Raise Green Children

June 24th, 2010

By Dr. Jim Taylor

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.

(This article was also published at Dr. Jim Taylor’s Blog.)

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5 Responses to “Raise Green Children”

  1. larry ennis |

    Doctor Jim
    Thank you for awakening some old but precious memories from days long past. In return I do indeed hope that your daughters will experience all the sweet things you’ve mentioned.
    Coming from another time, all those things you described were a reality in my life. It pains me to think coming generations will probably never know the wonders and the sweet innocence that existed during my youth. The fact that all of Gods gifts are free sometimes is lost in the shuffle.
    Jim, your mention of northern California reminds me of my time in southern california. I’d imagine your familiar with Catalina Island. Picture the island during the late forties and early fifties. Absolutely unequaled byt anything I’ve had the good fortune to experience since then. Unspoiled by any of today’s problems. If only I could give that time and experience to your kids and my grand kids.

  2. d |

    You are right on,Dr. Taylor. Sad to say though,most of us are just too lazy and busy to care. We need to wake up and smell the coffee grounds.Did you see ,Wall-E,cute kids movie,but is so true of how our world will go,espially all the fatties stuck in their chairs,on their computers? Really seems to be coming and not so distant future,may not have to worry about the economy failing,but the Earth being so polluted,that life cannot exist here,espially the Ocean. Doesn’t seem we can save it.

  3. Lisa |

    I think it is good for everyone to get back to nature. Lately I have been clearing the woods surrounding my house spending several hours a week in the early morning. It is wonderful listening to the birds communicate while at the same time make the woods look pristine. It is a great workout, too.

    Conserving resources has always been important to me. My recycling bin always has more in it than my regular garbage bin. It amazes me that there are so many people who still do not recycle.

    My daughter recently came home from school with a project where the family had to come up with 5 conservation actions to implement that we have not done before. It was difficult to come up with anything that we were not already doing. At least there is a focus in the school. Now if they could just work on the lunch program and provide food that is recognizable!!! But that is the FLOTUS’ project, isn’t it?

  4. Tom Carter |

    Nicely done, Jim. Sounds like your kids, in this and other senses, are fortunate to live within the embrace of a nice family. The same goes for you and your daughter, Lisa.

    I have to admit that I’m not particularly green in my lifestyle — gas hog SUV, etc. But what can I say; I’m with you in spirit!

  5. Aearlath |

    Some things are actually better now than in the past. Others…. not so much. A lot of the trouble is the environmentalists in fact. Good solutions aren’t used for nebulous reasons. We have solutions TODAY that can cut down on the smog in the pit of hell otherwise known as LA. There are plenty of clean power solutions. Nuclear is among the cleanest. But just mention that and you are hog tied and thrown into the “evil mother earth hater” category. Even so called viable solutions like solar (which isn’t really viable but that’s another issue) are proposed and struck down. Oftentimes the solutions “blessed” with the green title cause even more environmental issues than traditional “mother earth hater” ideas. Really the trouble is with labels. One idea (usually without merit) is labeled “not green” and any further discussion on the matter is stopped. That’s not science folks. And it’s certainly not productive. Until open discourse is possible without the accusatory tone so prevalent, I don’t see the situation changing anytime soon.

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