As parents, we have two overarching responsibilities to our kids. One is to protect them. The other is to empower them so they can protect themselves.
Joining Moms Clean Air Force has empowered over a million parents across the country to take steps to protect our children against climate change. We vote for elected officials who will support healthy and safe energy policies. We work to strengthen the communities that help raise awareness about climate change and its impacts on our health and our planet. And we make changes in what we buy and how we live so we can raise our kids in the cleanest, healthiest, safest environment possible.
If we don’t empower our children to also work to stop climate change, we’re only doing part of our job. In her new book, The Parents’ Guide to Climate Revolution, Mary DeMocker, an activist mom with the climate group 350.org, offers “100 Ways to Build a Fossil-Free Future, Raise Empowered Kids, and Still Get a Good Night’s Sleep.”
Here are 5 take-aways from the book that may provide some useful guideposts as you figure out how to empower your own children to help stop climate change:
1.Teach your children some climate science. The science behind climate change is actually pretty straightforward. Burning fossil fuels like coal and oil releases carbon dioxide CO2) into the atmosphere. The CO2 creates a sort of gaseous blanket that traps hot air below it, heating up the earth and the oceans. Because there’s so much CO2, the planet is getting hotter, causing glaciers to melt, sea levels to rise, and the weather to become more extreme. Even poison ivy is getting more dangerous. Present the science as fact and empower young people to stand up for the science when deniers describe climate change as “fake news.”
2. Show your children that excellent and affordable clean energy solutions exist, starting with their own choices – and yours. Kids can walk and bike rather than expect a ride everywhere; otherwise, set up carpools to cut down on gas consumption and air pollution. Make your kids part of the conversation if you’re thinking about installing solar panels on your home or getting a new, fuel-efficient car. Put energy-saving power strips in your kids’ rooms or wherever the home computer is set up so it’s easy to turn the lights and devices off without necessarily unplugging. Here are 18 additional smart ways to save energy at home if you need more ideas.
3. Take your kids with you to vote. As important as our individual lifestyle choices are, we need public policies that will advance energy efficiency and clean energy. Public policies are made locally and at the state and national level by the people we elect to represent us. If we don’t vote, we don’t get the leaders or the policies we want and need. Turn voting into a meaningful and fun family event. Talk about the candidates and issues during primary season. Take your children with you when you vote, and then make sure they register to vote when they turn 18. Go to the polls together, then out for dinner or dessert to celebrate. Make it clear that voting is both a civic duty and a value.
4. Encourage your kids to start or join groups at school or in their communities that will work to make things better. Collective action is the force that gives movements power. Plus, it can be scary trying to change the world on your own. Need some examples? These kids banded together to replace throwaway polystyrene trays in their school cafeteria with reusable ones. High school students in Nevada mobilized for energy efficiency.
5.Help your kids power down and reconnect to nature. One of the most important ways to empower our children to protect the environment and stop climate change is to help them get back in touch with nature. Being outdoors rekindles their spirit, helps them focus on the world around them rather than on a screen, calms them, and can remind them how important a healthy, low-carbon planet is for their life, now and in the future. In addition to having “screen-free” time at home, find ways to get them outside and exploring. These “8 Clean Air Tips for Hiking With Kids” will help you prepare for an outing on a nearby trail.
Take care of yourself, too. Get some inspiration from our “Mom Activists” who’ve learned how to balance kids, play, and saving the planet!
DeMocker says we need a “climate revolution” and she’s right! If we begin that revolution at home, by teaching our kids that they can make a difference, we’ll make greater strides faster – strides that could last long enough for our kids to teach theirs to make a difference, too.