Dec 6th, 2015, 03:59 PM

Children and Climate Change

By Danielle Seyler
(Photo: Huffington Post)
How can we expect kids to care for Mother Earth if they haven't experienced her beauty?

Have you ever gone camping? The sound of a crackling fire, the smell of pine trees, the icy sensation of diving into a pristine lake. Few things incite more appreciation for Mother Nature than the view from the top of Half Dome, the ice-capped mountain of the Sierra Nevadas, or the wondrous construction of Utah’s many arches.

Nothing was more exciting to me as a kid than hiding behind redwood trees, building sand castles on the beach, and climbing the biggest rocks I could find. But today children are growing up in a different world. A world of iPads, 3D TVs, and Wii. I know a nine-year-old who has a newer iPhone than I do. And she uses it more efficiently too.

As changes in climate become more and more disconcerting, and the conversation of sustainability develops, it is clear that we depend on the youth of the world to be more responsible with resources, to have more awareness of energy use, and to be both more passionate about, and dedicated to, seeking feasible solutions for lowering our carbon emissions and saving the planet.

As I write this, leaders from across the world are gathered here in Paris to discuss how the global community plans to work together to lower emissions and tackle disasters caused by global warming. They believe that the “next generation is watching”. These are problems that each new generation will inherit, and we can only hope that they will be passionate about healing the environment.

Yet while national leaders give empowering speeches about what needs to be done to correct the mistakes of the past, odds are that the youth of their nations are inside a room staring at a screen. We have all heard some older, wiser adult say “kids these days…” followed by some generalized issue about their lack of respect, their strange fashion trends, or the fact that they watch too much television. Well, kids these days don’t go outside enough, and spend way too much time in front of a screen. Older and wiser researchers at The Guardian found that “the scary truth is, the number of kids who regularly go to their local ‘patch of nature’ has halved in a generation.”

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Children today spend an average of 30 minutes per week outside. One in five have never climbed a tree (I have fallen out of a tree or two, and most people would agree I turned out fine). Children are spending less and less time outside, with huge declines in spontaneous outdoor activities such as bike riding, swimming and touch football, according to a study by the National Sporting Goods Association. You wouldn’t support a presidential candidate if you knew nothing of their policies. You wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a test drive. How can we expect kids to care for the planet if they haven’t experienced its marvel?

Encourage your kids to roll around in the mud. Let them climb trees and ride down hills on their bikes and roast marshmallows over an open fire. Show them how beautiful the leaves are on the trees in autumn. Teach them about the wondrous mysteries the ocean holds. Inspire them to climb to a mountain’s peak.

Remind them about how important it is for us to take care of our planet, because it is the only one they have, and it is only getting warmer.

(Photos: NY Mag, The ABF)