Watch Kids Grill Adults About How They Messed Up the Earth

In a new video series, kids question artists, politicians, and their parents about climate change.

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Sep 14 2016, 12:00pm

Image: Climate Talks/Vimeo

In one of the episodes of Climate Talks, a new documentary project showing conversations between children and adults about the environment, nine-year-old Kai confronts his mother, Jasmine, about climate change. It's a warm, intimate exchange, but it's hard not to notice the glint of smugness in Kai's eye at the opportunity to roast his mother—and adults everywhere by extension—for leaving him a planet with so many environmental problems.

Kai holds his head high when asking questions, and gives big interjecting nods to his mother's admissions of guilt, like he's pretending to be Larry King.

"It's not that I don't care," says Jasmine to her son. "I don't know where to start."

"You're misinformed," Kai says, puckering his lips.

Video: Climate Talks/Vimeo

My generation, the Gen-Y millennials, know about climate change. And what we're seeing in our lifetime, as real as it is, foreshadows what's to come. The next generation after us will live through much more severe consequences, stemming from increased carbon emissions, ocean acidity, and mass extinctions, all accelerated by human influence.

What the generation that follows them will witness—not my generation's kids, but our grandkids—is very difficult to fathom.

Today's children have an inkling about it. According to a recent report in Hakai, some studies have found that a quarter of kids think the world will end before they get old. Cheryl Hsu, a co-founder of the Madeleine Co., a socially focussed art collective in Toronto, felt that kids deserve to ask their seniors a few questions.

"When adults talk to each other about climate change, there's a lot of weight and gravity and politics," said Hsu. "You choose your words carefully so you don't become controversial. But when a kid is literally just asking if you're doing enough, what are you doing right now, you have to engage with them. They are kids, but kids as equal partners."

Hsu said children aren't motivated by "trade-offs" like adults are, and those that believe in taking action about the environment wholly believe those initiatives are the priority. In a culture that is increasingly obsessed with speakers who shoot from the hip, it's surprising that children aren't worshipped more as public figures.

Read More: How to Get People to Give a Shit About Climate Change

Made in partnership with the Ryerson Image Centre at Ryerson University, Climate Talks consists of eight filmed conversations between adults and children, aged nine to 12, all from the same Toronto public school. The adults' own identities certainly seem to influence the conversation. Teachers, representatives from waste management, city councillors, members of parliament, artists and even their own parents are questioned.

When Leo, nine, learns that artist Edward Burtynsky is 61, he unleashes a big "wow," but it's worth noting that Leo also feels "sad that we might die soon."

Kids aren't naive. They're talking about video games on the same internet that you use to debate politics, and they have access to the same daunting news from around the world as the rest of us do. The kids in the Climate Talks videos are anxious about increasingly hostile weather conditions, and the extinction of polar bears.

"Kids are the ones inheriting the future that we have," Hsu told me. "They ought to be part of the conversation."

Climate Talks, part of the Ryerson Image Centre's exhibit The Edge of The Earth: Climate Change in Photography and Video, runs until December 4.

Disclosure: Author Zack Kotzer participated in a Nuit Blanche event coordinated by Madeleine Co. in 2012, where he made zines out of old magazines and annoyed Steve Manale for an evening.

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