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Change Makers: Oseriemen Atamewan is the 11-year-old challenging all South Africans to plant trees

WONKedition's interview series Change Makers spotlights Gen Zers that are taking action to change the world.

August 2020
Meet the force behind #60MillionTreesChallenge:

Who are you?
My name is Oseriemen Atamewan. I am a young girl aged 11 from South Africa. I am a climate activist who is passionate about fighting climate change and raising awareness on how protecting plants and ecosystems can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment and boost economic development.

What’s #60MillionTreesChallenge?
The #60MillionTreesChallenge is a call for every person in South Africa to plant at least one tree every year. South Africa’s population is almost 60 million and if each one of us plants a tree, it will go a long way in addressing issues of deforestation and desertification. So this is a challenge for people to plant trees and share their photos and videos planting tress under the hashtag #60MillionTreesChallenge and also encouraging friends and family to do the same. People are also encouraged to plant trees to mark important events in their lives such as birthdays, anniversaries, among others.

Why did you start #60MillionTreesChallenge?
While one person needs about eight trees to produce enough natural oxygen, very few have actually planted that amount of trees in their entire lives, and that’s sad. Trees are the ‘lungs of the world’ and play a big role in giving us clean air and addressing the climate change crisis. Trees also give us food, prevent soil erosion, and also create economic opportunities and also provide a habitat for wildlife, among many other benefits. Yet, more trees are being destroyed every year more than those planted. If trees are doing so much for us, why are we doing so little for them? So I started this campaign to encourage people to be changemakers who uphold principles of ownership and stewardship when it comes to trees. Section 24 South Africa’s constitution also says that everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being; and to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations. I believe planting trees is one of the important ways to ensure that this right is realized.

Where do you see yourself and #60MillionTreesChallenge one year from now?
I would like to see many people taking action, through this campaign, to reverse the damage of the flora with the goal of creating a cleaner, healthier and sustainable ecosystems across South Africa. I would like to see all living creatures and people flourish and enjoy good quality of life. One year from now, I also see myself gearing up in my efforts to fight climate change, deforestation, desertification and promoting tree planting, forestry and environmental protection and also amplify my voice in raising awareness of the importance of successful ecosystem restoration.

Follow Oseriemen Atamewan.

Other Change Makers:
- Kriti Sarav’s WhyFI Matter$ gives teens money skills
- Grace Maddrell takes action for young LGBTQ+ people and solo strikers
- Sameer Yasin started Green Kingdom to help people hurt by climate change
- Laura Muwanguzi gives hope to Uganda's children with sickle cell anemia
- Jacob Cramer’s Love for the Elderly embraces seniors across the world

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