Happy Earth Day.
It’s too bad that we even need such a thing. Every day should be an earth day. When April 22 rolls around each year, I picture us humans getting handed a report card with a big red F stamped across it: “FAIL! Now you must observe Earth Day in hopes of increasing your environmental sensibility. Try again for next year.” Ah, well, mini rants aside, I guess it’s a valuable day to have on the calendar. My plan is to take the boys to pick up littered garbage in our neighbourhood, which is a good springboard for discussing environmental responsibility.
I got thinking about how to teach my kids about the environment while on a family walk yesterday. It was sunny (for the first time in days) and there’s a wonderful trail that winds through a forested hillside in the middle of town. It passes by a children’s fish pond that’s stocked with rainbow trout every spring and continues for at least a kilometre, where we then walked back along the vast, empty beach as big waves crashed in from Lake Huron. We were out for an hour and a half, and my boys were in heaven. Three-year-old A. must have run twice the trail’s length for the number of times he ran ahead and doubled back. L., who’s now seventeen months, toddled most of the way, deeply concentrated on keeping his balance while stepping over sticks and depressions in the ground. They were both joyful and attentive to every detail — the squirrels that dashed across, the birds chirping, the (sadly) dead turtle we found floating at the edge of the pond. We returned home, all of us feeling energized, grateful that we have such a beautiful place to call home.
I concluded that there’s something even more important than teaching kids not to litter. Kids should — no, must — be taught to love being outdoors. If a child is allowed to roam and explore his or her natural surroundings, they will not want to cause damage to it because they’ll understand the unique and peaceful beauty that comes along with a pristine natural spot. But if we keep our kids indoors, instilling fear of the great wild outdoors and the possibility of scrapes and bruises (and the much rarer possibilities of getting lost or kidnapped), we actually teach our kids to fear the environment more than anything. That will not make them responsible stewards. Without a love and appreciation for the forest, how do we expect our kids to take care of it? Of course, it’s easier said than done, but I’m trying to do it simply by spending a bit of each day outside. At least that’s a start.
And now, in keeping with the Earth Day theme, I’m going to leave you with this sad picture of a confused koala who has discovered his home has been cut down. I want to scoop him up and tell him it’s going to be okay, but it probably won’t be. This is why we need to teach our kids to respect the environment and consider the impact of our lifestyle choices.
Heartbreaking, isn’t it?