Having recently travelled through parts of Southeast Asia I feel utterly horrified at the lack of worldwide education concerning environmental issues. The feeling gave rise to this article which I hope touches some nerves and inspires you all to continue the good fight in preserving this planet.
One of the best contributions we can offer to our planet’s conservation is to educate the children, not just to recycle, but to show them the beauty this earth has to offer and why it is essential that they help to save it, and, just as importantly, how. Inspire them to watch David Attenborough, take them travelling, let them watch real-life documentaries on the matters at hand. We don't only want to show the negative effects of humans on the planet but also what it is we are trying to preserve; we need to show them that this place is worth saving and that they need to take some responsibility for it. If they understand habitats, eco-systems, the lifestyles of animals and then examples of how human activity destroys this, it may inspire them more to conserve, preserve and make choices that make an environmentally friendlier impact.
If a child knows that the consumption of beef worldwide has wiped out thousands of acres of rainforest, and contributes to the destruction of our ozone, perhaps they’ll refrain from eating it. Seeing the devastation with their own eyes and understanding it is the only way to pass on this knowledge. Perhaps if they came to realise that the demolition of rainforests destroys those eco systems, habitats and animals they have come to know about and be interested in, this knowledge may push them to help make a difference. Let’s encourage them to eat less, or no, meat and promote eating fresh fruit and vegetables instead. Reduce waste buy only buying foods that are not contained in a package. Always use aluminium water bottles and refill them, no single use plastic! All of this is beneficial to both the environment and their nutrition and health. Win win.
If a child saw one of the most beautiful places on earth and returned a few years later to find it covered in plastic, perhaps it would inspire them to refrain from buying anything plastic. Just telling someone to do something doesn’t often have the impact required to instigate change, especially when it comes to human habits. I know this may not be possible so I’m trying to promote other, simpler methods we can use to make the necessary influences on their minds and hearts.
Always explain why…
When we do ask that they recycle, we need to explain why. Maybe a weekend project of going to your local recycling plant will help them to understand the way in which materials are recycled but we still need to tackle the actual purpose of doing it in the first place. Having lived not too far away from a landfill in the foothills of Casares I had to daily experience the horror (not to mention the smell) of the amount of trash we are piling into our earth. I began to imagine that landfill multiplied by the amount of people in the world and how devastating that will eventually be. I have shown this and explained it to our children and it seems to be taking effect. As is the fact that this is a country which is trying to deal with their waste; imagine all those that are not and the hearts start to sink. Take them to a landfill, show them what it is we are doing all over the world. All our waste either ends up in a place like that, being burned and causing toxic fumes to pollute the air, or in the oceans where it destroys sea creatures and life. If a child can understand the negative effects of pollution, they may decide against being a part of it. By opening their eyes to this we are empowering them to take control and make their own decisions.
Another great way to encourage a positive impact is to organise a clean up; choose a beach, local park or forest, get a few friends together and make a day out of removing unwanted rubbish from our own habitats. We live near a river in Gaucin and each weekend a lot of people descend upon the swimming spot there. Many of them sadly leave their rubbish behind as though there is a secret campo garbage collector that is going to magically appear to clean up after them. Sometimes they are even thoughtful enough to put everything in a plastic bag, tie it neatly and then dump it at the side of the track for him to find. Worse still some end up floating down the river headed for the sea! It’s heartbreaking to see but this is what happens when people are not educated as to why this is wrong.I’m thinking about asking the children to make a sign saying “please leave only your footprints behind”just to gently discourage the persistent littering.
Our kids became aware of “rubbish in nature”I think inspired by a forest clean up they did once. Now, whenever we are out and about, in the car, walking on the beach or wherever we happen to be, and they notice something that has no place being in a tree or a bush or the sea or river, they demand we stop and retrieve it, take it with us and dispose of it properly. It doesn’t matter whether it is our rubbish or not, it is our environment and garbage doesn’t belong there, so we’ve got to make a difference and remove it before it does any damage. They've inspired me to do the same.
If they appoint themselves as eco-warriors (they can even wear capes and masks if they want, whatever works!) we can encourage them that by doing this they are global super heroes rescuing the planet from drowning in rubbish. Because it is the truth! This purposeful and positive notion will be seen by their peers, and of course grown-ups too which may pass on this message to more and more people and help to spread the word.
Recycling in the home is a must as everything begins in the home. Having separate bins for plastic, glass and paper as well as fresh food scraps which can be made into compost is the first step. If recycling is a normal thing at home, it will become standard practice everywhere else.
If we encourage them to reuse items from our own refuse we also inspire their creativity. We can encourage them to look up ways to reduce, reuse and recycle and let them make new stuff out of old.
Our carbon footprint is something which can be monitored. If a child understands this concept and what affects it then they can conscientiously work toward reducing theirs and their family’s impact on the world. The eco-warrior attitude can be something they can really embrace and put to work. We are giving them the mission to make sure their own negative impact is kept to a minimum and why this is important. Let’s explain to them why we don’t waste water, or electricity, or any resources. It isn’t easy to achieve but if we try our best to teach the children we are making a huge step in the right direction. I’m pretty sure in a few years they’ll be teaching us what we could do to reduceour negative impact on the environment and help to make things better for their children to come.