By Sithis Yim Samnang
Happy Birthday to my ten-year-old brother, Sotheareach! I know it’s been two years that I have not been to your birthday parties, buddy! And, for that I am so sorry. I’d really like to watch you grow up and be the best brother I can be, but I guess that is not possible right now. Anyway, I hope that you are having a great party! I love you so much!
But today, I want to tell you that I’m afraid of the world you will grow up in. Our house is heating to an extreme level. Our local public park can only be enjoyed during the evening, and who knows how long that is going to last? Our parents now need to pay for your attendance at the school building with air conditioning, because they don’t want to see you in a hospital with heatstroke. Our house may even flood in October because every year, the water level in the street below ours seems to rise by 10cm. You may even see our dad twice a month, because he has to deal with the drought and the flood that is torturing the lives of farmers due to the unstable water level of the provincial reservoir. I don’t know how this is going to be called ‘childhood’. I am glad that we have our parents, who cherish us deeply, but how many kids are there that will suffer- and maybe already are?
It seems like, every summer, when I go home to visit my mom, dad, and two beloved brothers, the air is humid and as hot as an induction plate. Every single face that I see is dripping with sweat, and I could not stay in my house even with the air conditioning on. Compared to when I was back in Italy, people were enjoying the highest of the Maslow hierarchy of needs: arts, high class education, comfortable temperature (I give you that one.), and incredible food (buon appetito!). By contrast, the moment I stepped out of Phnom Penh International airport, I could feel my skin contract at the sensation of unbearable heat. Imagine being in this condition for a whole month! It is getting hotter every single second.
Why? You guessed it! Greta Thunberg was right. “Eternal economic growth”. I don’t know for what nations or for whom, but it is “eternal economic growth”. I don’t know want to bore you with the science fact that you never cared to listen to. Just stop! You are building factory after factory, taking hectare after hectare of forest. Oh my god! I don’t even want to go on about how bad deforestation is in Cambodia; trees are falling everywhere deeper than 1km away from the road, and it seems so much harder to catch the culprits than to catch a few teenagers smuggling 10 grams of drugs. Producing so much- and those products aren’t even used by the people who produce them in the first place.
Greta was right, very right. How dare you? How dare you take away my brother’s childhood? How dare you take away his games and his love for going outside? How dare you taking away the lives of millions of children? Just stop! I know some of you are performing a good show in your cradle-to-cradle operation system, in your corporate social responsibility, in your humble ways of marketing your ethical goods. Now, you need to step off of your sacred pedestal and look your children in the eyes. They are seeing a role model, so be one; and show them that you dare to safeguard their future, that you dare to provide a wonderful life for my brother, that you dare to give every kid the planet they deserve.
Sithis Yim Samnang, Class of 2022, is a Politics, Economics, and Literature major from Sisophon, Cambodia.
Image Source: https://downloads.unicef.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/UN0286416-1500×1000.jpg