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Pay Attention to Children
© Richard Grossman MD, 2009
We are faced with a global tragedy with climate change and decreasing supplies of fossil fuel. Despite a few people who deny that any problem exists, most scientists are expecting the world’s future to be very different from the reality that we have enjoyed.
The basic problem is that we are expecting the planet to support too many people who consume too much. I have written frequently about population and ways to slow its growth, and a bit about limiting consumption. These concerns are not so much for my generation, but for the future—our children and especially grandchildren. Perhaps we can not only live for them, but also learn from them.
I recommend Global Warming for Kids: http://globalwarmingkids.net/. It is a wonderful way to inspire children, and teachers will find it to be a great resource.
There are many examples of kid environmental heroes. Savannah Walters, when she was just nine years old, started the “Pump ‘em Up” campaign. She was concerned about the proposals to drill for oil in the arctic, and realized that we could conserve millions of gallons of petroleum daily if all vehicle tires were properly inflated. “In second grade we studied the Arctic and its animals,” she wrote. “I wanted to protect that environment and then learned we could also save people money and cut down on air pollution too.”
The organization’s url is www.pumpemup.org . Not only does it tell the advantages of running a vehicle with full pressure in its tires, but it gives step by step instructions that any child (or adult) can follow to check and inflate tires properly. I carry a tire pressure gauge in my car for this purpose.
Advantages of carrying the correct pressure include better handling (and safety), longer tire life, saving money on gas and decreasing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
According to Savannah, the pressure in tires should be checked when they are cold, and should be done every month. The correct pressure can be found in the vehicle’s handbook or on a tag attached to the driver’s side door frame.
BP&J (peanut butter and jelly sandwich) is the longtime kids’ favorite lunch. Surprisingly, it is also the focus of another environmental campaign. Compared to a hamburger or a tuna sandwich, a PB&J is much more earth-friendly. The people at the PB&J Campaign have calculated that consuming this kids’ delight reduces carbon dioxide emissions by two and a half pounds compared to a meat or fish meal. Feeding lunches to a family of four over the span of a year, that would be a ton and a half of greenhouse gas averted! Part of the savings is from not using animal-based products, and part is from avoiding cooking.
Tired of PB&J? (When I was a kid I had a half a PB&J sandwich in my lunch every day, and never lost the taste for them.) The campaign’s website, www.pbjcampaign.org, gives lots of alternative recipes and information about the advantages of eating plant-based foods. It also has a blog that includes interesting opinions and information such as “Save the planet with beans.”
Colin Carlson is another kid with an environmental mission. Colin founded the Cool Coventry (Connecticut) Club as a school service project when he was in high school. His motto is: “One person can make a difference—I can, and so can you.” The goal of this prize-winning project is to increase awareness of global climate change, and to encourage people to reduce their energy use.
Tehreem Rehman of New York is another future environmental leader. She was inspired to start Long Island Teen Environmental Activists. Among the goals of this group is to convince local school districts to implement district-wide recycling program. “I am part of the next generation to inhabit the earth. Preserving our environment is essential. There is no planet B.”
Locally there are many young environmental activists. One example is Columbine Christian School’s annual Earth Day River Clean-up. This year more than 85 kids helped gather trash beside the Animas along the bike path. This was the eighth year for this project, and they did a clean sweep from 32nd Street to the Durango Mall.
The examples above are of kids who may end up as leaders of the future environmental movement. I hope that they take better care of their world than we have of ours. I am ashamed that we will hand over the planet to them in worse shape than we received it from our parents.