by Seema Akhtar
Most 11-year-olds don’t have much to include on a resumé. Not so for Jona David. At 11, Jona is a United Nations (UN) Child Ambassador for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), an advocate for children’s rights and an avid eco-scientist. He is a student at The Element High School, a chorister in the St Matthews boys’ choir, a maths and science prize winner and big brother to Nico, 8, who is also a UN Child Ambassador for the SDGs. Jona is also an international public speaker who has spoken on child rights in cities all over the world including at UNESCO’s Conference on Global Citizenship Education in Ottawa in March 2017, at the UN’s Convention on Biodiversity in Mexico in December 2016 and at the UN Children’s Summit in New York in 2015, to name a few. And Jona is a writer, an award-winning UN Child Author no less, with three books already published and a fourth, The Cosmic Climate Invention, in the works. Jona proves that children can make a big difference in our communities and in the world.
Jona got his start in writing by having to overcome adversity. He was diagnosed at seven with dyslexia. His reaction? To grit his teeth and memorize the 8,000 most common words in the English language. Then Jona wrote a story when he was only eight to prove he had overcome the challenge. That story went on to win an award, and a writer and activist was born.
“All of my stories are about saving our planet, promoting eco-education and using science and technology wisely,” says Jona. The stories, which are told through the adventures of an eco-inventor boy and his little brother, are published by the UNESCO Voices of Future Generations Children’s Book Series.
The first book, The Epic Eco-Inventions, is about a mad genius eco-inventor boy who secretly creates amazing inventions as birthday gifts for his little brother but is too afraid to share his talent. But the eco-inventor gains the courage to share his creations with the world after defending his little brother against a bully.
Jona’s second book, The Great Green Vine Invention, begins with a garbage crisis threatening the town where the boys live. A pet dragon plant, a flying hybrid car and a Great Green Vine invented to eat garbage, that gets out of hand and starts eating useful things too, all feature in the boys’ attempt to save the day!
The third book, The Mechanical Chess Invention, is about an evil inventor who uses peer pressure and dangerous plastic “battle robot” toys to take over the world. As always, the eco-inventor and his little brother use a special invention to defeat the evil inventor in an epic battle.
Jona’s books raise awareness of the UN Sustainable Development Goals: tackling issues from education and innovation to climate action and sustainable consumption. But they also deal with issues that affect many young people today, such as having the courage to be yourself, stopping bullying and resisting peer pressure.
We may also have to add inventor to Jona’s resumé as he has actually created blueprints for each of the creative inventions that appear in his books. “I figure out what materials are needed to build it, how it works and everything. I have a huge portfolio at home with drawings of all the inventions. Each invention has a real purpose. They share future aspects of science with us and help us protect our earth.” Who knows? Perhaps one day we will see a great green vine that eats garbage or an oyster mushroom that bio-accumulates pollution!
But for the moment, Jona is focusing on raising awareness of the SDGs and the need to protect our environment. “It’s really important that all children around the world—rich or poor, no matter where they live—have a sustainable future. If we carry on consuming and polluting, our ecosystems and all our resources will burn out. If highways, rubbish and oil spills take over, animals and plants will be miserable and ill. If we let climate change get worse, many people will be hurt or even die in floods and typhoons. That’s why the SDGs are so important and I believe that children can help.”
So, are you inspired yet? Ready to take action to help save the planet? Jona and his brother, Nico, have a few suggestions to get you started:
Tell everyone about the SDGs. Blog, make posters, paint murals, make music, dance and drama, start a radio show, or you can even write books yourself!
Help change your school! Start eco-clubs, reduce, re-use and recycle, adopt global citizenship education, and plant rooftop or community gardens.
Call for renewable energy, more green spaces and sustainable transportation. Take action against air and light pollution. Save endangered species. End poverty!
“Our own survival and the survival of all future generations is at stake,” says Jona. “It’s urgent. Children can raise awareness about the problems but they can also be part of the solutions. Children can make change happen, locally and globally.”
Seema Akhtar loves writing and painting. Some of her work will be showing at the Shanghai restaurant from March 30 – April 30. Her website is seemaakhtar.com.