Can we listen and learn from our children? Yes, we must! Just listen to the wisdom of Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg, age 15 years, who has sparked a worldwide children’s campaign to protect our climate. Last year she became so depressed witnessing the lethargy of adults’ inaction to protect our climate that she left school and spent 3 weeks protesting outside of the Swedish Parliament to spur politicians’ action. Soon after she began taking Fridays off from school to continue her protest. Greta has spotlighted what she deems the greatest worldwide crisis facing us today. A crisis which severely impacts children’s future.
When invited to speak to the elite 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland, Greta scolded,
“We are at a time in history where everyone with any insight of the climate crisis that threatens our civilisation – and the entire biosphere – must speak out in clear language, no matter how uncomfortable and unprofitable that may be.
We must change almost everything in our current societies. The bigger your carbon footprint, the bigger your moral duty.
The bigger your platform, the bigger your responsibility. . . .
I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.”
News of Greta’s Protest Has Gone Viral
Numerous other children in dozens of countries across the world have joined climate change protests with the support of their parents. At a UK protest, a nine-year-old girl exclaimed,
“Scientists across Europe say we have 12 years to get this right. The technology is there. The solutions are there. Brilliant minds across the world have been working on this for decades. And what they have said has been ignored.”
A 15-year-old girl proclaimed,
“As students we don’t have the vote, and it is really unfair because this is going to impact on us the most. It is our future.”
We must listen to the wise words of our children and take action to protect their future starting now, before our planet is irreversibly damaged. Climate change is accepted science. The Future of Children: Children and Climate Change, published by Princeton University and the Brookings Institution, projects that extremes in temperature, rising sea levels and extreme weather patterns already threaten children’s physical and mental health and will continue to do so for future generations.
What Can We Do?
We noted in a previous KIPS blog, “Climate change is a slowly advancing juggernaut and we are doing little to slow or stop it. . . . I hope that parental love might play an even stronger roll, moving us to take actions to prevent or at least reduce this fast-approaching fate” -- the destructive changes in climate that affect the health of our families, communities and global environment.
Enjoy Nature. To combat climate change we can teach our infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, as well as our older children, to love Nature so they learn early to enjoy and take care of their environment. The easiest way to begin is for parents and children to spend time in Nature -- take walks, go to the park, collect leaves, splash in puddles, and play together outdoors so children learn to explore, appreciate and take care of the birds, bees, trees and all the wonders of Nature. Simply go outside and follow your child’s lead exploring the flowers, the wind and the worms. Open to the Child’s Agenda is one of the 12 research-based parenting behaviors on the KIPS parenting assessment shown to improve children’s development. This applies to all parent-child interactions, whether indoors or outdoors. Families can also set up opportunities to explore Nature by doing activities such as planting trees, making bird feeders or creating seed balls with children.
Read Nature Books. For indoor activities on those extreme weather days, reading children’s books together that highlight our natural surroundings offers the opportunity for conversations about our environment full of plants and animals, oceans, creeks and deserts. Here are two recent books to inspire parents and children to talk about love and care for their environment. The first, Honeysuckle Hugs, is a magical book for all ages that takes you on a whimsical journey through Nature. This printed book is a delightful blend of art and poetry that guides parents and children to respect and explore the sensations of plant life and the calming influences of Nature. The second, Is This My Home, is a narrated digital book which discovers the world through the eyes of a child. It’s free online and displays colorful illustrations of animals and plants encountered in different climates across the world.
Take Action to Combat Climate Change. The next steps are aimed at slowing climate change and may require changes in family or community habits. These are aimed at reducing your carbon footprint related to global rise in temperatures, extreme weather patterns, melting of glaciers, and rise in sea levels. These steps can be tailored to your own preferences and resources.
Here are a few examples of small, but powerful actions to counteract climate change.
- Eat more vegetables, less meat. The portion of global greenhouse gas emissions from animal agriculture is estimated at 15%-51%. We can reduce those emissions by eating more vegetables.
- Buy locally produced food and materials whenever possible. This reduces the transportation carbon emissions. As an added benefit, if you can grow some of your own vegetables in pots, in your yard, or in a community garden, your children get to watch how their beans, peas and lettuce grow and be more likely to eat them. If you have access to a local farmers market, look for farmers who use less pesticides that destroy the environment along with the bugs.
- Manage your heating and cooling. We need to control the temperatures of our homes, daycares, and schools to avoid extreme temperature shifts and protect our health. However, excessive heating and cooling of these places can waste fuel. Instead, encourage moderate temperatures and put on an extra layer of clothes or take off the sweater as needed.
- Walk, bicycle, carpool, or use public transportation. Fewer gas-powered vehicles on the road mean less fossil fuel needed and more investment in public intrastructure. As an added benefit, walking and bicycling are great exercise for your bodies.
- Reuse and recycle plastics, paper and glass. Recycling has become more popular and more accessible in many communities in recent years. Furthermore, it takes even less energy if you clean and reuse materials to cut back on the volume of materials to be recycled.
- Most important of all! Use your voice and your vote to support your children’s future. Individuals alone can make only a small impact. We need policy change at the local, state and federal levels to address climate change. Join the student protesters to urge community leaders, businesses, and politicians to take actions to protect the environment, limit pollutants, cut back on fossil fuels and carbon emissions, and move to sustainable energy sources. Join parent organizations like Mothers Out Front, Climate Dads or Moms Clean Air Force to combine your voice with others to be heard by policy makers.
Take Action! Follow Greta’s Wise Words
Make everyday Earth Day! Step beyond hope and take action. If we all commit to change our own habits and press businesses and our governments to take responsibility for improving the climate that impacts our public health and environment, we will be able to take pride in the future we’ve created for our children and grandchildren.
Follow these links to resources to lay the path to climate change with children.
Natural Start Alliance
5 Ways to Teach Children About Climate Change
6 Things We Must Do About Climate Change