Recently I've been reading and writing about How to Raise a Wild Child by Scott P. Sampson. The chapter on "The Rewilding Revolution" included a passage that grabbed my attention:
"One of the greatest gifts we can give to children is an optimistic outlook on the future. Particularly for kids in early childhood, avoid negative stories about the natural world and the declining environment. This can lead to emotional detachment rather than caring. Recognize, however, that kids in middle childhood will likely be getting a doom-and-gloom message about the state of the world, even if it doesn't come from you. It's important to listen to kids' fears for the future, to respond honestly, and even to share your own fears. Equally important, however, is balancing any fears with positive, hopeful stories of change, stories that demonstrate how people are working to solve the problems, and how youths can be part of this critical work." (emphasis mine)
This immediately rang true for me. Not long ago my husband had shared with my kids that California has one year of water left. You know, in an effort to inspire conservation. My poor six-year-old took this so literally that she kept asking me if we were going to move to a different state soon. She also ran around the house turning off the water while people were washing their hands (which I encourage people to do, but she was getting a bit fanatical). She would also hound me any time I was using water (doing the dishes, etc.), insisting that I was "wasting it." When friends moved away, she told me it was because California was almost out of water. I had to reassure her many, many times that we would only run out of water if we continued using water the way we had but that everyone was going to make changes to make sure that didn't happen. I told her it was important to do our part to conserve, but that it was still OK to use water and she didn't need to worry that it would run out.
My son, entering the third grade, gets plenty of doom-and-gloom without us, just as Sampson suggests, just from his voracious reading of non-fiction literature about animals, natural disasters, and so on. While my husband often points out that people can be selfish and short-sighted, I like to emphasize how many good people are trying to change things for the better. Sort of like Mr. Rogers' mother's advice to "look for the helpers" after tragic events. I also often point out that sometimes we are dealing with habits and situations that began before anyone knew better. I'm not interested in my kids having a black view of humanity either.
It is my opinion that no child should have to grow up believing that the world is going to be a wasteland or even merely a worse place to live when they grow up, however realistic such information might be. Some days after browsing the environmental headlines (as I do most mornings) I feel so depressed and hopeless that I avoid reading the news for several days. We all need hope. We need inspiration. We need examples. And so I continue to highlight the positive. Read these stories, and share them with your kids. And when your kids come to you with a fear about the future, tell them a story of hope. If you don't have a relevant one at the ready, look one up here or here.
A delightful read:When You Give a Tree an Email Address (The Atlantic)
The city of Melbourne assigned trees email addresses so citizens could report problems. Instead, people wrote thousands of love letters to their favorite trees.
Clever teens making a differenceGirls’ decoy grouse lure birds from drilling-rig noise (WyoFile)
Two 8th-grade students advanced greater sage grouse science this spring by making dummy strutting males to lure birds from a nearby drilling rig so they could better hear mating calls.
Proof that big change in a short time is possibleFrom open sewage to high-tech hydrohub, Singapore leads water revolution (Reuters)
Fifty years ago Singapore had to ration water, and its smelly rivers were devoid of fish and choked with waste from shipbuilding, pig farms and toilets that emptied directly into streams. But it's a very different story today.
If they can do it, so can we!
4 Cities That Are Getting Rid Of All Of Their Garbage (Fast Coexist)
Achieving "zero waste" might seem impossible, but these cities have implemented plans that are getting them very close. Now it's time for the rest of the world to follow along.
Be the change you want to seeDutch Man Cleans Up Entire River Bank On His Daily Commute to Work (Good News Network)
Tired of having the beautiful river view along his route to work spoiled by mounting trash on the bank, a Dutch man decided to start picking up litter during his daily commute. This story reminds me of a FB page I recently came across called Trash Walking Moms.