Our family went to New York yesterday to join 400,000 other activists at the People’s Climate March. We wanted to show our children what it was like to take part in a substantial social action movement. At home we learn about social change and we sign petitions; we show up at small demonstrations and talk about ways of making a difference. This march in New York was bigger than anything we had ever witnessed as a family.
With this significant social action experience under their belts, ‘A’ and ‘H’ are now learning about the UN Climate Summit that takes place on Tuesday 9/23; the importance of the big players who attended the march (UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Al Gore and Bill McKibben); and the different ways people are making change, as well as how our family can play a role in climate justice solutions.
My girls are 7 and 9 years old. I have always wrestled with how much to tell them about climate change and how to say it. Years ago when they were very young, I read that it’s important to foster a love for nature before introducing too much information about how we are hurting it. That made sense. I have made space in our family life for ‘A’ and ‘H’ to develop an appreciation for our earth. Over the past year I have told them quite a bit about the human impact on the environment in a factual and simple way. Now I am at the point where I’m opening up the discussion and sharing real-time information that helps to move the discussion along. We need real answers about what we can do to make a difference, and stories about other people who are doing the same.
When I talk about making a difference, I don’t mean that I want to know more about things my family can do at home. We know about that stuff. Turn off lights, switch lightbulbs to LED bulbs, stop driving so much, turn the heat down. Got it. I will even add my own points to the list: stop eating factory farmed meat, GMOs and food grown using chemical pesticides and fertilizers. It bothers me when I see so many educator resources that focus on the few things kids can actually do at home. They usually have a PDF coloring sheet of a honeybee or an activity such as planting a seed to go along with the lesson. Those kinds of lessons don’t help. Children know that their small effort to turn off the lights when they leave the room isn’t making a dent in the issue of global climate change because if it was, wouldn’t the problem be solved by now? Residential energy waste and emissions accounts for a small part of the climate change problem. Real change will happen when our government enacts laws that will change the way energy is produced, and when we reduce the amount of waste and garbage we create. I’m not talking about families turning the thermostat down a degree, bringing canvas shopping bags to the store, or recycling plastic toys. That’s good practice, but we need corporations to get on board and dramatically change the way business is done.
Here are a few good places to start: