I don't tend to be a big worrier. I have only so much mind to use from minute to minute and for the most part I can find infinitely better things to do with it then worry. The comment I hear most from others about myself as a parent is that I am 'so relaxed', and whether it's meant as a compliment or not I tend to take it as one.
But never the less I worry about my son's future, and I am sure I am not alone in this. The fact is that every time I see a TV commercial for Kleenex brand disposable hand towels, or a news story like the continuing effect of the gulf oil spill, and every time I throw out my food waste because we haven't yet figured out a good way to compost from our apartment, I am overcome with a sense of fear and hopelessness about the future of this planet. A future that belongs to my son, and to your children as well.
When I think about the continued UNsustainability of the world and culture that we live in, I start to worry.
I can hope to teach my child earth friendly habits like energy conservation, repairing, reusing and recycling, and eating whole foods found locally whenever possible, or any of the hundreds of other small ways my family chooses to lessen our effect on the environment.
But how do I fight back against the 'more, more, more, 'instant, convenient, disposable' mentality of the culture that we live in as it finds newer and more creative ways to push its way into my child's mind? How do I raise a child who has love and compassion for the earth and the good sense to know the difference between sustainable solutions and a marketing ploy? More importantly, how do I raise a child who, given the choice between easy and right, will do the right thing for himself, his community, and the world around him?
I want to try and model all of these things to my child as he grows. I am not sure exactly how, but I believe teaching is a process which is born from relationships of trust and respect. There will be many lessons taught between us, him to me and me to him. But I want to also create an environment where these lessons come naturally, where questions that lead to discussions which lead to learning and problem solving can happen organically. How do I do that in a culture so far removed from the natural world?
The obvious answer to these questions is to spend time out doors. Almost everyone I've talked to about these worries of mine is confident that a few hours a week at the neighborhood park and some precious memories of camping or sailing or hiking or fishing will be enough to raise children who are passionate about nature and protecting it.
I am not convinced that that is all there is to it. Lots of people spent time outside as children but don't 'have time' to recycle, don't care where their food is coming from so long as it's convenient, who buy SUVs only to drive them alone and in city for their daily commute. For every advocate who credits childhood camping trips with their love for nature, there is an oil loving climate change denier with the same experiences and none of the compassion.
It is true that our children are spending far less time enjoying the great outdoors then many of us did as children, and far more time plugged into various devices. I am certainly not denying the importance of getting them out there, it's a huge part of the equation, but it's not the final answer.
So what is? How do we encourage our children to love and respect nature AND have the passion to protect it?
My kid doesn't have to grow up to be a revolutionary. I mean, that would be really rad if that's what he wanted, but my aim isn't to groom one necessarily. I just want to raise a connected person who is mindful of his place in the world and how his actions effect the world around him. I want to raise a curious person, who questions what he sees and what cannot be seen and approaches global issues with compassion.