- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 12, 2009

Children across the Washington area are learning about the effects of climate change and what they can do about it.

At Camp Green, located at the Capitol Hill Day School in Southeast, campers are taking part in area cleanups and exploring ways to save the Earth.

Students at Chevy Chase Elementary School in Maryland wrote earlier this year to environmental activist and former Vice President Al Gore informing him of how they are reducing deforestation by using recycled paper.

“Even if we did not start global warming, we need to help stop it,” wrote fourth-grader Vikram Akwei, 9.

Many scientists agree that the Earth is getting warmer and the climate is changing as a result of increased fossil fuels from cars and energy production as well as deforestation, which releases carbon dioxide into the air. These gases, such as methane and nitrous oxide, act as a blanket, trapping energy in the atmosphere and making the Earth warmer, such scientists say.

The shifting seasons, changes in harvesting, frequent floods and intensifying droughts are causing people to migrate to different locations around the world.

“Flooding occurs every year at my former living place,” said a migrant from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, according to a report released recently by the humanitarian organization CARE, United Nations University and Columbia University at the U.N. climate change talks in Bonn, Germany. “I could not grow and harvest crops. Life therefore was very miserable. Besides, my family did not know what else we could do other than growing rice and fishing. Flooding sometimes threatened our lives. So we moved to find another livelihood.”

Migration is often misperceived as a failure to adapt to a changing environment, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). However, throughout history, many communities have migrated to adapt to changing climate conditions.

IOM research states, “Migration, and mass migration in particular, can also have significant environmental repercussions for areas of origin, areas of destination, and the migratory routes in between and contribute to further environmental degradation.” Additionally, uprooting one’s family, often without adequate resources, takes a heavy toll.

The United States and other nations will meet in Copenhagen in December to consider a global agreement on climate change. Industrialized nations can help vulnerable populations adapt to the impacts of climate change so they are not forced to search for shelter.

Watching Vikram and other youth reminds us that our everyday decisions can make a difference.

Tonya Rawe is a policy advocate for CARE, a poverty-fighting organization.

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