Write for Change - Under 18's Winner and Shortlist

Penguin Green Ideas Book Collection

Write for Change Under 18s Winner.

Emmanuel Lafenwa, Nigeria, age 16

Greene woke up at her usual time each morning – 6a.m. She rolled her body to the other side of the bed seeking the comfort of her pillow, but all she could feel was a hard stony object. She opened her eyes and the sky stared icily at her. She stood up abruptly as she took in her environment in shock. Everywhere was bare. No roads, houses, trees – nothing. She was certain she wasn’t dreaming. Everywhere was devoid of humanity. “I have a task for you,” she heard a voice say. The voice was distinct, peculiar, accentless…everywhere. Fear began to prickle up her spine.  She looked around panicky. “Who are you? Please don’t eat me, I’m not delicious,” she pleaded.  “Mother Earth. I won’t eat you but you have to save the planet before…” The voice trailed off.  “But why me? I'm but a small girl.” “Listen! You have the potential, zeal and knowledge to tackle climate change. You are the only one that stood out. You have the blueprint for change, you just have to show it.”  “Yeah, sure, they will listen to an 11-year-old girl,” she said sarcastically. She looked around and an idea suddenly popped into her head. “Can’t you just wipe out all fossil fuels, greenhouse gases – anything that destroys the climate or, better still, make the environment stronger and more resistant to change?”  “I would have done that if it was possible, but I don’t have that power. Once a celestial body creates, it can’t recreate or destroy.” “But you just exterminated humanity and all they've created. Double standards at its best.” “And who told you I exterminated humanity? I only held them to make Nature recover. I'll admit that it was counter-productive. You see, humans are the prime jewel every planet wished to have. I’m very lucky to have created them. The bitter truth is that Nature can’t recover without humans. But my patience is wearing thin. Land, Sea and Air are complaining, Ozone is angry with me. Moon is, well, that’s a different story entirely. Sadly, this isn’t only about them but also about me. I’m losing the Sun's favour quickly. He said he is sick and tired of killing beautiful creatures through heatwaves just because my ozone can’t absorb his radiation. He has vowed to destroy me if I don’t find a way to fix my mess. You can fix this.”  She fidgeted, and said, “I…don’t…know what to do…” “Simple: influence your friends, advocate for change and release the blueprint. Now Go! But remember: ONLY you and your species can save us.”  As everything around her turned and swirled, she imagined how the world would be if they all joined hands to fight the ravages of climate change and all the lives that would be saved. This had been her dream since she was six and she was about to make it a reality.  She was a girl on a mission.

Write for Change Shortlisted Entries, Under 18s category

Keira Schaefer, US, age 13


Earth grieves for the sake

Of its animals and plants 

Crying tears of acid rain 

Sick and tired from pollution 

Slowly drowning in the heat 

Through the global warming crisis  

A day for renewal glows

Like stars beaming in the sky 

We must act and rise together  

Because we are the only chance

Marnie Gingell, UK, age 15

You had your chance to stop this mess,  but you didn’t, passed onto our generation the stress, you still do nothing even now, I can’t comprehend how you were able to pollute our world without another thought, gave up the battle, hardly having fought. You carry on with your deforestation,  recklessly destroying nation upon nation,  continuing to use every fossil fuel, staying as stubborn as a mule,  refusing to acknowledge the effects, making this crisis even more complex.   

As the sea levels continued to rise,  you stared unknowingly at our demise, as you witnessed a large forest fire, hardly noticed when global emissions grew higher, watched as our Earth became a barren land,  which is why now we make a stand. We are left with 11 years to fight, and I can promise you we will with all our might,  our generation WILL be the correction,  to all of your gross neglect, there is no PLANet B, no way for you to flee.   

Here we stand, left with no choice, we only have one way to share our voice, then you ask me, what is my advice?  To help stop the melting of the ice. Take climate change seriously on this Earth day,  don't let your priorities go astray,  take action today.

Rebekah Bongers, UK, age 16

MY VOICE        

I have a voice.    

And I demand to be heard.         

I want to live in   

A beautiful world.    

With quiet evenings,    

Clear skies by day    

And night.    

Black speckled with    

Countless stars.         

I have a voice.    

And I desire to be heard.         

I wish for    

Flourishing oceans again.    

For exotic life to    

Return to our seas.    

Colourful creatures adorning    

Myriad corals and     

Secluded caves        

I have a voice.    

And I beg to be heard.        

I dream of     

Picturesque valleys and    

Magnificent hills.    

