Burdening our kids

Does anyone really think it’s okay to scare the bejeezers out of our kids with predictions of environmental doom?

“I worry about it,” says this girl who has yet to lose all her baby teeth, “because I don’t want to die.”

I understand that if you believe the worst case global warming scenarios you’ll advocate taking actions to avert them.

But frightening children about these issues, in my opinion, is unconscionable.

The fact is, NOBODY knows for certain what the future holds. It could bring horrors as bad or worse than those suggested by Al Gore’s scare graphs. (Asteroid impacts. Nuclear war. Flu pandemics. For instance.) Or it could be that people will get their s**t together and manage to make the world a nicer place than it is today. Or — the scenario I think is most likely — it could be a mix, kind of like it is today.

Nobody knows.

So why is it okay to trash a child’s PRESENT wellbeing in the name of a future we can’t predict, and over which children have even less control than adults?

This is Psyche 101 stuff. Worrying about the future, worrying about things over which you have no control, is debilitating — it’s a form of low-grade madness. Yet we not only foist these emotional non-coping skills on our children, we are downright pleased with ourselves when we do it.

. . . when 9-year-old Alyssa Luz-Ricca’s mother returned from a business trip to Costa Rica with a T-shirt of a colorful frog and the words “Extinction is forever” . . . Alyssa looked at the T-shirt and, she says, “I cried.”

“She cried very hard,” clarifies her mother, Karen Luz of Arlington.

Isn’t that wonderful? Alyssa’s “motivated” now! Happy day!

Not!

We should be ashamed.

We should be ashamed that we’ve laced what used to be called “biology” in our school curricula with environmental fire-and-brimstone messaging.

We should be ashamed that we, the adults, aren’t adult enough to shoulder the burden of our terrors ourselves, instead of asking our children to share the weight.

We should be ashamed that we have so little faith in ourselves that we can’t sit our kids down and say, “yes, there are troubles. But lots of grown-ups who really care about these issues are working very hard to find ways to solve them that are fair to everyone.” And believe that we’re telling the truth, because you know what? That IS the truth.

And what’s more, it’s the only truth that matters to a nine-year-0ld child.

[tags] global warming [/tags]

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3 Responses to Burdening our kids

  1. K: You’ve reminded me of a time roughly 50 years ago (and yes, I’m plenty old enough to remember those days). At that time the world was thought to be in a cooling stage, and there were mild fears that an ice age might be coming. But that’s not the point.

    What I remember is the drills at school in which we students (elementary grade) practiced hiding under our desks to be shielded from flying debris and the horrid deadly radiation that would likely kill us all during the upcoming nuclear holocaust of WW III. I’m NOT kidding. This was during the Eisenhower and Kennedy presidencies.

    Everybody loves to talk about (and worry about, and wring their hands about) whiat MIGHT happen. And the more horrific they can make it sound, the more gleefully they’ll tell it! But yes, telling little children that we’re all going to die, and the world is coming to an end…that really accomplishes a lot of good, doesn’t it?

    You mention what is taught in the name of “biology,” but is there ANY branch of science that isn’t caught up in environmentalism, with a heavy emphasis on the sure disasters we’re headed for?

    Disgusts me! (Well-writen post, btw.)

    John

  2. Kirsten says:

    Hi, John,

    Thanks.

    I don’t mind a bit that people have passionate beliefs on these issues. I’m glad they do — in some cases, as in the banning of CFCs, it seems likely that environmentalists’ positions were valid and the actions they advocated helped ward off a an imbalance that might otherwise have gotten out of control.

    I just think we need to give kids a safe place to be kids. Granted, that’s not always possible — life imposes itself, sometimes in the form of death — but there’s something wrong, IMO, with purposedly scaring them when, like you say, it just doesn’t accomplish anything.

    The dark underbelly of this phenom, of course, is that perhaps it does accomplish *something* — i.e. there’s an inherent temptation to recruit kids because it’s politically useful. If there’s anything more powerful than the image of a polar bear clinging piteously to a melting iceberg, it’s the image of a child imploring us to save the polar bear clinging piteously to a melting iceberg. I find it curious that the WaPo article could report on this without showing enough self-awareness to realize it was reporting on it. Cue (ironically delivered) Twilight Zone Music.

  3. Bernita says:

    YES!
    I so strongly agree with you.
    There’s some sort of syndrome of mild sadism involved in those who want to give children nightmares.

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