It’s a big world out there, but we can all make a difference.
As a mom, and as someone whose outside-of-the-home job has me tuned in to green news, I always wonder (okay, worry) about the next generation. Will our kids live in a world where climate change and population growth have rendered fresh water out of reach for most, or where sea-level rise has displaced millions living in coastal communities?
Common worries for the conservation-concerned, and for which we don’t have definitive answers. But what I do know, and tell myself daily, is that it is our job to teach our kids about the power of the individual.
A few days ago my 5-year-old pointed to a crumpled paper cup in a parking lot, picked it up with a smile, and threw it away. “Litter is bad for the Earth, right Mama?”
I’ve been teaching our sons that little things can create big change.
Big movements and campaigns are great for galvanizing lots of people, sure. But when it comes to our day-to-day lives, the environmental movement — as much as I champion it — can be downright depressing. When nations can’t agree on a way to combat climate change, when whole populations of a species are dying off (think bats or bees) or when the work that environmental organizations do seems like an uphill battle, I focus on the little things.
Picking up trash. Not wasting water. Spending time outside with my boys, enjoying the simplistic beauty of nature.
And my sons and I talk about it often, because I think that in today’s world — in which so much of everything often seems out of our control — it’s important to give them a sense that they can affect change.
So I teach them about making a difference in ways that they can feel, see and hear.
Like when I found a six-pack plastic ring on the side of the road while jogging. I carried it home and talked to them about how trash can end up in the ocean. “Fish and turtles can get caught in the plastic rings,” I said. “But if we cut it up, and if it ends up in the ocean, we’ll know that those guys will be ok.”
We cut the plastic trash apart together, and threw it away. And they ran off to play with their trains, not giving it a second thought — which was exactly what I wanted them to do.
Because I want them to feel safe and in control now. When they’re older, we can talk more in depth about the problems facing our world. Hopefully, my attempt to show them that they can help the environment at this young age will provoke deeper thoughts about affecting change in some meaningful way, later on.
But even if that change comes in the form of teaching their kids about stewardship, and taking care of the environment immediately around themselves, I’ll consider them a success.
After all, it’s the little things.
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[Image: The writer's son in a park near their home. Image source: Megan Sheehan/TNC]