It’s often said that we need to protect the planet for our children. This probably resonates with everyone, but it seems particularly poignant to parents of young children. Their babies and toddlers are being raised in a world that’s losing thousands of species to extinction every day, that’s nearing the end of its fossil fuels, and that will look drastically different by the time they reach adulthood. Parents want their children to experience a world where pandas are still alive and where the sky in cities is still blue, but that’s an uncertain hope, because it depends on a communal effort. Nations and politicians certainly need to band together to preserve our planet, but family members do as well. In this day and age, it’s not enough for parents to practice eco friendly living; they need to ensure their children will too. If the environmental future belongs to them, we need to make sure they understand the responsibility they’re about to receive.
Eco friendly living will manifest itself in a dozen ways between a dozen different people. At its essence, though, it boils down to a consideration for the environment: a realization that the purchases we make and the products we use have an effect on the planet. Children, wide-eyed and enchanted with the world, actually grasp this concept well. To toddlers, every common squirrel is an exciting creature; every bird in flight seems miraculous. In its mystery the planet naturally exhibits a connectedness; so teaching them this environmental concept is hardly necessary. Once they’re old enough to understand the terms, they can easily grasp the concept that pollution affects fish, that litter affects sea turtles, and that toxic products affect the air. That knowledge is an essential foundation to later sustain the planet as adults.
Real world experience, however, often has a much stronger influence. Most people who practice eco friendly living can remember a moment in life, a hike or documentary where they encountered the grandeur of the natural world. Those experiences make the concepts of eco friendly living clear. Supporting clean sea initiatives doesn’t just protect the blue whale drawn on environmental posters; it saves the pod of humpbacks that children watch through binoculars on the coast. Parents who are able should provide these experiences whenever possible. Children will naturally care about the earth if they witness its beauty and fragility for themselves, even at a young age.
If instilled early, those values for eco friendly living won’t dissipate easily; rather, they’ll strengthen and mature with age, especially once they develop convictions of their own. Different parents have different views on indoctrination and instilling beliefs, but like all things it can be done carefully and in consideration of a child’s individuality. For those who think wanting to protect the earth is common sense, teaching their children to care for the planet is a natural part of life. Few children reject their parents’ environmental habits; few rebellious teenagers join logging crews or pour oil into local streams. They might develop distinct environmental practices, but they don’t often spurn the notion of eco friendly living entirely. If they’re raised with an awareness of our precarious earth, they’re likelier to do their part and protect it for further generations.