Unspoilt by     

Ugly buildings.    

Wild and untouched    


I have a voice.     

And I demand to be heard.         

Because my voice matters.

Edward Park, US, age 14

January 1, 2035  Juliana Solo    

2035 has arrived and what a year it has been for all of us. As recently as 2021, scientists stated that if the rate of global warming did not change, by 2100 and possibly sooner, rapid heating would threaten the peace and maybe even the survival of humanity. By 2034, as we all know, scientists were becoming increasingly desperate about the speed of this change and how feedback loops were pushing the planet toward a point of no return. However, Edward Park, the founder of Nuclearizer has given them some rest from their anxiety.   The story begins In 2021 when it was reported that over three trillion dollars was used to subsidize fossil fuels internationally from 2015.

With great foresight, the American government decided to stop subsidizing gas companies and started subsidizing research into nuclear fusion. Edward Park and his company, Bolyby, benefited from this reallocation of valuable resources. Bobby was founded in 2016 with the purpose of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by proving that the ultimate source of renewable energy, nuclear fusion, was a realistic and practical solution. Last year, Nuclearizer, the nuclear fission plant production subsidiary of Bolyby smashed the record for valuation at IPO, becoming the largest company in history overnight.  Ever since he was a teenager, Park realized the importance of changing the world’s approach to energy production and consumption. He recently told one of our reporters, “I’ve reached my dream, I’m creating a better and cleaner Earth. I’ve created a better quality of air and life.”

Thanks to the US government’s reallocation of taxpayers’ money and the brilliant genius of individual scientists and business people, human history really has changed. Nuclear fusion is the forced merging of hydrogen atoms in a process that releases huge amounts of clean energy. The only input is saltwater, and the only product is energy. As of today, around 73% of workplaces and homes have changed their energy source to nuclear fusion.  

Park, however, is not finished yet. He has announced a new idea for his second company under Bolyby just a few days ago. He discussed the emission of gas from cows and the negative outcomes of domestication. The name of the company has not been announced yet, however, he has confirmed that he will create foods with the taste and texture of actual meat without the harm caused by massive ranches. Leaving his office in New York, our reporter asked him to comment on his new business. As he was getting into his car, he smiled and shouted “I plan to stop all the farts and burps from cows… Farmers burn trees in forests for domestication… Our world is becoming a terrible place, I’ll fix everything, that is my goal and hope.” The official press release states that he plans to launch this company in 2036. The first step, of course, will be to stop the giant food companies from receiving subsidies and tax grants from federal and state governments and allocate those resources to innovative and forward-looking leaders like Edward Park.

Megan George, UK, age 15


We surely cannot be trusted anymore

To save the Earth from the plastic war.   

Do we not realise what we're fighting for?  

Our home, our planet and so much more   

How much more can I implore 

The importance of this cause   

To undo this disaster, the chaos we've caused 

To recycle our rubbish and restore 

To build a renewable energy store 

To fix this catastrophe before

It gets too late to ignore.   

Don't waste this opportunity,

We have too much Earth yet to explore

Because this is not just my problem, it's yours 

So help save the Earth from this war.  

Jahee Son, South Korea, age 17

“I don’t understand why we have to go, this place is boring and it smells.” 

“Seung Uk! We haven’t seen your grandmother in years, and we promised to visit for Arbor Day.” 

“Ugh, this road is killing me! Why haven’t they paved it yet?” 

“Seung Uk please… be kind to your grandmother.”

I tuned out my brother’s complaints: the road was interesting. On the expressway you couldn’t see much as it zoomed by, but here I could see wildflowers. It was too early for dragonflies, but I imagined them dancing. I opened the window a crack and filled my senses with the trees. It was a welcome change from the past five years in the concrete, glass, and steel world I now knew in Shanghai. 

Planting trees was something we used to do once a year. The mountain had been bare after the Korean war, and the village came together under the Dangsan tree: should they build a factory and enjoy the prosperity it would bring? They chose no. Now it looked so alive: their efforts had restored a paradise. I was blessed to see a lush, vibrant mountainside, and my heart swelled just gazing on this most valuable of treasures. This wouldn’t have been possible without the belonging, the connection, symbolized in the Dangsan tree at the centre of the village. When I think of what needs to change, I see the answer in how the relationships we share with nature and one another affect what we choose to build and how to live, and that only through fostering these connections can we hope to meet the greatest challenge we have ever faced: climate change.

