Hello, I am Dia Mirza and all through my pregnancy, I smoked. Actually, I didn’t, but it doesn’t really matter, because my unborn child and I are a part of the 90% of the world that breathes polluted air. Breathing in Indian cities has been equated to being a regular smoker.
WHO tells us that air pollution kills about 7 million people worldwide each year. In India alone, there were as many as 980,000 deaths in 2019 because of particulate matter.
But these are numbers. Statistics don’t touch us. Data doesn’t shake us. We hear numbers, but we are moved by stories.
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How Climate Change Affects our Children
So, here’s a true story. My own pregnancy was complicated by a bacterial infection and my extremely prematurely born baby stayed away from me in a Neonatal ICU for months from birth.
I do not know what caused the infection, but I know that many millions of mothers worldwide, with far less privilege than I have, routinely suffer from complications during their pregnancy because of the toxic environments we live in.
For the mothers and to those expecting here and at home, how do you feel knowing that air pollution particles have been found on the fetal side of placentas? That even unborn babies are exposed to the dirty air produced by motor traffic and fossil fuel burning?
And what happens when our babies arrive in the world? Our children are born into a world in crisis. The IPCC report, the most comprehensive study to date, says it is “code red for humanity”.
My baby is now a part of a planet where temperatures are rising by the day, heat waves and other extreme weather events arrive unexpectedly, and with more intensity. Avyaan was born into a world where water, soil and air can all be poisonous.
Avyaan is not just statistics. He has a face. The 67,000 or so other Indian babies born with him on the 14th of May aren’t just numbers. They look like you and me.
When we say we want a better future for our children, we cannot escape the question of what we are doing today, right this minute, to fix it.
As a mother, I worry about this and what tomorrow will bring. I worry about biodiversity loss and if my son will be able to see wild animals in their natural habitats rather than in books. Will he recognize a beach without the plastic waste that has become so common in marine and coastal ecosystems?
I worry he would ask me questions like:
“Why were all the trees cut?”
“Why do I have asthma?”
“Why couldn’t you save the tiger from extinction?”
“Why is the air so polluted and the sea so filthy?”
“Why is there so much trash everywhere and where is it going to end up?”
I ask myself if he will be able to travel and experience the world safely and if some of its most beautiful natural wonders will still be around for him to marvel at.
A child is born alive to both the beauty and the horror in the world. A child grows as healthy as the planet he lives in. Will he need to wear a mask forever, if not for COVID-19 then because of air pollution.
We may delegate tasks at home or at work, but we cannot delegate to someone else the responsibility for keeping our children safe.
If you feel climate action is hard today, think of how hard it will be tomorrow. And the day, the week, the month, the year, the decade after. The pandemic gave us all a taste of how quickly our presumed control over our lives can dissipate.
The challenges ahead are enormous. So let us make no mistake.
What is unfolding around us is just a glimpse of the calamities that will grow.
As a mother, I will do my absolute best to be a responsible earthling and to fight for the right of my child to grow up in a healthy planet.cl
There is a narrow window of opportunity to limit global warming to 1.5°C by 2100, which is also the goal of the Paris Agreement. Let’s make sure we enter it so long as it's still open.
I invite mothers and fathers around the world to join me in demanding governments and big corporations drastically cut down their greenhouse gas emissions and switch to renewable and clean energy.
A Blueprint for a Green Future
There are approximately 7 billion people on the earth today. If even only a few million mothers among these billions decided to become climate activists, sustainable solutions could be accomplished.
Why mothers, you may ask? Don’t they already have enough to do? Yes, we do, but what is at stake is the very air that our children breathe, the water our children drink, the food they eat, the heat waves, droughts, floods, and cyclones they might face and a future climate that will make much of our planet and country, their planet and country, uninhabitable if nothing is done. Climate action is at least as important for parents as ensuring our children eat thrice a day, brush their teeth, do their homework, and respect their elders.
Let us do so for Avyaan and for the sake of the children we have brought into this world.
So, here’s a tentative blueprint for us, for the future they deserve. A blueprint I hope may spring many of you away from lethargy
into action. We can start at home. We can then influence our neighborhood, our village, our town, our workplace, and national authorities to change.
Yet a far greater change would result when mothers and fathers push governments and businesses to act. India is on the verge of an acute power crisis due to coal shortage and there’s never been a better time to switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy. We cannot control the sources that power our homes and our factories, but we can control our politicians. Yes, that’s how it works in a democracy.
Weeding out single use plastics from our lives is another big challenge. We now know that plastics have made way into the bloodstream of our babies. I ask mothers, let us begin questioning the origin and the ultimate destination of whatever we buy for our homes and children. Let’s consume consciously!
Plant trees. Yes please! Let us plant them for the sake of the biodiversity that is vanishing from our cities, to replenish animal habitats and forests and for greener neighborhoods for our children.
Let us plant trees to memorialize special days, distribute saplings as gifts and teach our children to hug trees and stand up for them. But above all let’s resist when our governments come up with a plan to bulldoze over a forest for the sake of a new shopping mall, a road, a highway or an office building. Protecting ancient trees that we have is always preferable to starting anew.
I studied in a beautiful school where outdoor classrooms were often organized under big trees. We fell in love with the most beautiful
and rare species. We also talked about consumerism. And we were taught that human activity is changing the world’s temperatures. But I realized that not all children have the privilege to access the right information. So, let us please teach our kids that they are not the sole inheritors of the earth.
Let’s teach our children environmental stewardship. Let's also listen to our children. Some of the most powerful action is being led by young people. Let us make climate change a part of our school curricula and dinner table conversations.
I invite all mothers to speak out for planet Earth, the only home our kids will ever have. As a UNEP Goodwill Ambassador and a mother, I will continue to mainstream the climate issue wherever and however I can.
Let us create our own revolution in our kitchens, social clubs, offices and boardrooms. Let’s get on WhatsApp and Twitter and TikTok and spread the word.
Mothers aren’t going to sit out this crisis. Mothers will not take NO for an answer from corporations and governments because this time we are fighting for the right for our children to breathe, to live, to thrive.
It is not that we cannot afford to get this right. With a powerful, unified, intentional energy and synergy in place, we can. Because Mother Nature has an incredible self-repairing system; all we need to do is facilitate that process. And give back to her what our greed, arrogance, ignorance, and avarice has destroyed. By restoring nature, we can fix much of the climate crises!
So, I call upon all Mothers and fathers too of course to unite. For MOTHER NATURE and for all her children.
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