Child abuse?! Researcher links weather to climate & ask kids ‘to close their eyes and think about flooding’ – Kids respond with ‘harrowing’ images
By David Shukman
One little girl draws a nightmarish picture of people calling for rescue as they drown in rising water.
Another sketches a huge snake with sharp teeth to show the power and danger of flooding.
These disturbing images are the work of children at a primary school in Can Tho province, a region of Vietnam that is regularly swamped.
They live in the Mekong Delta, a huge plain of rivers and rice-fields that’s popular with tourists but lies only just above the surface of the ocean.
The land itself is sinking and, at the same time, the level of the sea is rising, as global warming causes the water to expand and the ice caps to melt.
That’s why the delta, one of the world’s greatest centres for rice production and home to 18 million people, is recognised as especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
The children were asked to draw their pictures as part of a project run by Florence Halstead from the University of Hull, a researcher into young people’s attitudes on global warming.
At a primary school, which was itself flooded three years ago, she asked the pupils to close their eyes and think about flooding and then to describe what was on their minds.
Loi, a 10-year-old, leapt to his feet and came out with a shocking image – “people on their houses screaming for help”.
His classmate, To Nhu, used crayons to depict a small girl drifting on her own in a boat towards what looked like a whirlpool or tornado.
“I think the flood is so scary,” she told me, “and I hope that we will not be swept away in the flood season.”
Florence Halstead, is exploring the social implications, particularly for a generation that will grow up having to face more threatening conditions.
She described some of the children’s pictures as “harrowing” but said it was important to prepare them for what lies ahead.
“They live in a water world, and that’s only going to increase – the water’s not going to go away and they need to learn how to adapt.”