Amani C. Snellings, US, age 14


We were once surrounded by nature 

Flower petals danced, 

As if in a dream across the sky 

Roots burrowed deep into the ground 

Trees stood tall and proud,  

Reaching into the azure 

A colourful whirlwind of life   

We started to build 

More and more,  

Floor after floor 

We let a new plant take over, 

Merciless and cold, 

Forcing poison into the once sacred air 

Mother Nature suffered  

The heart of our planet shrivelled,  

Decaying slowly 

We could no longer deny that our Earth, 

Our planet, 

Our home, 

Was dying   

Life fought back 

Vibrant bits of greenery, 

Sprouting from the ashes of destruction, 

People came together at last 

Determined and strong, 

Ready to learn and grow, 

Ready to move forward  Earth,  

At last,  

Started to heal.

Cojitha Senanayake , Sri Lanka, age 13


I’ve been here countless years before

And I’ll be there for millions more.

Perhaps I’ll change and morph, or I won’t.

It will mainly depend on what you do or don’t.

I’ll watch from afar while you battle your many selves:

narcissist, warrior-protector, self-absorbed scoundrel, all with you, do dwell.

Which one will win, I do not know.

It is a skirmish from long ago. 

I watch as you confuse greed for need:

this is apparent in your every word and deed. 

Grasping hands clinging to a myriad things.

Not understanding the joy that simplicity brings.

“Our desires," you scream, from corners afar,

“comes first. For it’s what we have, and it defines who we are."

With it comes happiness, you mistakenly thought, 

But can true contentment ever really be bought? 

Mansions, cars, and Cuban cigars,

Keeping up with the Joneses, constantly raising the bar,

You run towards an illusion of glory. 

It's every autobiography, every monotonous story. 

A light dawns, flickers, momentarily takes hold, then disappears. 

My bosom is filled with too many of your apathetic tears.

This cycle continues day after day, 

As you stumble about, finding your way.   

Generous I am, so I give you air to breathe, 

Fresh water to drink, without which you’ll cease, 

I offer you fruits and provide you with shade, 

Yet with your actions, it was me you betrayed. 

When you polluted the air with your poisonous fumes, 

And unleashed toxins into the waters consumed, 

When you cut down the trees, with careless aplomb,

You tied yourself to a ticking bomb. 

Which in truth, might detonate before you are gone, 

But its impact felt most by generations to come.   

Magnanimous I’m not, so I’ll give you something to remember me by, 

The storms and hurricanes that descend from a choleric sky, 

The floods that keep you imprisoned in chains of your own making, 

An earthquake that leaves the very foundations of society, shaking. 

Tsunamis that displace, maim and kill, 

Wildfires that rage lawless and unstoppable, still 

Worse perhaps, are volcanoes spewing hate,

The parching droughts that seldom abate,  

Viruses that roam virulent and rampant 

Changes everything, while everything’s stagnant.   

So, what can you do, how do you proceed? 

How do you protect nature while meeting your needs?

It's easy: Appreciate your world, don't take it for granted, 

Seeds of change, to grow, first have to be planted. 

So, after much thought, here’s my proposal: 

Use wisely the resources at your disposal. 

Learn about sustainability, learn about balance. 

For a better tomorrow, use your skills and your talents. 

Source renewable energy, use efficient appliances. 

Map out careers in environmental sciences. 

Return to your roots and grow your own food. 

Engage in actions for the greater good. 

Don’t procrastinate; act without delay, 

And tomorrow will surely be a brighter day.

Jodi Wilson , South Africa, age 16

How much time do we have? Mother Earth, struggling to survive yet another day of this abhorrent torment. Since the very first day, mankind has been given all they have ever needed to survive, but that was just never enough for them. The avaricious behaviour of these mortals is expirating the bounteous harvest that this intricate sphere provides them with.  Mankind desires power and opulence to the point where their unrelenting demand for more and more and more causes cataclysmic consequences for their surroundings. Mother Earth laments as the skies turn grey with melancholic hues and as nature takes its downfall. Their vigorous actions dispossess wildlife of their rightful habitat, leaving no hope for a favourable future. As icebergs melt, continents burn and forests diminish, the iniquitous behaviour of these mortals shows their apathy. They are truly self-absorbed. While their egocentric activities harm the environment, their poor choices start to play a negative role in the rising temperatures that aggravate global warming. These repellent beings with ungrateful souls and an insatiable hunger for more than can be obtained, distress Mother Earth.  Feeling weary and exasperated, Mother Earth groans as another day begins. Gazing into the expansive and eternal galaxy, she wonders if there is hope among utter calamity. Do what's right before it's too late.