Pag. 8. Foto – CEIPA

Children…the future of our country?

Mesoamerican Permaculture Institute

Children are our future. This is the argument behind many debates and efforts aimed at strengthening child protection systems. As hopeful as this statement may be, it shows how adults have appropriated children’s futures, and reminds us of a behavior we are all guilty of: putting things off till tomorrow.

In affirming that our children will one day take up the reins of society, we impose on new generations the responsibility of maintaining a failed societal structure that has been designed so that the elite minority may enjoy the products of human, animal, and environmental exploitation. Such an imposition is seen in child rearing methods, publicity campaigns, and curricula focused on the indoctrination of children to subject them from a young age to a predominating and destructive consumer culture while annulling their capacity to create a new world.

Total assimilation to a dominant ideology (which also conditions patterns of behavior) can be observed in the nutritional habits of a large part of boys and girls. Children’s daily diets commonly consist of industrial food and drink high in sugar and artificial colors and flavors, despite the abundant information on the negative impacts these products can have on their health and regulations that foment the consumption of healthy foods, such as laws on school lunch programs.

Photo: Guatemalan Government

The fact that children can easily access and prefer these industrial foods reflects our food system. Continued reduction in the number of farmers, loss of local and ancestral knowledge about food production and preparation, increased dependency on the food industry, and the boom of conventional export-focused monoculture are just a few indicators of the state of nutrition and food sovereignty in the region.

Speaking of childhood nutrition, we can look at different indicators, some of which will certainly improve with the passage of time. However, and more specifically in Guatemala, it is alarming to realize that there has not been any improvement in indices of chronic childhood malnutrition and that any supposed advance in this regard has not meant a significant change in the daily lives of children. 

It is clear that we cannot solely rely on indicators to understand the state of childhood nutrition, as these were created with the goal of quantifying specific portions of certain realities and not the entire spectrum. There are other qualitative considerations that are important to bear in mind to come to a wider understanding of the state of childhood nutrition.

It will be up to each individual community to know the variables that are not shown by available statistical indicators yet influence childhood nutrition. Such a mission will require us to distance ourselves from our adult-centered perspective that justifies the exclusion of the perspective of children in political and daily life, robbing them of their right to self-determination.

Photo: Beverly Yuen

As the Mesoamerican Permaculture Institute, we have already mentioned in previous articles that nature is one of the greatest sources of permaculture knowledge. In it, all elements have a place, value, and function. That is to say, Nature does not force any of its parts to be what it is not. Society certainly does not work this way. We’ve put ourselves in charge of hiding the value of children. We muzzle their mouths so that we don’t hear what they have to say. We fetter their minds so that they work for this world of adults and we demand that their bodies have all the energy and vitality of youth so that those of us of a more advanced age can follow their rhythm.

We must no longer silence the voices of children who express their needs and offer solutions. We have to make the effort to understand these ideas they are offering, which to our domesticated minds seem too complex. Without a doubt, childhood will regain its importance in the present and be more than just an investment in the future.

The statement that ‘children are our future’ is completely discouraging coming from a society in which the majority of the population is unable to invest in more than its day-to-day, given that its basic needs are not guaranteed. For this majority, thinking only of the present is a survival tactic in the face of the constant attack of emergencies. However, short-term vision of the elite minority reflects its ambition to increase its own privileges no matter the cost.

Historical evolution of social and environmental problems, multiple current crises, and expectations about the future of the planet and our society testify to how the adult world has treated the future. The statement that children are our future really means that improving the life of children is a task that can wait for tomorrow because they are not important in the present, which is the only thing that seems to exist.

It is delusional to think it possible to implement a long-term vision in our society while there are people who don’t have water, food, and housing. As such, before being able to worry about the future we need to recognize the urgent needs facing different sectors of the population, including children. Let us work continuously to guarantee that we all have our basic needs met.

The construction of sustainable food systems that guarantee adequate nutrition for children and the entire population entails replacing current patterns of production and consumption with new habits that respond to the needs and characteristics of each community and not to the greed of the food industry. As we know, it is easier to create new habits then change those that are already established. This puts children in an advantageous situation. Let’s take advantage of this and allow children to help us change the present.