The past couple of years have been stressful for a variety of reasons- political unrest, pandemic woes, and division. However, in the background of all of it there’s been an insidious spectre lurking- climate change. Although activists and advocates for sustainability have been sounding the alarm for a long time, we are now in a stage that’s recently been described as a “code red for humanity”. As a person who’s raising my children in a region that’s being slammed by wildfires and record-breaking heatwaves, I’ve been feeling the pressure when it comes to talking to kids about climate change.
We live in the interior of B.C. in Canada in a gorgeous holiday destination town that has 4 main lakes and rolling grassy hills. This region is hot and dry in the summer, making it the perfect place for orchards and vineyards. When we moved here a few years ago away from the busy city, we never looked back. It’s truly an outdoorsy dream to be able to raise kids in a place that’s so naturally beautiful.
However, this summer was different. In July we had a record-breaking heat wave in the province that made playing outside an unhealthy option. The memory of taking my kids outside quickly to show them the thermometer registering at over 40 degrees celsius is one that will stick with me. So will the conversation that followed, as I tried to explain the gravity of a huge issue like climate change to a 4 and 6 year old. Thankfully the heat wave subsided, but trips outdoors to play have been few and far between thanks to a terrifying abundance of wildfire activity that’s left the sky dark and the air thick with smoke.
Living somewhere this hot and dry means that wildfire smoke is a pretty typical summer issue. However, this year it’s been downright apocalyptic with our beautiful region being surrounded by active fires that have made the air quality too poor for outdoor activities, and smoke that’s blocked out the sun. This is the first year our family was put on evacuation notice briefly, despite being right in town, as burnt pine needles, leaves, and other debris rained down. This year we had the hottest Spring we’ve ever had on record, creating disastrous conditions for fires to thrive. The largest and closest fire to where we live is being expected to burn into winter. On top of the other stresses in the past year and a half, this Summer has been a huge lesson on the impact of climate change on the quality of life.
It can be far too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and forget the fact that we have a massive impact on the planet. The same planet that needs to house our children and theirs when we are gone. Although we can make changes on an individual level, the reality is that this is so much bigger than any one person ditching plastic straws. Action needs to be taken on a larger scale to reduce things like greenhouse gas and cO2 emissions before it’s too late. The planet itself will likely re-calibrate, but the future of our species is in danger. It’s important for us as parents to be open and up front with our kids about the reality of climate change.
One of the most important things you can do as a parent to help your children care about the Earth is to be open with them and to help them cultivate an appreciation for the natural world. This way, they will feel a connection to nature, making them more likely to advocate for it in their life. Additionally, you can help your kids to learn more about climate change and actions that can be taken on an individual and household level via age-appropriate resources. One of the most challenging things for parents is trying to discuss the seriousness of the issue without inducing eco-anxiety in their little minds. It can also be helpful to use these scary news stories and local issues as teachable moments, stressing the importance of living in balance with the Earth.
Although climate change has been something I’ve cared about for awhile, the events of this summer on our family has made it hit home in a way that definitely impacted my parenting. I’ve had conversations I didn’t expect to have yet, however, I see it as a good thing. After all, it’s part of our jobs as parents to help empower our kids to know that their actions can make a really big difference.