A while ago my nephew told me of his assignment, “Besok presentasi tentang our forest—tomorrow we’re gonna do a presentation on our forest.”
He is a second grader studying at a local inclusive school in Yogyakarta, and while I was often skeptical of inclusive schools, I was quite impressed with their initiative to take on environmental education for elementary students this time. It was going to be his second presentation on environment, with forest in particular.
His answer intrigued me that I ended up asking more, “So what are you going to do for your presentation? Yuk belajar dulu sama Auntie!”
My nephew shrugged and said that he’s already understand the basics of the subject, mentioning that it will only be centered around no littering and the importance of recycling. For him it was boring.
“Hutan itu penting karena beri udara—forests are important because they provide us with air.”
It hit me right there—that though for us the elders environmental damage and climate change only goes around to be discussed with scientific and third-person view, these little kids that we adore are the ones that will receive the direct impact for our technocratic-oriented industrialism acts. And they need to be made aware to prepare themselves for that, even from early ages.
I told him that forest are not just important, but they themselves, along with every elements of the nature are highly needed to support the sustainability of human lives. I told him of greenhouse gases, global warming, its eventual consequences of global climate change with the increasing sea levels and the possibility that Indonesia will be submerged in the future. I told him that papers, plastics, gadgets, and most of what we consume and use in everyday lives can affect these changes. I told him of the plastics islands formed in between oceans that will not be able to be decomposed in a long time and how it was consumed by other organism and become toxins, damaging the ecosystem. I told him that it would be so sad if humans were to die in an unnatural way, suffering because we were not cautious enough, and might even end up in a scale big enough to be called Judgement Day.
And then we began imagining the dreaded future and talking about the ideal ways for a human to die.
Saying that my nephew is smart is a disgrace—he is beyond smart. Sometimes, I found myself talking to him about the concept of life and death, religions, space, and everything else. He would then ask me questions of things beyond what adults can comprehend, or rather try to comprehend. His favorite by nature is, of course, why.
I used to ignore the facts on environmental damage and overall climate change—because honestly, it won’t happen in near future, so why would it affect me?
But then I realized that maybe we shouldn’t do it for ourselves, or even for human race, but rather for our children, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, who are not very well aware of the fact that they will live in suffering in the future for our mistakes.
I don’t want to see my nephew struggling to keep alive in the future with his house being flooded and his food contaminated.
I want to see a world in which my nephew can grow up to be healthy, happy, and courageous enough to pursue his dreams without having to worry about heavy rains and droughts.
It breaks my heart to imagine him living in a torn-down world.
If you love them, you should at least try to lessen their burden, including the future ones.
“(Aku) nggak mau meninggalnya begitu waktu Hari Kiamat, mau yang bagus biar tidak sakit, disayang Allah—(I) don’t want to die that way in the judgement day, I want to die in a good and peaceful way so that I wouldn’t feel pain, and loved by Allah.”
—An 8-years-old boy
This conversation reminded me of my favorite piece from Prince EA a few years back. I still, to this day, consider this to be one of the most sincerest way in communicating climate change. I can still feel the chills listening to his words. And as I am now, I can empathize with him. Sorry.