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Parenting the Sh*t out of Climate Change

03/05/19
Reading Time: 5 minutes

In December 2018, Ireland is burning its children’s futures to the ground through climate change inaction by father and daughter, John and Sophie Gibbons, was published in the Irish Times. It scared the bejaysus out of folk because John is scared to bejaysus about Sophie’s future in the belly of climate change. And rightly so. Climate change is reality. Climate change is also terribly unfair for two reasons:

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1. Climate change is an inter-generational justice issue – an epic social, economic, environmental and political problem that we’re passing down to our children. “There you go kiddo, try solve that!”

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2. Those who’ve done least to contribute to its causes are impacted the most. The average Irish person emits 8.8 tonnes of CO2 into our atmosphere each year (the equivalent weight of a heavy-duty truck. Imagine 5 million CO2 trucks for each one of us?!). Whereas the average Ethiopian emits 0.1 tonnes of CO2. 10 million people in Ethiopia are in need of food aid because of human-induced global warming that’s twice the population of Ireland. Ireland also ranks THE WORST at addressing climate change in Europe. Morto!

Photo: Independent.ie

I’d hedge my bets that many children in this country possess a deeper understanding of climate change than their parents. If I’m right, that’s petrifying. OK, so I sound like a grim reapress but it’s not the end of the world… yet. As with everything in our lives even things that seem beyond our control, we can choose how we respond. To paraphrase the Sunday Times bestseller, Parenting the Sh*t out of Life, let’s take climate change by its metaphorical horns and parent the sh*t out of it. And in doing so, give our kids a chance. Are you with me? No. Then watch this…

16-year old Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg addresses world leaders

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Teach your kids to love nature

I was recently asked by an Irish Times journalist how I became interested in Climate Change Education. It caught me off-guard. Then transported me back to my scouting days, which began as a 9-year old when girls were finally allowed join ‘boy’ scouts. Being outdoors A LOT and learning to endure sleeping under the stars or the less-romantic lashings of Irish rain, with just a bivouac for shelter, helped me develop a deep appreciation for what nature gives us to survive. It also fostered a respect for its beauty and brutality.

Options for nature activities are plentiful; you can even send your wee ones to forest schools these days. But! You can simply begin by stepping outside your front door. When you look closely, even in your local green or park, nature’s wonder is everywhere. Easy activities to ignite a curiosity in the natural world include a nature walk, family picnic, visiting a natural heritage site or a natural history museum, swimming in the sea, collecting shells on the beach and making jewellery or art, growing your own veg or even windowsill herbs if you’ve no back garden and so on…

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When I’m on the beach with my 3-year old son Joel, I often ask him to put his hands on the stones for a moment. I then tell him that what he’s feeling is Earth where we live and it’s alive so we must look after it. Simples.

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Speak to your child’s teacher

The Department of Education and Skills has a National Strategy on Education for Sustainable Development. Climate change features in Ireland’s Early Childhood (0-6 years), Primary and Secondary school curricula. You can find out more here. Climate change is a cross-curricular topic. This means it can be studied through many different subjects. For example, in Science, you might study global warming; in SPHE or CPSE, how natural disasters caused by climate change impact on human life; in Geography, the implications of rising sea-levels; in Religious Education, the concept of stewardship of the Earth; in Art how to visually take action on climate change, the list goes on. Ask your child’s teacher how they are bringing climate change to life in their classroom.

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There is a plethora of curriculum-based resources out there to make learning about climate change engaging for children, meet CJ the Bee from Trócaire…

… and initiatives like Green Schools to support a whole-school approach to Climate Change Education. There are also training opportunities for teachers to build their confidence to integrate climate change into their teaching practice through their professional networks and Development Education organisations. Here’s some useful links:

Trócaire

Eco Unesco

Developmenteducation.ie

Irish Development Education Association

Dublin City University Summer Courses for Teachers

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Share stories

Storybooks are an excellent and age-appropriate way to explore global issues like climate change with children. The key is to ensure you share more than one story on climate change to offer multiple perspectives on the same issue. This will give your child a wider view of climate change and in an accessible way, demonstrate its complexity. It will also help them develop their own perspectives while understanding that climate change affects people in different ways and that this is not always fair.

Popular books include the Tantrum that Saved the World, endorsed by award-winning journalist and activist, Naomi Klein; old skool masterpieces like Dr Seuss’s The Lorax, which existed ‘long before “going green” was mainstream’; The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (used with primary school teachers in DCU to explore how to teach climate change); and a new fav of mine The Great Irish Weather Book, a literal encyclopedia for all things related to weather and climate. You can find more book inspo here. Or you could use film as a story medium. Here’s a list of movies that teach kids about climate change.

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Take action

There are many ways you can nurture a sense of agency in your kids so they believe they can be a change-maker. The #FridaysforFuture climate change protests has me for one, inspired. This is an example of our children waking the world up to the jeopardy climate change poses to their futures because the people and institutions that are meant to protect them, have failed them.

Photo: Independent.ie

Responding to the call from their 16-year old peer, climate activist Greta Thurnberg, 10k people in Dublin and 37 locations across Ireland participated in the Climate Strike on Friday 15th March. These youth activists were supported by their parents and for the most part, their schools. They didn’t march because they were ‘told to’, they marched because they FEEL this injustice, it has fired-up their bellies and ignited a burning need for change.

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The next Climate Strike is Friday 24th May. A good person to follow in this movement is Dr Lorna Gold, who as a concerned mother and activist, wrote the acclaimed, Climate Generation: Awakening to Our Children’s Future.

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And finally…

We all know children mimic the good, the bad and the ugly in us so leading by example in how we respond to climate change is an essential step. I am no perfect role-model here but I am trying through lifestyle changes that Joel can replicate as he grows. But there are real role-models out there that will change our future because they are the future…

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We have not come here to beg world leaders to care. You have ignored us in the past and you will ignore us again. We have run out of excuses and we are running out of time. We have come here to let you know that change is coming, whether you like it or not. The real power belongs to the people. 

Greta Thunberg, 16-years old. 💪🏽

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What do you think?

Hey Mama!

I’m Jen Murphy, award-winning blogger and wellness advocate for working mothers. I created Working Mother Wellness as a platform for mums to share our wellness experiences. Sign-up to build your own Working Mother Wellness toolkit. You will receive updates on Kundalini yoga and meditation practices, wellness tips, and info on upcoming workshops and programmes.