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Talking to Children About Climate Change

By Larraine Roulston:

Replying to my environmental email, a friend added that her father-in-law always used to say, “Life was the making of good and the breaking of bad habits!” Regarding climate change, his motto speaks volumes. Man’s folly has always been to buy the latest and most convenient innovations, only to realize that when millions of people are doing the same, there are environmental consequences. Discussing the magnitude of climate change to youngsters is much too daunting; however, we must begin somewhere while maintaining an optimistic outlook. They need to learn how to use the earth’s resources wisely and help us break our bad habits — from applying pesticides to using straws.

  • Start by cultivating a love and stewardship for nature by spending more time outdoors, going on woodland hikes, visiting nature museums and planting vegetable/pollinator gardens.
  • Compost to ensure that organics nurture the soil rather than add to mounting landfills, thus creating more greenhouse gases. Children learn by example: if you are on a picnic, take your fruit peelings home to compost rather than look for the nearest trash can.
  • When picking up litter, mention that these are misplaced resources that, in most cases, can be recycled or composted.
  • Teach through music. Country and western singer Michael T. Wall and his two daughters have written “I Got the Blue Box Blues” and the “Recycling Song,” which begins with this verse:

Reduce, reuse, recycle,

         That’s all you have to do.

         The future of our children,

         Depends on me and you.

  • Wall, along with Fay Herridge, has recorded “It’s Recycling Time,” “Protect our Planet” and “Pee Wee the Wonder Worm.” You also will find several other recycling songs, as well as green games, online.
  • Include books with environmental themes. During my youth I devoured each of Thornton Burgess’ chapter books. His beloved stories wove tales around the personalities and predicaments of forest critters. Burgess (1874-1965) was credited for being an early conservationist who instilled in children a love of the animal kingdom. Movies such as Babe and Charlottes Web hold great messages, too.
  • Recycle Right! Together, view your municipality’s recycling literature for what is acceptable. Praise your children if they remember to recycle the paper toilet roll cylinders (usually overlooked by even the best recyclers), rinse out jars, flatten tins and boxes, or remove the spiral binding from a discarded note book.
  • When shopping, take your own carrying bags. Mention to your children when you select local and in-season produce and even locally produced wine. Avoid plastic whenever possible.
  • Let your children pick a nonprofit environmental group for your next charitable donation.
  • Explain that the planet will be healthier if we all eat less meat. Suggest they help with the weekly veggie menus.
  • Balloons and fireworks seem to be in our DNA. They add color and excitement, but instead of continuing to provide this type of entertainment, climate change makes it imperative that we no longer think of waste and toxic displays in the same way. Parents need to create new ideas regarding how to celebrate.
  • Grandparents and parents now carry the burden of climate change’s scientific knowledge and its predicted ramifications. It is definitely time to alert our children and to think about how habits have evolved. By making small changes, we can bring about shifts in social consciousness. Let your children know that we parents need their help to retrain our brains to start the “making of good.”

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Larraine writes illustrated children’s adventure books on composting and pollinating.  Visit www.castlecompost.com

About Larraine Roulston

A mother of 4 with 6 wonderful grandchildren, Larraine has been active in the environmental movement since the early l970s. When the first blue boxes for recycling were launched in her region, she began writing a local weekly newspaper column to promote the 3Rs. Since that time, she has been a freelance writer for several publications, including BioCycle magazine. As a composting advocate, Larraine authors children's adventure stories that combine composting facts with literature. Currently she is working on the 6th book of her Pee Wee at Castle Compost series, which can be viewed at www.castlecompost.com. As well, Larraine and her husband Pete have built a straw bale home and live in Ontario.

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  1. Hi Larraine,
    I wish I’d had your article yesterday. The health insurance has a component that is designed to encourage people to embrace different kinds of exercise, foods, and challenges.
    Last week I finally emailed this company explaining that they had very little who were disabled in any way. The main pictures were all white young people in good condition. It wasn’t representing all types of people with all levels of disabilities.
    I did get a response saying that there were a few things that a disabled person could do, he would be glad to show me where they were, and he would pass on my concerns.
    Then yesterday I found the page of gadgets! Things you MUST buy in order to be in the trending group. I again emailed the company and asked if they realized what they were advocating…a debt culture from overspending, and a disposable lifestyle. The activities centered around the various “Fit” bracelets.
    All I could see was reinforcement of buying the next gadget whether you had the money or not, and these bracelets thrown aside or ‘away’ sometime within 6 months.
    What does this teach our kids who are watching the parents buy new gadgets? And then throw the gadgets away.
    I’ll let you know if they respond.

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