Our planet is in crisis; the environmental issues we face can seem daunting and downright frightening. Some of these problems, such as climate change and biodiversity loss, are complex to understand and intimidating in their scope.
It is important to engage children in discussions about these environmental issues to help alleviate fears of the unknown and empower them to make positive changes.
Climate change was once a controversial issue, but today it is widely accepted in the scientific community and internationally governing bodies are working to better understand and combat its affects. The idea that our planet’s climate is changing as a direct result of the emissions we have produced is a pervasiveness topic. It is so commonly discussed in our media that everyone, even children, are being introduced to the issue. So, join the conversation and make tackling climate change a family affair.
Ask Questions: Get to know whether your child has learned about climate change in school - they may have picked up a thing or two that they can teach you! Encourage them to ask questions and if you don’t know the answer look for resources together to find out more.
Look for Effects: Make the impact of climate change more tangible by giving real life examples of how changes in the planet’s climate affects all living things. For example climate change poses a serious threat to Polar bears. As the ice melts in the Arctic earlier each year it gets increasingly difficult for Polar bears to hunt, resulting in a drastic decline in their population.
- Learn Take-Action Tips: Through our daily habits, such as driving our cars or lighting our homes, we are using energy and producing emissions that contribute to climate change. Give your kids examples of ways they can conserve energy and help combat the impact of climate change. For example, turn down the heat in winter and don’t crank the AC all summer long. Consider walking, biking or carpooling, turn off appliance that aren’t being used and switch to energy efficient light bulbs.
Biological diversity, or the variety of living things on Earth, is being put at risk by human activity. All living things are connected; creating an intricate web of life that is interdependent. The removal of any of the species in this system can have catastrophic affects. For young children, this can be a scary subject as they worry about the seemingly imminent extinction of their favourite animals. Although complex, biodiversity loss is a critical issue and we cannot deny children the opportunity to engage in the fight to save our planet’s species.
Introduce Species: If your children aren’t already in love with all things furry and fluffy it’s time to let them meet some of the planet’s most amazing species. Visit the zoo, find resources about animals online or at the library or go on a nature walk to search for species that live in your area.
Make the Connection: Everything is a part of the biodiversity that makes up our planet including humans and yes even your children. Talk to your kids about how we are part of the web of life and how our actions affect other species. For example, our usage of the pesticide DDT in the 1960’s threatened Bald eagle populations. By banning the use of this chemical we have helped the Bald eagle make a comeback! See if you and your kids can think of other ways we affect other species. Discuss how we alter the land, water and even the air and the ways these changes can help or harm our planet’s diversity.
Have a Happy Ending: Within this crisis there are success stories, zoos and conservation groups, for example, work to preserve animals in captivity and, through captive breeding programs, reintroduce them into the wild, like the Toronto Zoo’s work with the Black Footed Ferret. Kids can help stop biodiversity loss by being environmentally conscious in their actions and by supporting real conservation projects through Earth Rangers’ Bring Back the Wild program.
Your Child As an Eco-Hero
Supporting your children in their exploration of these issues can result in enthusiasm to protect the environment and optimism about the planet’s future - a reaction that can inspire us all! Take Jenna who sold her paintings to raise support for animal protection, or Avery who made a movie about the endangered Olive Ridley Sea Turtle.
Although issues like climate change and biodiversity loss are important to discuss, it is also essential to foster a genuine connection with nature. Spend time with your children outdoors—take your kids on picnics, visit botanical gardens or take a stroll by a pond. Encourage exploration and reward their curiosity!
This guest post has been provided by Earth Rangers, a non-profit organization whose mission is to educate children about the importance of biodiversity and empower them to protect animals and their habitats. To learn more, visit EarthRangers.com.