Advocates Launch Campaign Featuring Children Who Didn't Survive Climate Chaos

A photo from an ad campaign launched on September 13, 2023 by Fridays for Future U.S. shows the face of a child who "died from climate change."

(Photo: Fridays for Future U.S.)

Advocates Launch Campaign Featuring Children Who Didn't Survive Climate Chaos

"Premature deaths due to fossil fuel-related air pollution are silencing young voices."

To drive home the point that premature deaths from fossil fuel pollution and the climate disasters it causes—including those of children—are not "a distant, abstract concept but a pressing reality," two advocacy groups on Tuesday launched a campaign featuring the faces of kids who did not survive the climate crisis.

Fridays for Future U.S. and Youth Climate Strike L.A. generated the images using artificial intelligence with the help of creative agency Fred & Farid—but the campaign, titled "Silenced," emphasizes that the children in the pictures represent the hundreds of thousands of children who die each year from pollution and extreme weather events such as flooding and drought.

The six images produced for the campaign show children looking directly at the viewer, with the word "SILENCED" over their faces and a caption that reads, "This young person will not raise their voice against climate change because they died from climate change."

"Premature deaths due to fossil fuel-related air pollution are silencing young voices," said Fridays for Future U.S. on social media.

A United Nations Human Rights Special Procedures report found last year that globally, an estimated 150,000 premature deaths per year have been linked to climate change, while the American Thoracic Society has estimated that around 1,341 people die in Los Angeles each year due to poor air quality driven by pollution such as carbon and methane emissions from fossil fuel extraction.

UNICEF, the U.N.'s children's agency, determined in 2021 that approximately 1 billion children worldwide are at "extremely high risk" of being exposed to potentially deadly environmental and climate shocks.

Calling the climate crisis "a child's rights crisis," UNICEF said that 240 million children are "highly exposed" to flooding in coastal areas, 400 million are exposed to cyclones and hurricanes, 820 million are exposed to extreme heat, and 1 billion are exposed to "exceedingly high levels of air pollution."

The World Health Organization also revealed in 2017 that more than 1 in 4 deaths of children under the age of five are attributable to "unhealthy environments" including those that expose children to air pollution.

The children featured in "Silenced" either "could have been alive today but unfortunately passed away early or were not born at all due to the harmful effects of air pollution, particularly caused by fossil fuel emissions," said Fridays for Future U.S.

"We believe that 'Silenced' is a powerful reminder of the real human cost of climate change," said Katharina Maier, the group's national coordinator. "We're facing more and more destructive impacts from fossil fuel pollution, contaminating our water and air, and sickening our communities—with low wealth and communities of color hit first and worst."

"We need an immediate and just transition from fossil fuels. This campaign is a call to action for all of us to stand up against the fossil fuel industry and work towards a cleaner, more sustainable future," Maier added.

The campaign was launched ahead of a global climate strike planned for September 15-17, which is taking place just before world leaders convene in New York at the U.N. Climate Ambition Summit to present updated climate action and emissions reduction targets.

The climate actions of wealthy countries such as the U.S. have left advocates continuing to demand that President Joe Biden declare a climate emergency and end fossil fuel drilling on public lands, as the Biden administration this year approved the Willow drilling project in Alaska and the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Virginia and West Virginia.

"Join us on September 15th and 17th for the global climate strike as we demand an end to the era of fossil fuels," said Maier. "We are the heroes we've been waiting for."

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