As a parent, you’ve no doubt worried and wondered what kind of world your child or children will inherit. With climate change a more frequent talking point and presence in the news, it is difficult to avoid the subject.
As unpleasant as it feels to face, we shouldn’t avoid talking about climate change, because our kids aren’t. Our kids can’t.
I’ve felt both proud of and conflicted by the youth activists striking to save our planet from climate change.
I’m proud because they are standing up for what they believe in, and using their right to protest in an effort to create positive change to benefit themselves and future generations. I’m conflicted because they must feel fear or anxiety about the world they’ve been born into and their prospects of survival, and it forces me to face my own contributions to the health of their world.
Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who protested outside the Swedish Parliament, made international headlines with her handmade signs, which stated:
Climate change is here, it’s threatening the future, and the grown-ups in charge aren’t taking it seriously—so now I, Greta, will go on strike for the climate.
This struck a chord for me. It was as if Greta put up a mirror, and not a sign, and dared us all to look at ourselves—our actions or inactions—and to own them. She dared us to take responsibility, to make a meaningful and urgent change. (Greta is now a Nobel Prize nominee.)
Greta was just the match that lit the flame, because shortly following her strike, hundreds of thousands of students across the globe skipped school to hit the streets and demand urgent action.
As reported by the Washington Post, “The demonstrations stretched to every continent, across more than 100 countries and 1,700 locations, from India to South Africa to Greenland.” This was the largest coordinated effort for “Fridays For Future,” a movement that began in August of 2018, after Greta’s protest outside the Swedish Parliament. The hashtags #FridaysForFuture and #ClimateStrike went viral, and both children and adults began to protest outside of parliaments and city halls around the world. (Isn’t it amazing what one brave person can inspire?).
Whether you believe in the scientific consensus that human activity is causing a change to our environment, or whether you believe it is just part of a natural cycle… whatever the cause, the climate is changing and there are consequences to that change. So, the big, looming question for our kids is what will we do about climate change to ensure our kids are protected?
As parents, we worry about everything when it comes to our kids.
We nit-pick over healthy food choices, and yet, how much are we doing to ensure that their environment, that the oxygen they breathe, is healthy? We know pesticides are poison, but we spray them anyways on the very grounds where their food is grown. We know pollutants are harmful, and yet we drive cars around cities with smoke stacks billowing in the distance. We obsess over our kids’ education, and yet, when that educated youth understands the harm being done to their environment, and they protest their leaders for change, they are belittled. They are called naive.
Greta’s voice was heard, and that was powerful. But she understands that the adults in the equation, the adults in positions of real power, need to own that change that she and her peers are demanding. As a teenager, Greta has no vote. Her power lies in her ability to influence others, because there is power in numbers. As adults, we have far more power. We have the dollars to support companies who are part of the solution. We have the power to vote for leaders who will enact meaningful solutions to climate change.
I understand that this can be a difficult and unpleasant topic.
I know it’s easier and makes us happier to scroll through images of cute kids and animals in our social media feeds after a long, stressful day. I know you may read this and feel pangs of anxiety, and feel like all of this is so far out of your control. I am utterly guilty of feeling this, and of contributing to pollution with each passing day. I have felt, with regularity, that my little efforts will make but a tiny drop in the bucket where structural solutions are required. But avoidance is exactly the problem. Being a fatalist is the problem. Complacency and convincing ourselves that we can’t make a difference, cumulatively, is the problem.
We all have a part to play, so when my son found trash on the playground recently, instead of following my initial instinct, which was to leave it, I instead talked to him about it. We threw it away together, and gave each other a high-five after. I know that small piece of trash will go to a landfill. I know there are problems inherent with that solution, but does that mean I shouldn’t do anything, and just leave it there? No… Avoidance and complacency are not the lessons I want to teach my son. We can and should be a part of every little solution at our disposal, to protect our kids, and to teach our kids that the environment should be protected, too.
There is so much more I can and should do to limit my waste and protect the environment.
Greta held up that sign, that mirror, and it reminded me to face my actions and inactions. It reminded me that the consequences don’t just impact me. It reminded me that I have some power in the equation.
If you are interested in learning more about Climate Strikes, visit fridaysforfuture.org. To participate locally, a Vermont Climate Strike Rally is scheduled for Burlington City Hall on September 20th. If you’re interested in learning how you can go zero waste, check out Burlington VT Moms Blog contributing writer Meredith’s blog, MeredithTested.com, for ideas on how you can work toward a zero waste lifestyle.