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The Littlest Earthlings

April 22, 2010

By Jennifer Chaky

When I was about 8 years old, the movie “The Day After,” a film about the effects of nuclear war, was shown on TV. It was then that I was first introduced to mushroom clouds and the Cold War, and I had this vague understanding that at any time, Russia might push a button and the entire world would be destroyed…everything except cockroaches. And I think that was when I became an environmentalist.

I have a very clear memory of, soon after that, being in the backseat of the family car on some road trip and looking out the window at the trees, hills, and sky passing by and thinking about that movie–about how everything turned gray, and nothing could grow or live after this man-made bomb destroyed the Earth. And I remember getting very angry and thinking very clearly: People did not put all this beauty here, so what gives people the right to ruin it all? Hot, silent tears ran down my face, and I talked to God (or whatever you want to call the force that put all of this life into existence) and I apologized. I was an 8 year-old girl who felt embarrassed and remorseful for the behavior of adults who were doing bad things that were out of my control and all I could do was pray.

So this Earth Day, I am thinking about our littlest Earthlings: Children. There is so much talk about: global warming, extinction, toxic pollution, and natural catastrophes that I have to wonder how kids are handling this. Are they scared, confused, or angry, as I was? Do they feel like they have no control? It is important that as adults, we talk to kids about the realities of what’s going on, and, most importantly, show them that we are doing something about it. We must set a good example of stewardship for the planet and thereby empower our kids that they can be a part of the solution right along with us.

Maybe share a story with your kids (or someone else’s) about what you love most about nature, and ask them to tell you about what is important to them. You might be surprised to learn that kids have their own very personal reasons for caring for the planet. So nurture these little eco-spirits by showing them that they do not have to wait and worry if someone else is taking care of the problem- they can start right now themselves. And you will show them the way because you care too.

And remember, if you are struggling to “go green” it is because you have to “relearn” ways of doing things. It doesn’t have to be so hard for kids. They don’t have to develop the same unhealthy addictions that we did. For example, my eleven-year-old daughter has no qualms about walking or biking anywhere in any weather. I, however, have to force myself to do this instead of just jumping in the car when I may not really need to. What may seem like sacrifices to us can be taught as simple logic to our kids. We teach kids that they have to live within all kinds of limits- what their bodies’ limitations are, how much money they can spend etc. Children can likewise be taught that the natural environment has limits that need to be respected. Admit to your child that you may be learning this yourself, and it can be something you can do together and help each other with. You will not only be ensuring a healthy environment for them in the future, you’ll be nurturing their souls today.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 29, 2010 8:03 am

    hi what is your facebook name?

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