A man buffeted by storm winds
clings to a fragile umbrella painted with the map of the earth. Painted by
13-year-old Charlotte Sullivan of Great Britain, it’s one of the prize-winning
paintings created in a 17-year-old children’s art competition sponsored by the
U.N. Environment Program. Some of those paintings are now on display in the
main lobby of the U.N., while an auction of 26 others raised $21,000 for the
United Nations Children's Fund, to be used to help children in areas touched by
The U.N. brought child artists from several continents to
New York to participate in the exhibit and auction. The 52 works were chosen
from among 200,000 created for the competition in the last 17 years, said U.N.
Environment Program executive director Achim Steiner. “We chose them to give a
voice to children's and young people's views about climate change,
environmental challenges and how they view their future, but also our
responsibility to do something today,” he said.
The chosen paintings are by
children from countries including Thailand, China, the Philippines, Nigeria,
Kenya, Russia, Greece, Armenia,
Ukraine, and Colombia, among others. Some are optimistic, and show the sun and
wind as new sources of power. Others portray Arctic animals wilting in the
heat, or even the Earth itself, sweating and exhausted. A few suggest human
despair at a degraded world.
Nine-year-old Katherine Liu of the
United States prescribed change with her painting, an idyllic landscape inside
the outline of a lightbulb. “Inside the lightbulb everything is good and what
we should do and should use,” she said, “and outside the lightbulb everything
is bad and broken down, and it's things we shouldn't use.”
Guy Nindorera, 14, has seen famine
caused by environmental degradation in his country, Burundi. His painting, and
an accompanying animation by the U.N. show two possible fates for the world,
pictured on opposite sides of an ancient tree. “If we continue destroying the
environment, we could all die,” Nindorera said. “Right now we are victims of humans'
activities, victims of our own activities. So, I think we should stop and take
a good action.”
Achim Steiner noted that a recent
survey by his agency found that young people and children around the world rate
climate change as a major concern, and want governments to act now to halt it.
“Paintings are just one means to express that,” he said. “There are many, many
different ways. But sometimes the imagery of art goes beyond language barriers
and cultural barriers. They speak to a universal population in the world.”