What is it about climate change that has people at each others’ throats as soon as the subject crops up? It’s up there with religion and politics as a conversation no-no – a ‘don’t go there’ topic. And what gets my goat is the fact, and it is a fact, that the doom-sayers are winning the argument – to the detriment of children everywhere.
On the one hand we have the ‘there is no such thing as climate change’ fundamentalists: and on the other we have the ‘human beings are causing climate change’ fundamentalists; with neither camp prepared to grant that there has always been climate change, and there always will be climate change, and the truly big unanswered question is ‘just how much are human beings exacerbating climate change’ for the worse. We don’t know. We are simply being told by vested interests that it is all our fault.
I watched a BBC interviewer ask children in a New York school about climate change, and my heart went out to those kids, aged around 5 or 6. They actually believed that the world was about to end – that we would all die for lack of food – that there would soon be no animals left on the planet. They all agreed that they were scared of climate change. One little girl said her mother was ‘very scared’; indeed several mentioned their parents’ fear. Then there was the TV report about a little girl who dashed home from school, burst into her apartment and ran madly from room to room closing every window, yelling to her mother that ‘the air is going to poison us.
This is disgraceful. Yes, our children need to know about the dangers of plastic bags; the right way to dispose of rubbish; the need to care for our environment and cherish and nourish it. But no; we grannies and grand-dads should be speaking up loud and clear against the horrific abuse of the minds of our little loved-ones.
We need to help them to see all sides of the story with a sense of perspective. Explain ice and earth core-samples. Sit with them when the weather report is on (CNN is especially comprehensive) and point out that when there is a heat wave where it is normally cool, somewhere on the planet the reverse is happening. Tell them that yes, there are glaciers melting, but there are also glaciers growing.
Kids know that the weather is an important part of everyday living: it can spoil the fete, or the end of term games, or the beach picnic. Of course they are taught about freak storms, cyclones, tornados, earthquakes and tsunamis – but should we be silent when teachers and others in authority scare the hell out of them by having them believe that the environment is going, inevitably, to kill them, and soon?
Those little children I watched on TV were convinced that doomsday was just around the corner. Taking the information they had been given at face value and to heart, they believed that their environment was going to kill them very soon indeed. That was obvious, from their facial expressions, from their body language, and from their stuttering eagerness to express their fear. Teaching by rote is bad enough, but teaching through fear is child abuse.