The last two posts concerned the impending natural apocalypse we have brought on ourselves. Well, perhaps it isn’t all that dramatic quite yet. The short-sighted endeavors concerning the human race and natural resources at our disposal have created an unsustainable situation, which, if continued as such, will lead to a world unsupportive of human life. The danger, in the eyes of the author, lies not only in our vastly depleted resources, bloated population and crippled ecosystems. It is not simply the poisoned skies, polluted rivers and barren earth. No, the danger lies in our ignorance. As aforementioned, one cannot combat a problem if they know nothing of it. Children who are raised unaware of our environmental impact and the etiquette of an environmental citizen cannot grow to be the women and men leading the fight to ensure the specie’s continued survival. You cannot help but step on the ant you cannot see.
So I made a decision. I have had the fortune of being raised in a family where the environment was always a primary concern. My father, a LEED certified sustainable architect, has always been absolute in his devotion to the environment, a trait he passed on to my sister and me. Because of this privilege, I decided to stop griping to the internet, go out into the world and impart some of my knowledge to someone who otherwise wouldn’t be so informed. At first, I reached out to one of the plethora of under-funded public elementary schools in my hometown of Philadelphia. Unfortunately, because of scheduling issues, I had to move my operations to an established and well-funded private elementary school. The impact though, was hopefully the same.
I ended up teaching a series of mini-courses on environmental citizenship to a group of children from second through fifth grades. These grades seemed optimal because a second grader is mature enough to see and understand problems in the world, and a fifth grader is old enough to make a difference. In the classes we watched clips from documentaries, such as Anne Leonard’s polemical ode to sustainability The Story of Stuff, played games, did hands-on activities and creative pieces. The classes were intended to show students some of the things they can change in their own lives to minimize their negative impact on the planet. They learned how easy it can be to make a difference.
These kids showed me a passion for their planet that I could not have expected. Their insights into our unsustainable lifestyles reminded me of why I even care about the environment. They reminded me that I am not fighting for myself. My generation will be long dead before the true consequences of our actions roll around, but not theirs. These kids will see the waters rise. They will see floods and droughts, gross overpopulation, starvation and disease, entire species vanishing. These children will see blizzards on the 4th of July, and heatwaves at christmas. All I want is to warn them. To prepare them. To allow them to change.