No environmental issue is likely to impact upon the children of today more than climate change. Throughout the world, temperatures and sea levels are rising, climate-induced environmental changes are causing drought, ever more severe storms, and people in growing numbers are beginning to face the prospect of climate displacement forced to flee their homes because of climate change.

While everyone, everywhere is affected in some way by the effects of climate change, it is the children of today, their children and then their grandchildren who are likely to face the worst consequences of environmental change, even if the more moderate predictions of sea-level rise and related changes to the climate come to pass. Should global temperatures increase by 2°C in the coming decades as is commonly assumed, this will mean (among other things) a sea level rise of anywhere between 30cm – 90cm by the year 2100, if not more. If seas do indeed rise by this amount, the human effects of displacement, relocation, lost income, lost properties and lost livelihoods will inevitably be massive.

And yet, climate change is anything but a futuristic proposition. Indeed, climate change and its effects are already well underway throughout the world with people in a number of countries already grappling with displacement, future resettlement and slowly eroding standards of living. This is particularly true in countries such as Bangladesh, Kiribati, Maldives, Papua New Guineas and Tuvalu, all of which, like Australia, are located within the Asia-Pacific region. Displacement Solutions Australia has worked in these countries and maintains close partnerships with local grassroots groups, school officials and Government representatives in each of these nations.

The Coastal Kids Project will be carried out from 2012-2015 and initially connect schools and students living in coastal areas in Bangladesh with schools and students in Australia who are also coastal dwellers. Using communications technology such as Skype and other forms of internet-based connections and learning, the Coastal Kids Project will bring children from these countries into direct face-to-face contact during which time they can discuss the reality of climate change, learn how climate change is affecting them and what kids in all of these countries can do to better understand the needs and wishes of coastal kids everywhere. In time, the Coastal Kids Project will seek to involve six to eight schools from other countries that are also vulnerable to climate change.

The Coastal Kids Project has already been initiated by Displacement Solutions Australia in one school – Sorrento Primary School – in Sorrento, Victoria in Australia. Displacement Solutions Australia has provided talks on climate change to students from grades three and four, including a presentation by a leading climate change campaigner from Bangladesh, Mr. Muhammad Abu Musa, the founder and director of the Association for Climate Refugees. The students and teachers who attended these presentations were enthusiastic, engaging and all expressed an interest in expanding the project further.

We believe that putting children in direct contact with children in other countries using the topic of climate change as the discussion centerpiece serves a variety of very useful purposes for children on both sides of the discussion. These face-to-face exchanges will greatly assist in facilitating understanding by students in Australia of the real life challenges facing coastal dwellers in other countries in the developing world, and simultaneously encourage learning about how actions and consumption patterns in wealthier countries can directly impact on people elsewhere on the planet. The project will also build important international friendships and partnerships that can inform students’ perspectives throughout their lives, and can assist in building bridges of hope between developed countries and those frontline countries struggling against the reality of climate change.

To find out more about the Coastal Kids Project, write to info@displacementsolutions.org.