Old Enough to Save the Planet

Illustrated by Adelina Lirius

“I am smart enough to read this book. I care enough to hear the news. I know enough to make the change. I am old enough to save the planet”.

Old Enough is a collection of nonfiction mini-reports on climate and environmental initiatives led by youth climate activists from around the world. The book opens with a foreword and a call to action by Kallan Benson, co-founder of FridaysforFuture. The next opening, effectively a Table of Contents, features mini-bios of 12 real-life youth climate activists from 11 countries. This is followed by 12 double-side openings dedicated to specific “changemaking” initiatives. Each opening functions as a mini-report, even a self-contained poster for a particular project. Each consists of the same four elements: it starts with a first-person affirmative statement like “I’m big enough to save our trees” or “I’m compassionate enough to protect animals.” It includes a short narrative intro about the youth activist and their initiative. It includes 5 to 7 facts about the particular challenge—deforestation, plastic pollution, biodiversity loss, etc.—sprinkled across a double-page spread illustration that features the child activist and others engaged in the collective work. And it includes the name of the activist, their country, and the changemaking category, say “Organic gardening as a way to produce food and reduce waste” or “Rescuing the ocean from being destroyed by pollution.” The book ends with an information page listing 10 things you can do to save the planet, 10 things you can do to make your voice heard, and links to Further Reading. a statement that “the future of our planet starts.. here.. with you”- a clear message that it requires collective actions to fight the climate crisis and create a better future together. 

Old Enough is an easily accessible overview of youth climate activism, featuring selected youth-led climate initiatives happening all over the world. It lends itself to at least three specific classroom uses for climate literacy pedagogy. First, the examples include communicating that climate change is not just about weather or temperatures but is entangled with all kinds of human activity: from deforestation, plastic and traffic pollution, to farming, waste, and other human impacts on land, oceans, and the planet. Each opening and each project can be thus used as a springboard to further explore a particular facet of climate change and climate activism: say, reintroducing native plants and animal in severe flooding areas in Indonesia (Adeline’s opening), establishing community gardens to support pollinators in Kenya (Eunita’s opening), or writing about trash and speaking up in schools to boost up recycling in Georgia, USA (Brooklyn’s opening).

Second, the book offers an affirmative message that young people have the power to be changemakers, even when acting in their local spaces. This is communicated in clear, direct language: “I’m big enough…”, “We’re smart enough…”, “I’m powerful enough,” or “I’m creative enough…” Students can research each activist and their initiative to discover more about solutions such as reforestation, reducing traffic emissions, elimination of single-use plastic, restoring biodiversity, protecting endangered species, reducing litter waste, engaging in organic gardening, protecting pollinators, composting, removing plastic waste from the oceans, raising awareness about the impacts of palm oil industry, and education for water conservation. Unlike books that engender climate guilt and climate anxiety, Old Enough excels at providing children with a lens to confront climate change in a hopeful and empowering way (see planetarianism).

Third, the book expands the notion that ordinary children can make a difference and save the planet. When talking about youth climate activists, many can only think of Greta Thunberg. Old Enough shows, however, that Greta is just one among many other children across the globe who actively participate in combating climate change. Besides showing that climate activism can be done by everyone and everywhere, the book highlights the power of collective action. Each initiative to mitigate the effects of climate change, clean or restore the environment, or design sustainable solutions to current practices requires communities to understand their power and rally around common goals.

©2023 ClimateLit (Dongmei Lian)

Publisher: Magic Cat Publishing, 2021

Pages: 42

ISBN: 978-1419749148

Audience: Little People (4-7), Questers (8-13), Rebels (14-older)

Format: Picturebooks

Topics: Biodiversity Loss, Carbon Emissions, Climate Anxiety, Climate Crisis, Climate Justice, Climate Literacy, Collective Action, Community Garden, Composting, Earth Stewardship, Endangered Species, Flood, Fossil Fuels, FridaysforFuture, Gardening, Litter Waste, Native Plants, Organic Gardening, Palm Oil Industry, Planetarianism, Pollinator, Recycling, Reforestation, Single-Use Plastic, Traffic Emissions, Trash, Water Conservation, Youth Climate Activism, Youth-Led Climate Initiatives