Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources of Iceland

10/14/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 10/14/2021 06:08

Ávarp Guðmundar Inga Guðbrandssonar umhverfis- og auðlindaráðherra við setningu alþjóðlegu barna- og unglingabókmenntahátiðarinnar Saman úti í mýri - Ávarpið er á ensku

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be here with you today, to open Mýrin, an International children's literature festival in Reykjavík. This is the tenth festival held in 20 years, congratulations on that.

Let's say you need to explain a complex, difficult and pressing matter to a child. Perhaps it's an issue far bigger and further away than anything the child has ever experienced in its own life. Maybe it´s death, disease, or a natural hazard. What do you do? How do you explain the matter?

My guess is, you tell a story.

When reading Astrid Lindgren's The Brothers Lionheart, thinking about what happens when someone dies is suddenly not only tragic and terrifying, but also somewhat beautiful. At least that's how I felt when reading it as a child. Nangijala sounded like a beautiful and adventurous place, where one could meet loved ones again, after they had passed away. And that provided comfort to my childlike mind, even though Nangijala wasn't entirely free from danger either.

Stories can be the most precious support in difficult circumstances. Not only can they provide shelter for our minds when we need to escape, even just for a while, but they can also broaden our horizon. They can enrich our reality. And deepen our understanding.

I had never been to a Swedish forest as a child, but by reading Ronia the Robber´s daughter by Lindgren, I felt like I had. I knew that it was a fascinating place with giant trees and icy cold ponds, rivers and waterfalls. I knew that the forest had pristine nature, which deserved admiration and respect. And that it could be dangerous at times. Even deadly. I knew that because that's how the lead character Ronia, , experienced it.

A story, even folklore, is a powerful way to teach children something about places or circumstances that they have never experienced themselves.

Ladies and gentlemen.

We recently had our gravest warning about climate change until now, from IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, when it published its most recent report in August.

• Human activity is changing the climate.
• It is unprecedented and sometimes irreversible.
• Extreme weather events will become more frequent. We will have more heatwaves, droughts, and floods.
• The UN Secretary-General António Guterres said the report was a code red for humanity. The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable, he said.

Now that is a lot to stomach. This has to do with the future of our children. And how do you tell them that? How do you tell them that without crushing their hearts and souls?

I'm guessing that there are other people in the audience better equipped to answer that question. Some of you have even already dealt with that task. Written stories, trying to explain incomprehensible truths. I thank you for that.

I am not an author, but bear with me for a minute. Imagine a path. It is rather narrow, but it is a good path to be on because it leads to a better place. This is the path of action. Where we are aware of danger but not overcome by it. Not in denial either.

This is the path I myself try to stay on, when it comes to overwhelming tasks like fighting climate change. When we look to one side, there is numbness. Denial even. And we most certainly do not want to go there, because it doesn't lead to action. On another side there is panic, which can be paralyzing and can potentially lure us off the path of action. And that's the opposite of what we need.

I hope that by creating children's literature that deals with climate change we provide them the notion of this path. That we face the facts and the truth but inspire them at the same time. That we give them the necessary hope.

Because even though the IPCC was a code red for humanity, it also said that there was a way to turn the tide. If we chose the path of action.

Thank you.