09 July 2009

150 Days - What About the Children? What's Their Role?

I struggle constantly with this one.

Children deserve a childhood. I believe that. We take that away from our children in so many ways: plunking them in front of screens as soon as they can sit up ... not making them go outside to play ... surrounding them with adult worries and abuses ... starving them ... spending money on jet fighters instead of clean drinking water sources for them ... killing off their parents by adding climate disasters (droughts and floods) on top of an AIDS epidemic that we just don't seem too concerned about here in the West.

Environmental education guru, David Sobel, still stands by his longstanding exhortation: no environmental tragedies before fourth grade, about the age of 10. Part of me is with him on that — check out Greening the Curriculum and you'll see that I believe childhood is a time for children to learn to know and love their Mother Earth.

But I mentioned this at a slide show on Africa once, and a woman in the audience who had lived 20 years in Kenya, I think, responded, "Why do we think our children are so much more precious than African children? They face real tragedies every day: food shortages, unsafe water, sickness, the violence of civil wars, AIDS, being orphaned. Why can't our kids learn about environmental tragedies?"

You can see now why I'm torn. On the one hand, what I want is a better (safer, healthier, happier) childhood for the children she was talking about ... not a sadder one for ours.

On the other hand, children have a power that can't be matched. Imagine if all the children in the world who are old enough to understand the threat of global heating turned to their parents and asked, "Why? Why are you letting this happen? What can you do to help? What can I do to help?"

What a force this would unleash in the world! A swirl of childlike grace, childish emotion, and childhood energy all focused on the climate change emergency would envelope — and melt the ice in the hearts of — the leaders of the world.

At times, I think a childhood focused in this way would be far better than a childhood stuck in front of a TV, computer or video game screen.

So, torn as I am, I am putting out a call to all the world's children — if you're going to ask your parents for anything, please, ask them for a future!

Do it on behalf of all the children of all the other species who have no voice ... and on behalf of all the children who already have no future. Please, ask your parents to do something about the global climate change emergency — for you.

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I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?