Photo: Helen Angelova

My name is Anna Bogushenko. I grew up in the city of Alchevsk in Ukraine, where every morning I would wipe out soot from the windowsills and staircases. I had to do this, because the coke and metallurgic plants near the city were turning off their filters for the night in order to save money.

The air pollution was exceeding all possible standards. Because of this, I had my first attack of asthma when I was 10. I was a child and I was really scared.

Every year, the plant was growing and moving closer and closer to the city. The layer of dust on the windowsill became thicker, and there was smog in the air nearly every morning. It was becoming more and more difficult to breathe. This all seemed so wrong to me. That is why I wanted to learn more about the impact people have on natural processes and the whole planet, and to become a climate scientist.

My asthma attacks came to an end once I moved to study in another city. At university, I learned that there is a very close connection between air pollution, climate change and fossil fuels.

The coal industry, such as coke production in my native city of Alchevsk, emits poisonous gases and tons of coal dust into the atmosphere, and these emissions settle down on the streets and in our lungs. The mixture of dust with heavy metals, gases and fog creates a heavy smog, which has a detrimental effect on people’s health.

If climate change is an equation, then fossil fuel is the coefficient that makes the climate crisis inevitable. Polluted air, the cause of death of 10% of children under 5 globally, is number one. Burning fossil fuels emits carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and it is the main factor causing climate change – this is number two. Coal dust and smoke paint the brighter parts of earth into a dark colour, and the heat is absorbed even more – this is number three.

I was constantly thinking about this equation, thinking about what I can do about it here and now.

And I found the answer. It is important to tell others about climate change, to strike, to make demands for ambitious political decisions and goals. There is very little time left to save the planet. That is why I joined the organization of the first school strike in Ukraine, Fridays For Future, which gathered about 300 young people in Kyiv.

But I will not stop there! On September 20, I will go on Climate Strike in Ukraine, because I want to live in a safe world without climate crisis. I do not want to run away from my native city searching for clean air and clean water. Politicians of all levels must make more ambitious commitments to reduce emissions and greenhouse gases, and also facilitate a fast transition of the country to 100% renewable energy sources.

If we are aware of our power, it only grows. There are many of us, and we will ultimately win!

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