Table of contents
- The Interview: A Young Environmentalist’s Perspective
- Deforestation and Its Impact on Our Planet
- Deforestation in Numbers
- The Importance of Trees in Ecosystems
The Interview: A Young Environmentalist’s Perspective
Do you really understand the importance of trees? Kiersten, an 11-year-old from Geneva (Switzerland), dedicates herself fully to spreading awareness about deforestation and its impact on our planet. This interview sheds light on Kiersten’s journey as a young environmental advocate and I have no doubt that, by reading it, we can learn more about the important part that kids can play in safeguarding our planet’s future.
In today’s world, where environmental issues pose significant threats to our Earth, it is both inspiring and heartening to witness young individuals taking the initiative to make a positive change, isn’t it?
Early Passion for the Environment and the Importance of Trees
How did your journey as an environmentalist begin? Can you share with us what determined you to play an active role in raising awareness about environmental issues, such as deforestation and its impact on our planet?
Kiersten: My website Notjustatree started as a school project, which I continue working on now. In this project, or exhibition as we call it, we choose a topic that we feel passionate about and relates to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. I was inspired to choose deforestation for my topic when we were doing our activism unit and I learned about Julia Hill, who lived in a redwood tree for 2 years to save it. I was curious why someone would go to such great lengths to save a tree and I decided to research further into it.
What are the environmental issues that concern you the most, besides deforestation (wildlife conservation and endangered species, plastic pollution, air pollution, etc.)?
Kiersten: Deforestation is a major problem because it relates to other things that are affecting our planet. One of these is habitat loss which I care deeply about because we are the ones hurting animals even though they were here first. Another is climate change which affects animals, humans, and our environment.
Taking Action Against Deforestation
Can you share with us some of your projects that aim at creating a healthier world?
Kiersten: As I have mentioned, we are still working on our exhibition, exploring and planning the actions that we are taking. However, my website is one of these projects which I created at the outset to educate others, especially kids. More to come as I explore more concrete actions.
What are, in your opinion, the first steps kids should take if they want to change the world for the better?
Kiersten: I have 3 main steps:
1. Understand why you want to change the world for the better. If it’s a good reason and you’re passionate about it, then you can be an amazing activist!
2. Think about how you will change the world. Raising awareness is a good place to start.
3. Do it! If you ever get stressed, go back to step 1 and try to remember why you’re doing this.
How do you believe we, as humans, can effect significant and positive change in the world on both global and individual levels? How can kids play a more active role?
Kiersten: I believe that anyone can change the world, and can do it any way they want. We call the ways they can take action an activist toolkit, and it includes raising awareness, boycotting, and more. The three steps I mentioned are how kids can be more active. But when it comes to how they’ll take action, it can be as big or as small as you want.
Notjustatree: A Website for Change and Environmental Awareness
You have a website, Notjustatree. What does this name mean for you on a deeper level?
Kiersten: I named my website “Notjustatree” to remind everyone that it is in fact, not just a tree! Every time a tree is cut down a home is gone, carbon dioxide is released, the chance of natural disasters is increased, and so much more! Fortunately, the opposite is also true, like when you plant one tree. We should keep this in mind to positively impact our planet.
On your website, you feature children’s art regarding the issue of deforestation. What role do you think art can play in raising awareness, and bringing change and hope for a better future?
Kiersten: The reason why I don’t create all the artwork myself is because people, especially kids, are more interested in subjects they can be involved in. When the artwork gets published, not only does it help our planet by raising awareness and inspiring others, but the child who created it can get that feeling of happiness knowing he made a difference. This can even inspire them to continue to be engaged.
Poetry and Its Influence on Environmental Consciousness
You are a very talented poet as well, and most of your writings are about the importance of trees. How do you hope your poems will impact the readers?
Kiersten: I write poems to match others’ artwork hoping that they will understand the importance of trees. The poems I write are short and do not go into thorough detail, but hopefully they are enough to make people stop and think about this environmental problem.
What challenges did you encounter on your artistic path as a writer and during your environmental activities, and what advice do you have for young artists who are facing difficulties in finding their own artistic voices or receiving negative feedback?
Kiersten: Making a difference is hard, especially as a kid. Some of my challenges include less access to sources and people not taking me seriously. My advice is to never give up and remember that you’re not alone.
Together We Can Change the World
How do you balance your activities as an environmentalist with the carefree and playful activities of an 11-year-old?
Kiersten: Though I am passionate about deforestation you would much likely see me playing rather than working on this. I believe that we should have the right balance, which is also what I say about forests and cities. The reason I write poems is because I love literature, so you could say that being an environmentalist is not just work but can also be enjoyable, especially that sense of satisfaction when you truly make a difference.
Is there any message you want to send to the world of art and the children of the world?
Kiersten: You can change the world for the better, one step at a time, but remember, you’re not alone.
