Everybody is old enough to save the planet

Published on: 21 April 2020

How author Loll Kirby was inspired by the stories of real children making a difference when writing her newest book, Old Enough to Save the Planet - and how you can change the world, no matter how old you are.

When I first set out on the journey of writing this book over a year ago, I could never have foreseen what lay ahead. It would have seemed unthinkable to imagine that a vast number of people from all over the world would have had their lives turned upside down by a global pandemic and that we’d be doing our bit to help slow its progress by staying away from school, work and other community spaces, confining ourselves to our homes and if we’re lucky, our gardens.

Back then, we were just becoming aware of climate activists like Greta Thunberg and Anna Taylor, who were showing us that being young wasn’t going to hold them back from fighting for what they knew was necessary to protect our planet for future generations. Inspired and motivated, millions of young people around the world began to stage their own climate strikes, spurred on by the fact that powerful adults were beginning to take notice and finally give them a platform for their voices to be heard. Seeing all this, I realised that there must be other young people working equally hard on other environmental projects that they hoped would make a difference and I wanted to share their stories as well.

Researching the book was a joyful and enlightening process. The more I looked, the more examples I found of children who had come up against a problem and, instead of sitting back or looking the other way, had decided to take matters into their own hands and come up with a creative solution. Sometimes this work had engaged people in their local neighbourhoods and sometimes it had reached even further afield, across towns, counties and even countries. I settled upon a mix of amazing young people from all over the world, whose projects demonstrated a wide range of different ways in which we can take positive action to preserve the environment and address climate change.

I wanted readers to be inspired by all the things that were possible but I didn’t want to overwhelm them with ideas that seemed so huge and impressive that they didn’t know where to start. Brooklyn, for example, might have her own book and website now, but she started out collecting litter around the streets near her home. Hunter might have played a vital role in rescuing rhinos, but we can all do something to protect the wildlife near our own homes – many countries have endangered species that need help, even if they’re smaller, less well known creatures like butterflies or beetles. I also felt it was important to be able to demonstrate that there were lots of ways you could bring your idea to fruition that would fit with how you like to work. Some people take strength from working as part of a group, such as the children at Hengde School in China, while others might feel more comfortable developing an idea by themselves before sharing it with anyone else.

The children in the book all felt passionate about the individual issues they were tackling. Sometimes, their interest in the subject had come about after they’d researched a topic at school – Jordan, for example, completed a school project on the use of palm oil before going on to investigate further and become a spokesperson for how to make it safe and sustainable. Eunita’s investigations into pollination helped her to discover the importance of bees, which led to her creation of bee-friendly gardens around where she lived. Other times, it might have been something outside school that was the spark to get things started, such as natural disasters in Indonesia that severely affected where Adeline lived; or the rubbish that regularly washes up on the beaches near Shalise’s home.

Many of the young people in the book have taken their projects to impressive heights, setting up their own charities (like Felix and Amy and Ella) and working with many thousands of people as well as some really important organisations and public bodies. However, work can be done at a seemingly smaller level and still be just as important, like Himangi encouraging people to use safe and environmentally friendly forms of travel to and from her school, or Vincent setting up a community garden in his town to reduce food waste. It’s great when others can see what you’re doing so that they’re inspired to make changes themselves, but you don’t need a global audience to make a difference – every change counts, no matter how big or small.

This week, to tie in with the book’s publication, it’s been really fun coming up with activities that readers can easily get involved with at home (even under lockdown, hopefully!) that link to the work of the children featured in the book. My own children, who were already off school as I was planning it all, particularly enjoyed eating the fruit required to start our own compost heap, inspired by Nikita. Do head over to Facebook or Instagram to see what Magic Cat and I have been sharing – I’d love to know how you get on if you try anything!

Seeing the book come to life over the past year, thanks to Adelina Lirius’ beautiful illustrations and the hard work of everyone at Magic Cat Publishing, has made me value the message contained with its pages even more. During the few months that our factories and roads have been used so much less, we are seeing noticeable signs that it is benefitting our environment – less pollution, clearer waterways, more wildlife. While none of us would ever choose for a virus to sweep the world, perhaps some good can eventually come from all the changes we’ve been forced to make. Along with all the invaluable key workers whose tireless efforts are keeping us going, I very much hope that our future is going to be shaped by children like those featured in the book, who are definitely old enough to save the planet and brave enough to give us hope.


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