Parenting/Green: Raise Green Children

Are you raising green children?

Posted Jun 23, 2010

Regardless of where you stand on the issue of climate change, I hope there is no argument that, environmentally speaking, we simply can't sustain our current path for much longer. Air pollution caused by the growing number of automobiles on the road and coal-burning power plants worldwide. Our oceans and seas being fished out. Massive deforestation. Billions of people globally who are rising to the middle classes demanding more of everything. The list goes on. And who will suffer from our wanton disregard for the health of Planet Earth? The answer is our children.

This post is not some tree-hugging plea that is intended to pit the environmental activism of the Left against the business-friendly skepticism of the Right. This post is about our children and the Earth that they will inherit. My plea is to hand the keys to our planet over to our children in reasonable condition so that Earth will have many more miles around the sun ahead of it and our children can enjoy its many wonders as we have.

The tragedy is that no one loves Mother Earth more than children. Kids really do hug trees. They care in the purest and sweetest way for birds, flowers, plants, and animals. To see children smell a flower, climb a tree, and jump with joy at seeing a hummingbird are just a few of the ways that children express their connection, love, and awe for Mother Nature. They wouldn't want to do anything to harm it. And they would be really mad at their parents if they learned what was being done to their Earth.

The sad reality is that our children will be inheriting an environmental mess. Even more sadly, by the time they grow up, most of them will become a part of the problem rather than a part of the solution. In our voraciously consumptive culture, many if not most children are being brainwashed into continuing the environmentally destructive legacy of their parents.

The only hope our planet has is if parents decide otherwise and choose to raise green children. Parents can connect that wonderful feeling that children have for nature with a sensitivity to the impact they have on the Earth and how they can help protect it. Parents can instill in their children a sense of ownership of Mother Nature.

Being the stereotypical Northern Californians that we are, my wife and I have been doing our best to raise our two daughters to be green. Don't get me wrong, we aren't exactly living off the grid (and, no, we don't drive a Prius), but we are trying to send the right messages to them about taking care of the Earth. Whenever a situation arises where a lesson about nature or conservation can be taught, we point it out and say our catchphrase for thinking about the environment, "We're a green family."

When our daughters were very young, my wife and I created rituals that taught them about conservation and environmental stewardship. When our girls are doing something wasteful, such as leaving the bathroom faucet running too long, we point out that this makes the Earth sad. When our eldest daughter was around two and a half, she surprised my wife and I while we were recycling by saying, "Are the trees happier now?" Our girls understand that our admonitions to, for example, turn off the lights, are tied to a larger message -- caring for the Earth -- about which they cared deeply.

My wife has a wonderfully productive vegetable garden that has been a great "classroom" for teaching the girls about nature. They also help me empty our newspaper, glass, and plastics into the large recycling bins outside and roll them out to the curb on recycling day. After we have our usual after-dinner orange, the girls take turns carrying the rind into the kitchen and place it in our compost container under the sink and they help my wife to empty its contents into the compost bin near our vegetable garden.

Depending on where parents live, there are many things they can do to create environmental awareness and responsibility in their children. A simple Internet search for "raise green children" will provide many suggestions.

The point of my post is this. Regardless of our political or environmental views, we all love our children and want them to have bright futures. A part of that bright future should be the condition of our planet that we pass on to them. If parents can send the right "green" messages to their children, then perhaps they will care enough about Mother Earth to work to undo the damage their parents caused to it.

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