Stop telling kids that climate change will destroy their world – Reuters

My 5-year-old daughter is now old enough to read a lot of children’s books and magazines, and it has given me a whole new perspective on wars of words about how we talk about climate change and the preservation of the planet and its future.

As I wrote before, climate change will be bad, and will prevent humanity from thriving as much as it should in this century. This is likely to lead to mass migrations, displacements and extinctions of many species.

But what it won’t do is make the Earth uninhabitable, or even mean that our children live in a world poorer than the world we grew up in. As many climate scientists have told usThe world is a better place to live – especially for people in low-income countries – than it ever was, and climate change won’t make this situation as bad as it was in 1950.

“I categorically reject, both scientifically and personally, the idea that children are somehow doomed to unhappy lives,” Columbia University climatologist Kate Marvel told Ezra Klein in his column this week on Overcoming Climate Desperation.

Writing for adults doesn’t always do the best job of achieving balance, although not everyone agrees on what exactly that balance is. books like The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Global WarmingIn my opinion, do a reasonable job of portraying some extreme scenarios that are definitely worth considering, but still don’t quite amount to uninhabitable land, or even land that would be a terrible place to live.

Yes, some things would be worse, but thanks to progress on many fronts in the fight against extreme poverty and disease, as well as general economic growth, the lives of our children will be better than those of our parents.

This question is important because there is an intense debate among activists about whether the more pessimistic messages are motivating people to fight climate change or making them despair, concluding that the world is doomed and separated. But the message to adults is positively accurate and optimistic compared to the presentation of climate change and other environmental challenges being conveyed to children.

What do we tell our children about climate change?

As a parent, I believe it is essential to empower children and send a message that the world will be in their hands, that they have the power to solve its most pressing problems and that many people are already working on these issues. Who want children to learn, grow and join us. Fighting climate change is part of it, and it’s important and right, but not because there will be no world in which children can live when they grow up.

Unfortunately, this last message is the most common in Our House is Burning: Greta Thunberg’s Appeal to Save the PlanetBeautifully illustrated book geared towards ages 3 to 8.

“There may not be a world to live in when you grow up. What good is a school without a future? One page describes Thunberg as thinking. Even while preparing for Thunberg’s rise as an activist, I am not pleased with this message. Some children may hear it and be inspired to speak before the United Nations, But most children will hear it and be frightened and helpless.

This pessimistic message seems to permeate young people. The 2021 study funded by the campaign and research group Avaaz surveyed 10,000 people between the ages of 16 and 25 and found that more than half of them believed humanity was “doomed to fail” due to climate change.

Horacio Villalobos/Corbis via Getty Images

said Susan Clayton, a conservation psychologist who studies the impact of climate change on mental health. He told National Geographic in an article on children and climate anxiety.

Clayton has some great advice on what to do with a child anxious about climate change. But it is worth delving into his quote. Why do we see children say that? Because books, stories and letters of protest addressed to them tell them so! Pessimism reigns in the waters about climate change, and children often take this pessimism much more literally than adults.


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In some cases, it’s as if adults are conveying our frustration about not taking action on climate policy toward children — and they do so by telling them things that aren’t true, and they don’t. a grain of salt.

The issue also permeates advice about what children can do about climate change.

I imagine the trend of advising children on climate change to encourage them to challenge adults, recycle, spin, and attend demonstrations stems from a well-meaning desire to give them advice they can use now. But I’m afraid that will leave them frustrated and he’s basically not very honest about how to solve climate change.

Les enfants qui se jettent de tout leur cœur sur ces problèmes pendant toute leur enfance, mais qui ne sont pas eux-mêmes Greta Thunberg, n’iront probablement nulle part, et ils ne seront pas non plus en mesure d’aller nulle Puberty.

The best way for a 7-year-old to improve the world is probably not to beg for an adult. By learning more and developing new skills she can tackle issues like climate change head-on as she gets older.

We rise to a better future

When you ask our daughter about environmental issues, I would tell her that a few generations ago there was smallpox, but some children studied hard and became adults who fought to eradicate it. I told him there was leaded gasoline, but we knew it was bad and gradually got rid of it. He told her that today there is climate change, and that solving it will require new inventions and ideas – and she can come up with them.

She explained that if we had better batteries, we could use solar energy for more of our power grid, so maybe she could learn to invent better batteries. She explained that if we could grow beef without cows, they wouldn’t release methane, so maybe she’ll figure out how to do it profitably.

But I haven’t yet found a children’s book that presents the climate crisis in this way: as a challenge, but as a challenge like many challenges that humanity has overcome, which our children can overcome by learning about the world and inventing new solutions. If you know one, I’m looking for recommendations; If you do not know, I invite you to think about where this gap leaves in our letters to children.

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