Scaring kids to death about climate change won’t help
One of the worst things I’ve seen in ages was the Copenhagen Climate Summit opening film, where a small child has terrible, apocalyptic nightmares after learning about human-induced climate change.
Talk about scandalous fear-mongering. If we’re serious about enlightening young people about sound environmental custodianship, surely the worst approach is a campaign of outright fear.
Less extreme but just as futile is the path of symbolic, one-off action underpinned by a threat of doom. Earth Hour is one such initiative. Its official slogan might as well be “Lights off for an hour tomorrow or it’ll be lights off forever”.
Now, I’m willing to concede that Earth Hour, like Walk to Work Day and International Talk Like a Pirate Day, is a concept with some merit.
As a believer in human-induced climate change, and an advocate for a raft of pro-environment causes, I believe it’s crucial to get people talking about threats to the natural environment. And not just talking but acting!
But what’s the ongoing transformation that will arise from Earth Hour? Does anyone really think that turning off the lights for one hour will usher in a change of attitude and behaviour? Yeah, right. Just like banning burgers for a night will turn the kids off Maccas forever, or a one day TV ban will free us all of the desire to watch the idiot box.
My six year old daughter has been learning about Earth Hour at school. Want to know how to really inspire her and others like her to save the world? Get them to love it, not fear it. Allow them to develop their own sense of environmental responsibility, rather than indoctrinating them to feel part of a “problem”.
I’m not a perfect parent. If anyone has an IKEA-style parenthood manual complete with helpful Swedish pictograms, please loan it to me. But one piece of parenting I think I’ve gotten right is instilling a deep love of nature in both my kids.
Together, we’ve bushwalked, skied and swum in some of Australia’s most beautiful locations. We’ve thrown summer snowballs on a New Zealand volcano and caught (and then released) tadpoles in a clear, Blue Mountains stream.
At home, I teach my kids about clouds and the wind direction, and always Google the birds that alight on our backyard trees, so that we can observe their habits armed with a few facts. How many city kids do you know that tell the difference between a white cockatoo and a Corella?
One day, I hope my daughter becomes an environmental scientist or activist who helps save the world. More likely, she’ll live a regular life with a regular job, and that’ll be fine too. Either way, I’m sure she’ll choose to pursue a lifestyle of modest consumption and environmental light-stepping.
And the families that participate in the environmental badge-of-honour called Earth Hour? I’m willing to bet plenty of them will turn their Nintendo Wiis on straight afterwards, then do the school drop-offs in gas-guzzling 4WDs on Monday morning.
So I’ll be keeping the house well lit on Saturday night. I might even crank up the DVD player and watch a Bindi Irwin disc with my kids.
The Jungle Girl may have been shockingly sledged on the ABC the other week by some comedienne whose name I can’t be bothered looking up, but ultimately, her message of “here’s a lizard, isn’t it beautiful, by the way there’s not many left” is so much more powerful and inspiring than “turn your lights off NOW or all the lizards will die” – especially to innocent, young minds.
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