I am not the first one to admit that climate change scares me. It’s a threat to my future and it is a problem I often feel is out of my hands to solve. These concerns make it tempting to avoid the conversation of climate change with children. In the house where I grew up, however, climate change was a conversation at the dinner table. I confess, the concept of climate change did occasionally keep me up at night, but it also gave me so much more than that – it empowered me to pursue sustainability in career and in lifestyle. Today’s younger generation will learn about climate change one way or another, so why wait to talk about it? If you wish to have this conversation with those young ones in your life that you care about, here are some tips:
Spark a love for nature
Research suggests that people protect what they know and what they love (1). If we want to encourage the next generation to see the intrinsic value of our natural environment and want to protect its wellbeing, then we need to get kids outside! One of the best ways to do this is to grow a veggie garden. Your appreciation for nature’s profound ability to create and sustain us can only grow when you patiently watch a seed become a fruit-bearing bush or tree.
Kids are smarter than we think. Try to integrate sustainability concepts into kid’s interest areas. For example, if your child or a young loved one in your life enjoys baking with you, try asking “where do you think these ingredients come from?” or “what do you think this ingredient needs to grow?” When we can get kids thinking about the amount of resources and energy things need, they may slowly understand how everything they have and do has an impact on our planet.
Focus on solutions
The topic of climate change doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. There are numerous amazing stories that exemplify how we can live in harmony with the environment. Have you read our stories about some of the farms that supply food to SPUD?
Lead by example
Children don’t just listen to what you say, they watch what you do. All. The. Time. Make sure you’re modelling sustainability, whether it’s bringing your own reusable cup on a coffee run, starting a backyard compost bin, or even just sorting your recycling with care. Explain to them why you’re doing it, and ask them to participate too. If kids grow up around these behaviours, they will be more likely to adopt them themselves as adults.
Show environmental role models
For kids especially, it can be easy to feel powerless in the face of something as huge as climate change. Rather than letting them get discouraged, show your kids other kids who are working to make a difference. Here are some children and young adults that can show your kids that they have the power to change the world:
Greta Thunberg: This sixteen year old has inspired a global movement lead by kids. The movement has been named “Fridays for Future” where students skip school on Fridays to demand that their government does more to address climate change.
Autumn Peltier: Identified as a Canadian water activist, this thirteen year old Anishinaabe girl from Wikwemikong First Nation has spoken at the United Nation’s General Assembly calling on world leaders to stop polluting the planet and give water the same rights and protections as human beings.
We may not be able to leave the earth better than we found it, but we can raise the next generation to treat it better than we did.
(1) Seppelt, R. & Cumming, G.S. Landscape Ecol (2016) 31: 1645. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-016-0423-5