It is the year 2050, and the planet is in turmoil. Climate change worst-case scenario has begun to take effect…..

Drenched in sweat from the intense heat, eight-year-old Amina sits in her little dark hut, watching in despair as her little brother, Aminu, fights for his life. Barely two years old, he had contracted meningitis due to the severe heatwave they were experiencing in Sokoto. He had been born at a time when the impacts of climate change was at the worse state humanity had ever seen. The heatwave had become unbearable with increased meningitis, asthma, and heatstroke cases, with infants and the elderly being the most vulnerable to impact. In fact the previous year, they had lost their grandmother, who was Amina’s favorite, to heatstroke. To further exacerbate the situation, food scarcity was at its peak and Amina’s family had exhausted their food supply to the very last grain. Their farmlands had long become deserts, and their rivers, dry land.

A vast majority of her once lively village had fast become desolate. Her friends had long migrated down south along with their families, in the scramble for limited arable land. Her mother began to sob as Aminu was in a critical condition and needed immediate medical attention. Unfortunately, they were too poor to afford that. Her father had been gone for days, walking miles in the scourging sun, in search of food to feed his family. At this point, Amina felt so hopeless; she kept wondering why they had to go through such level of suffering. She wondered the fate of her friends and family that had migrated down South, she wondered if things were any better.

Meanwhile, far away in Rivers State, the atmospheric conditions had gotten really bad due to decades of pollution from illegal refineries. This, coupled with years of oil spillage that had ravaged farmlands and the once bubbling creeks, resulted in an alarming rate of cancer and respiratory illness in the region. Twelve-year-old Tonye, an only child who had lost his father at age three, hears his mum screaming for help from outside. He rushes out in his mask as that was his only chance of breathing without getting soot into his lungs. The atmosphere was heavily laden with thick smog and he could barely see through to find his mum. She had begun to scream louder, gripping her chest at this point. He was finally able to make his way through, after tracing the source of the loud screams. He helps her up and slowly they soon make their way to the local community clinic.

Weeks later, she was diagnosed with cancer of the lungs and in less than a year, Tonye became an orphan. Tonye’s world had come crashing down in the twinkle of an eye. He remembered asking his mother a few years ago why the air was laden with so much soot. He had been told it was due to decades of air pollution due to illegal refineries. Little did he know that this would eventually lead to the death of the only support system he had ever known. He was filled with so much rage at this point. How did things even get to this point ? why weren’t the illegal refineries stopped decades ago? Why didn’t any one do anything about the oil spills that had polluted their rivers and farmlands? How could the older generation have been so careless to turn a blind eye till things got this critical? Tonye was left with so many unanswered questions.

Tothe west of Tonye were Deji and his family. Deji’s father’s once-flourishing business had collapsed overnight, and they had become homeless. They had been staying in the once vibrant city of Lagos, with his father’s business situated in the choice Victoria Island area. But Lagos, along with other coastal cities of the world, had long been submerged due to rising sea levels that had submerged coastal cities globally. Millions of people had lost their lives, and Deji and his family were barely lucky to have been able to migrate to Osun state alive. His cousins, however, hadn’t been as lucky. Unfortunately, a few years ago, two of his maternal cousins, Maka and Kene, had lost their lives following the aftermath of a severe flooding event, which was the worst the country had ever experienced. They had both been his best friends, and Deji was yet to recover from the trauma. His family had moved to Osun state as they couldn’t afford decent housing on the outskirts of Lagos. Neighboring states close to Lagos had witnessed the mass migration of Lagosians who were lucky to escape alive. This, in turn, pushed the price of accommodation through the roof. Feeding had also become a problem as food supply had become very limited, stemming from the desertification up north.

Having received quality education due to his father’s initial affluence, Deji was quite knowledgeable about climate change and its impacts. One gloomy night, Deji looked up to his father and asked a very tough question.

His father, shocked at his question stared at him and tried to say something, but his spittle had run dry, and he could barely utter a word. He knew very well that Deji was right. Perhaps if his generation and the ones before hadn’t ignored the signs, if they hadn’t been selfish to only think of their immediate returns, without considering the impacts of their actions on generations to come, perhaps things would be different. Putting himself together, he finally was able to speak up.

He however knew deep down that it was too late; things had gotten to a tipping point where there was no coming back, and the catastrophic events witnessed were only but a tip of the iceberg of further disasters to come.

Deji had no idea that far away in Sokoto, and down South in Rivers state, Amina, Tonye and a million other kids were asking the same question. Albeit, no justifiable answer was given.

The story above is a scenario analysis of how things might pan out in 2050, if we don’t start to act now. It is children’s day today. Take a look at the kids around you and ask yourself if they would be proud of your actions today. There is hardly any time left. The change begins with you, with us. It is our personal responsibility to ensure that we use the available resources efficiently in a way that would not compromise the existence of the generations to come. Will your answer to generations to come be “I’m sorry” just like Deji’s father? There are many Aminas, Dejis and Tonyes out there depending on you to make the right decision and take action now. Let’s do this for our leaders of tomorrow, for future generations unborn. Let’s make them proud of the decisions we make today. The time is now!!!

Happy Children’s Day to all the kids out there. May our current actions never be a threat to your future survival!!!

Written by Kate Karieren, for the Youth Sustainable Development Network (YSDN)