Climate change is big. It’s scary. And for kids, it can be too much to handle.
Harriet Shugarman’s new book, How to Talk to Your Kids About Climate Change: Turning Angst into Action is here to help.
Harriet is the founder of the ClimateMama blog, professor of Climate Change and Society and World Sustainability, and Chair of the Climate Reality Project, NYC Metro Chapter. She is a nationally recognized influencer, connector, and trusted messenger for parents on solutions to our climate crisis. A recipient of the Climate Reality Green Ring Award, and praised by Al Gore as someone, “…who has demonstrated an exceptional commitment to her role as a climate communicator and activist.” And, Harriet has been a friend of Moms Clean Air Force since we landed almost ten years ago.
You can read more about Harriet here. But first, get this book because this is a book for parents. Here’s what you’ll find: a clear and un-scary guide that helps demystify climate science for yourself and your kids, then help you all do something about it.
One of the biggest values of the book is that it is written by a parent for parents. As a mom who had to comfort her own two kids when Superstorm Sandy barreled through her New York City neighborhood, and now raising her daughter Alana and her son Elliott through the most intense period of climate extremes we’ve ever seen, Harriet knows firsthand how to talk about this dilemma so kids will listen, and how to listen when they talk, too.
The book’s introduction explains how serious our climate emergency is. “Our house is literally on fire, from the Amazon to the Arctic Circle. We can smell the smoke and we can see the flames. There is still time to put the fire out, to save at least some of our belongings and maybe even the house itself, “ she writes, “but we must act now.”
After briefly reviewing some climate science, Harriet notes that it is important to remind our kids of two things: “What is happening is NOT normal,” and “We are all part of the solution.”
In Chapter 2, “Thanks for the ride, Dinosaurs,” Harriet tells it like it is, declaring that our addiction to fossil fuels is “literally driving us down the road to species extinction—our own included. We need to put the brakes on now.”
She explains why the Paris Agreement is so important, and why President Trump’s decision to withdraw the US matters. She takes to task the “discounting of proven science by the Executive office of the US presidency,” especially by the EPA and Departments of Interior, State, and Energy, which “regularly counter and sow doubt and confusion about accepted climate science.”
In “Coming to Grips with Climate Change as a Parent,” Harriet walks us through the steps that will get us “from grief to hope to revolve to action.” Because without action, she reminds us, we end up with a lot of useless handwringing that just won’t make a difference. She also encourages parents to lead by example. “Find your superpower,” she urges. “Name what you are working on to save and why” to make what you do concrete, specific and real.
Harriet also urges parents to tell their offspring good news as much as possible. “Hearing about children and adults working together on climate solutions … doing good work to protect Mother Nature and all her creations, is important for all of us regardless of age.”
She provides a variety of suggestions on what we can do with our kids at all ages to turn angst into action. From calculating your family’s carbon footprint and coming up with ways to reduce it, to what to do if your child wants to participate in a climate strike, and how to talk to the school, teachers, and other parents.
Our current coronavirus pandemic provides an opportunity to have a meaningful climate discussion with your kids, Harriet said in an email interview: “There are many similarities in the ways we address our kids’ concerns. Both are huge problems affecting the entire world that regularly seem out of our control. Making the connection that we can do hard things, and that our responses at the community level (making PPE, supporting local restaurants, food banks, thanking our elected officials) all matter, are similar.” She also suggests we use the quarantines around the world as a teachable moment. We’ve been able to “hear and see nature” in a much clearer way because burning coal and oil has decreased so much. “Seeing the photos from around the world about how quickly air pollution (different from CO2) has cleared up shows us how fast our planet could heal if we gave her a chance.”
“I remain optimistic, resolved, and determined … I will myself to be forever hopeful,” Harriet writes.
You will be too, with this book as your guide.