We can empower children to be part of the solution.
The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a final call to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This requires “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”.
When the Trump administration downplays climate change across the country, it puts everyone at risk, but especially children who are living with the consequences of inaction.
“Each day we see more evidence that this administration is actively working against the health and safety of Americans’ most vulnerable — our children,” said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, an environmental health nonprofit headquartered in Washington , DC October. “Tragically, to say the Trump administration is waging a war on children is no exaggeration.”
But no matter how many times world leaders sit around the table to solve the problem, we seem to get nowhere. Adults fail, and it is children who hold us accountable.
All over the world, children are taking action – striking at school, calling on governments to do something, and filing lawsuits. They are willing to brave the indifference and shout louder than today’s failing leaders.
We have to listen. And we need to hold their hands and do something together. As adults—parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, doctors, and friends—we can help by speaking to children about climate change and empowering them to be part of the solution.
But that’s not as easy as it sounds. I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time following my 3 year old son and turning things off. I tried something new the other day: “It’s bad for the planet if you turn on things you don’t need,” I said. He stopped and looked at me for a moment, then turned off the light and continued playing.
A small win. This felt like the beginning of something that we will have to talk about for many years to come.
It is clear to me now that there will not be a single moment when we need to “talk” about climate change. Instead, climate change needs to be part of our daily conversations and actions. It has to be fun and engaging, solution-oriented and fact-based. And above all, it has to start now. Here are five techniques that can help.
1. Make a story out of it
Children love stories. They can be a great way to convey a complex message. But don’t panic: there are already a lot of great stories about climate change, and they make great conversation starters.
According to Megan Herbert, a children’s book author from Amsterdam, storytelling is the first of a three-step process to action. “The theory is that you can entertain kids and open their empathy,” she told me. “A well-told story will engage audiences in empathizing with their characters and feeling their emotions.” Storytelling leads children to the next steps—becoming curious and taking action.
Herbert did extensive research on the psychology of climate communication while working on her book with young people The tantrum that saved the world with his co-parent Michael Mann, a climatologist and director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University.
Her book is an example of storytelling that can educate and inspire children. It follows Sophia minding her own business when a polar bear appears in need of shelter, followed by a family whose home was flooded, a swarm of bees, a tiger and more climate refugees. The story shows that there are solutions and practical ways to help as Sophia takes action by shouting and rallying. And it includes information about each character – and the science behind climate change.
There are many popular children’s books that use these storytelling tools to address environmental issues. Here are five to try:
- The Lorax from Dr. seuss
- The tragic story of the great auk by Jan Dornhill
- The problem of the hot world by Pam Bonsper
- The shiny depth by Kate Messner, illustrated by Matthew Forsythe
- The tantrum that saved the world by Megan Herbert and Michael Mann
2. Build facts
As a science writer and science enthusiast in general, I think it’s important that we speak honestly with children about climate change. But that doesn’t mean they have to see the whole picture right away.
I asked people in a Facebook group called the Sustainable Community of Amsterdam how they talk to kids about climate change. Many said they first explained to their young children how nature works: how plants use carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, why water is important, why we need to take care of animals.
Dina DeHart, the group’s manager, has a 6-year-old. As a parent, she focuses on the connection to nature and its implications, and the climate change part comes later.
“We do a lot of cleaning up on our walks to protect the plants and animals,” she wrote in one thread. “We’re also paying attention to turning off the lights in our home, water usage, etc. I think it’s important to work on … empathy, compassion and good environmental etiquette to prepare for that next step.”
While we must start small, we must still be honest and avoid instilling “false optimism,” said Mann, co-author of tantrum. “We have to convey the seriousness of the situation. … [F]Unfortunately, it is true that an objective assessment of the science supports the message that the threat is serious and imminent and the urgency is great, but there is still a way forward by which we can prevent catastrophic climate change,” he said International business hours. “Now we must avoid being too Pollyannaish and irrelevant Pollyannaish.”
3. Tell the truth – but in manageable chunks
We have to tell the truth, but that means we’ll inevitably get to a point where the story gets scary. This used to worry me: climate change is a huge and frightening issue for adults – just imagine what it could do to children. We are already seeing cases of climate scare ascending: People feel panicked and paralyzed because of their overwhelming sense of responsibility and fear, with no easy way to personally resolve the situation.
In the 2007 report “Children’s Fears, Hopes and Heroes: Modern Childhood in Australia‘ a team of researchers from the Australian Childhood Foundation and Monash University concluded that children are very concerned about the state of the planet. Of the 600 children aged 10 to 14 surveyed, 44 percent were concerned about the future impact of climate change. In fact, they found that a quarter of children are “so worried about the state of the world that they honestly believe it will end before they get older.”
It is therefore important that we do not overwhelm children in our conversations about climate change. In her research on the psychology of climate communication, Herbert noted, “When you see an image of a flood or a fire, you have scary consequences of climate change, you don’t have the ability to process that with a worldview; They look at it and ask when the flood will come to their house.
“The key is to break it down into smaller stories – let them know it’s all happening in different places and it’s all connected. And show them that they can do something about it.”
4. Help kids get active
However we present it, there is no escaping the facts: climate change is deadly serious. While the recent IPCC report highlights the need for urgent, drastic action at the international level, it also places the responsibility on individuals: There are things we can – and must – do now to make a difference. And that gives us a great opportunity to turn the conversation about climate change into action.
This gives us a great way to talk to kids about the following issues: Focus on the things we can do each day to make a difference, like: B. Eating less meat and dairy and more seasonal foods; throw away less; short distances on foot or by bike; and hang clothes to dry.
Or you can go one step further and help the children to become active. National Geographic provides resources on how to help children write to and from politicians and other leaders start petition
“You can’t give a kid a problem and tell them [in] In the end there is no solution,” explained Herbert. “You have to give them something actionable, something tangible to make them feel empowered.”
Climate-friendly behavior has been a matter of course since she was young and she has already passed it on to her 4-year-old son. “We’re doing what we can,” said Herbert. “We take our product bags to market; We’re talking about what’s in season. My son is super conscious without being stressed about it. The power is in your own household – make positive actions normal and explain why they matter.”
5. Make it fun
Trading does not have to be serious; In fact, it helps kids engage with the subject if it’s fun. Yet we still use the same tired old messages.
“The problem is that the way we raise children hasn’t changed in the last 50 years,” said parent and entrepreneur Andriy Shmyhelskyy, who lives in the Netherlands. “We still tell them the same thing, ‘Turn off the lights because A) I say so and B) we need to save money.’ It doesn’t work.”
Shmyhelskyy is taking a more playful approach to climate protection with a product he recently launched. Hyko is a polar bear night light with a climate conscious message that he designed for children to monitor energy use and he uses it with his own daughter.
“My daughter is 3 years old and I’m already explaining to her why we have to turn off the devices,” he said.
“I believe that we can actually make it more playful for children, but also for the parents who share the message. After reading a story or playing a game, kids are more engaged because they want to be part of something.”
What started as a smart meter to show kids the effects of using different devices in real time has become a night light teaches them about energy. It comes with a whole host of related things: kids can play games, take quizzes, and learn more about electricity and smart energy use.
Here are a few fun tools from NASA and National Geographic to help make climate protection a part of kids’ everyday lives:
This article was created by Earth | created food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute.