San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Children Teach Leaders About Climate Change

Luciana Sánchez doesn’t want a pony for Christmas. The 9-year-old from Atenas would rather the world’s leaders clean up the planet.

“It’s a picture for the world to become a better place,” said the Sabana Larga School fourth grader after she handed her painting of the earth – held in black, white and amber-colored hands – capped with a bourgeoning green tree to Tom Kennedy, the British ambassador to Costa Rica.

Luciana was one of hundreds of Costa Rican school children who delivered a visual and written message to Costa Rica’s international representatives on Tuesday at InBioPark in Santo Domingo de Heredia, north of San José. She participated in Cartas por Cambio (Letters for Change), a grassroots initiative that inspired tens of thousands of elementary and high school students across the nation to write to presidents, prime ministers and chancellors around the globe asking them to reduce pollution and take action against global warming.

The project’s leader, Roberto Jiménez, estimated that approximately 40,000 students wrote letters to the heads-of-state of more than 60 countries. The letters, written over the past few months, were piled into boxes and each box was tagged with the flag of the country to which it would be sent.

Each letter began with the student’s name, age and school. The children listed their concerns about climate change, examples of improvements that could be made, as well as the commitments they themselves would make in the hope that governments might follow their lead.

Jenna Eisenberg, a fifth grade student at LincolnSchool, said that she plans to use less Styrofoam because it takes too long to decompose. Her classmate, Giancarlo Musmanni, 11, said he hopes governments will stop allowing the burning of so much fossil fuel.

“We should use plastic and metal so we can recycle them, and we should stop using so much water,” Jenna chimed.

Giancarlo said that “we should use products that don’t make a lot of carbon dioxide so that global warming is gone.”  They both wrote to United States President Barack Obama because he “listens and is trying to help the world.”

At InBio Park yesterday, less than three weeks before global climate change negotiations will begin in Copenhagen, several of the young authors lined up to deliver their pleas to the ambassadors of foreign nations in Costa Rica, as well as to present them with bundles of other letters from their fellow students who could not attend.

The diplomats promised to take the requests to their bosses.

“We will certainly be sure that Prime Minister (Patrick) Manning gets this,” said Sandra Honoré, Trinidad and Tobago’s ambassador to Costa Rica, as she lifted a box filled to the brim with decorated letters and drawings.

Foreign representatives from Latin American nations such as Nicaragua, Colombia and Venezuela, and envoys from countries from as far away as Japan and China, each carried a box out of the park, and each made the same guarantee. Obama, one of the children’s favorites, will receive three boxes of cards this holiday season. But Tuesday’s meeting stretched far beyond the several hundred seats at InBioPark’s open-air theater.

Lissandra Morales, a high school freshman from Cóbano, a small village in Costa Rica’s NicoyaPeninsula, flew to Mexico with her mother on Monday, Nov. 23, with a suitcase full of letters. On Tuesday evening, Nov. 24, Lissandra handed the letters to Mexico’s secretary of foreign affairs and to representatives from eight other countries, including Australia, Indonesia and South Africa.

The Cartas por Cambio project selected Lissandra because she and her family live in a region that could lose coastal land because of rising sea levels unless global emissions drop within the next five years. She took that message to Mexico’s president.

Back at InBioPark, while decision makers, politicians and emissaries retreated to the refreshment table for coffee after the event, Luciana, the 9-year-old painter from Atenas, twisted her torso from side to side, her  dark hair swaying. With her hands clutched behind her back and a shy smile on her face, she said, “If we don’t take care of our planet the people who live on it are going to be in big trouble. That’s not good for my friends and my family and our future.”

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