start working with children?

When my twin daughters were 5 years old we moved to Garden Estate and although it was a very clean place, and not many people yet, we realised over time it would start getting dirty. We started a Sunday clean up with my daughters and their friends and we go around and pick up litter. The idea was not about cleaning up the place, the idea was in terms of getting kids to understand that they should not litter.

Then we started building on the clean ups—a story telling session was added, we would invite naturalists and people from institutions to talk to children about nature and how we’re all connected and are one among many species. We would also have experiments for them to conduct every week, such as measuring how much waste they were generating through little exercises. Once you’re conscious of how much waste you’re generating, you start to look for ways to reduce it.

Q. What are the first steps to introducing children to thinking about waste and taking action?

Start with anything- if you love something, you will protect it. Any engagement and interaction with nature is powerful, so build that into a child’s life. It could be going out to a park for walks or to play, visits to biodiversity parks in your city, starting a kitchen vegetable garden, or going for waste pick ups on the weekend. By observing, engaging and being in nature, children will automatically care for the world around them and take action.

Schools are also a great place to introduce children to concepts around waste management and getting them to creatively think about how to change existing patterns. Most important is to interact with children, talk to them, find out what they love and listen to what they are saying.

Q. Could you describe an incident of a child who has made a change in their life?

I met a 17-year old girl who came for one of my workshops. She had seen a video on waste management and wanted to learn more. She brought her family along—her mother and brother—who didn’t understand what they were doing there but wanted to support her.

When we spoke, she said she’s been wanting to convert her housing society to segregation and composting, but it was very disheartening because no one wanted to do it. I told her not to worry about everyone, to start small, at home and see how many of her friends and their parents she could convince to join in. She called me a few months later. Not only had she set up the segregation and composting for her family, but got 6 others in the society to do so too. That’s how you begin—that’s what it takes.

Q. What books would you recommend for children?

Trashonomics* is a great resource. Developed by the Solid Waste Management Round Table (SWMRT), it is being used in schools to talk to children about waste and sustainable waste management so that they become empowered to lead change. By playing on the word ‘trash’ and ‘economics’, it looks at solid waste and its environmental, health and financial impact. The content is simple, it has practical solutions, and many activities so children are engaged in a hands-on way.

*Watch the video on this resource here.

Deepika Khatri is one of the co-founders of The Curio-City Collective.