Deforestation and Its Impact on Our Planet
To fully comprehend the significance of Kiersten’s work, it is essential to understand the magnitude of the deforestation crisis. Deforestation or forest clearance refers to the deliberate removal of a forest or stand of trees. Human activities such as commercial (but sometimes also illegal) logging, agricultural expansion, and infrastructure development are its main causes.
Deforestation has far-reaching consequences that echo across the whole environment. When forests are destroyed, the delicate balance of nature is disturbed. Reduction in biodiversity, deterioration of soil quality, heightened release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and alteration of local as well as global climate patterns are merely a handful among numerous negative effects. Understanding the gravity of these consequences is crucial for acknowledging the pressing need of taking action against deforestation.
Deforestation in Numbers
According to the “WWF Living Forests Report (Chapter 5): Saving Forests at Risk“, published in 2015, up to 170 million ha of forest are at risk by 2030.
The deforestation fronts analysis conducted by WWF in 2015 was updated in 2021 with the report “Deforestation Fronts: Drivers and Responses in a Changing World“.
In comparison to the WWF’s 2015 Saving Forests at Risk Report, which identified 11 deforestation fronts at the regional level, the new WWF’s Report subdivides them into territorial units and adds a several new fronts that have emerged meanwhile.
“Most forest loss is clustered in 24 deforestation fronts across Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and Oceania. Several appeared in WWF’s previous analysis in the 2015 Living Forests Report. (…) The 24 deforestation fronts cover an area of 710 million hectares. Half of this area is currently forested (377 million hectares or about a fifth of the world’s total forest area in the tropics and sub-tropics), with primary or intact forests making up around two-thirds (256 million hectares). Over 10% of the forest area in the deforestation fronts, about 43 million hectares, was lost within the boundaries of these fronts between 2004 and 2017,” shows the WWF’s “Deforestation Fronts: Drivers and Responses in a Changing World” (2021).
The 24 deforestation fronts identified by WWF
1. Amazon – Brazil
2. Amazon – Colombia
3. Amazon – Peru
4. Amazon – Bolivia
5. Amazon – Venezuela/Guyana
6. Gran Chaco – Paraguay/Argentina
7. Cerrado – Brazil
8. Chocó-Darién – Colombia/Ecuador
9. Maya Forests – Mexico/Guatemala
10. West Africa – Liberia/Ivory Coast/Ghana
11. Central Africa – Cameroon
12. Central Africa – Gabon/Cameroon/Republic of Congo
13. Central Africa – DRC/CAR
14. Central Africa – Angola
15. East Africa – Zambia
16. East Africa – Mozambique
17. East Africa – Madagascar
SOUTHEAST ASIA AND OCEANIA
18. Mekong – Cambodia
19. Mekong – Laos
20. Mekong – Myanmar
21. Sumatra – Indonesia
22. Borneo – Indonesia/Malaysia
23. New Guinea – Indonesia/PNG
24. Eastern Australia
Global Forest Watch has an interactive map where you can check the status of Earth’s forests (from 2001 until 2022). I highly recommend you to take a look and see for yourself the impact of deforestation.
The Importance of Trees in Ecosystems
Trees play a vital role in keeping the health and stability of ecosystems. In her poetry, Kiersten emphasizes the importance of trees in maintaining biodiversity, providing habitats for countless species, and contributing to the overall well-being of our planet. Numerous plant and animal species are at risk of extinction as a direct result of habitat loss brought on by deforestation. For the conservation of biodiversity, forests must be preserved and restored.
Now, more than ever, it is crucial that we recognize the importance of trees and take action to protect our beautiful planet Earth!
Children like Kiersten play a crucial role in shaping a greener future. They have the power to be agents of change in the fight against deforestation and its impact on our planet. By raising awareness and educating their peers, families, and communities about the importance of forests, they can inspire collective action. Each and every one of us can make a difference, no matter our age or background.
Remember, every action, no matter how small, counts!
A small step to take (poetry by Kiersten)
"We all know we should act against deforestation, now! We know we should do it, but the question is how? Organizations are planning projects, but what about you? We all want to help, but what should we do? Well, we could start simply by just planting a tree, Then more and more, it'll be amazing to see. Even though it seems like a very small step to take, It might help us with the wonderful world we'll make."
Children can contribute by raising awareness, participating in tree-planting initiatives, and adopting sustainable practices, such as reducing paper waste and supporting eco-friendly products.
Art can be a powerful tool for raising awareness about deforestation and its impact on our planet. Artistic expressions such as paintings, drawings, poetry, and music can effectively communicate the importance of trees, the consequences of deforestation, and the need for conservation.
Young environmentalists can seek support from like-minded individuals, join local or online communities, and connect with established environmental organizations. Collaboration and collective action can provide encouragement, guidance, and a sense of belonging.
I invite you to visit Kiersten’s website Notjustatree and join her efforts in raising awareness about the importance of trees in our lives, and the need of taking action against deforestation.
And if you want to read another interview with a young environmentalist, please meet Baran Fateminejad, a 9-year-old girl from Iran.
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