Dear kids, I am an adult working to protect your safe, liveable planet. And I just want to say… hello…   

If you are 12+ this letter about protecting your future is for you 

Dear kids,

We’ve got a situation here. The planet is warming above safe levels, and we have to increase our efforts to protect our climate and keep it cool for your safe future. As renowned climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe says, “Climate change is real. It’s us. It’s bad. But there are all kinds of solutions.”

One of my friends has a 12-year-old daughter, Kaitlyn. Her dad told me that she was worried about the state of the world. So this is my way of letting her and other young people know what I know about the current state of the world, why I am inspired and hopeful about the future, and the many young (and old) people protecting it. I also share ways that young people can get involved in protecting their future.

But first, why haven’t the adults already fixed up the climate? And why aren’t enough adults paying attention to their climate? You probably hear about climate change science in your school classes these days. Most adults, like myself, didn’t learn about climate science and solutions through school so we have had to learn about it through the news, friends, community groups, university, etc. I used to think that the impacts of climate change on our planet were far off, centuries in the future, and that our governments were working hard towards finding solutions. Australia even had, in 2013, a world-leading, federal carbon pricing or “Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).” But over time I witnessed that our governments were not all meeting their obligations to protect the future, with some even ignoring climate science, through what is called climate science denial.

I had two little girls, born in 2014 and 2016. They are my whole world. And the heat on my back as I took them round the streets in their buggy felt uncomfortably, disconcertingly hot. So I finally made the time to educate myself about climate science and solutions, and what I can best do to help. From educating myself I now know that we are already seeing the dangerous results of a changing climate, and climate action is extremely urgent. As we hear of heatwaves across the globe and droughts that may lead to food shortages, it seems that it is crunch time now. We have to keep calling on governments, industry and society to reduce fossil fuel use to net zero by 2050, if not before.

Protecting our climate is difficult because it still requires big changes in how we use resources as a society. A great place to start to learn about solutions is through a book called Drawdown by environmental writer Paul Hawken, who got some of the world’s best researchers and scientists to help determine the 100 best solutions to reverse global warming to protect our safe climate. You can also check out the This Is Zero Hour youth platform for protecting the climate for a great list of things to ask for when speaking with your politicians, parents and friends. You could educate yourself, your friends and family about ways to take personal actions, and raise awareness for climate solutions through an eco-challenge like Drawdown EcoChallenge 2018.

When I first learned that my children’s future was in danger, I was scared. But I found taking action, and connecting with others who were taking action, the most powerful antidote. One of the most powerful ways I can recommend to protect your safe future is joining a movement with others, where you can learn to lobby your politicians and speak out for your future. I have interviewed some young climate activists who share their stories below. You can also use your creativity and knowledge to explore new solutions and ideas, like the special, climate change resilient houses:  https://www.earthshipglobal.com. You could get inspired by some of the young people mentioned in this video by Katharine Hayhoe: youtube videos. As a young person in Australia, if you would like to speak up as an advocate for your safe future, you can get involved with Citizens’ Climate Lobby Australia, but you might also find like-minded young people through organisations like Switched on Schools (Australia) switchedonschools.org.au, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC, www.aycc.org.au) and Seed (www.seedmob.org.au).

Young people, you deserve a safe, habitable planet. You are so loved by your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, friends, etc. and I can assure you that the adults that understand the climate challenge are doing all we can to protect your safe climate. As well as the stories by young people, I have included additional links at the end of the article to inspire you to take action to protect your future. I would love to hear from you about the actions you take to protect your safe climate and liveable planet. We are all in this together.

Kind regards,

Heidi

 

Young people’s voices and actions are some of the greatest forces for change:

Here’s a few quotes from young people like yourself that I have had the pleasure to interview about their own climate action.

Emelly Villa, This is Zero Hour

6174624736_IMG_1502Emelly Villa, a 17-year-old working with the youth climate movement
ThisisZeroHour.org shares her thoughts with me on when and how children should learn about climate change:  “I had always heard about climate change growing up, but I had never really understood it up until two years ago. Two years ago I happened to come upon a documentary talking about the dangerous effects climate change would have on our future. There, climate change was depicted as an issue with no solution which led to me feeling very overwhelmed and unaware of how to do my part. However, after doing my own research and witnessing our youth come together, such as what is being done in Zero Hour, I’ve learned that while there is a lot of work to be done there is still hope.”

Jamie Margolin, This is Zero Hour

Screen Shot 2018-03-14 at 5.14.34 PM.pngJamie Margolin, the 16-year-old leader of the ThisisZeroHour.org youth movement and a plaintiff on the Washington state “Youth v. Gov” climate lawsuit uses her writing, community building and many other skills to inspire climate action. You can read her article in CNN here, where she ponders the big IF of what the future holds, and inspires leaders and people everywhere to act. She’s a very inspiring speaker and you can hear some of her thoughts in this podcast. Zero Hour even have their own platform for protecting the climate. One of her many quotable expressions from a recent TV interview on HVN was this: “The problem with society not taking climate action is not denial. It’s apathy.” She shared with me how she became aware of the need for political action on climate: “My grandpa was a Jew who fought in WW2, so I grew up watching holocaust and WW2 documentaries and more War time movies than I can remember. My dad and grandpa are both aviation engineers so I also grew up watching documentaries about space, the cosmos, and most importantly the environment and the planet. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a political consciousness and cared. I’ve always cared and been invested in the events and issues in the world.”

And she had this advice for young people keen to take climate action in her interview with Ultimate Civics:  “Just get started. Attend a community event and start talking to people there and work your way into that world. That’s how I got started and my involvement snowballed from there.”

Chante, AYCC

20170408_154515 - Chanté Bock.pngChante is 24, from Melbourne, Victoria. She is the Victorian Schools Co-coordinator for the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC). I asked her what inspired her to get active in protecting our safe climate? “I think that climate change is the greatest threat to society at large, the greatest threat to my safe and happy future and the safe and happy future that I want for my children that I want to have. I want future generations to love and enjoy the planet just as I have.”

Grace Vegesana, AYCC

WeddingGrace Vegesana, at 18, is the NSW State Leader for the AYCC. I asked her about a place special to her that she wants to protect from climate change. She shared a beautiful, local, personal story: “It’s the deciduous London Plane tree in my neighbour’s backyard that I watch most carefully. Ever since I was a child, I’ve watched excitedly as that tree transforms from its uniform shades of green, to intensely sunset coloured the moment Autumn arrived. Today, 13 years on, it is Winter, June 5th, and the same tree has not shed a leaf, and is still as green as it was in Spring.”

She also shared her thoughts on when we can discuss climate with children.

 “A really tough question. As an 18 year old, full time climate activist, I joined [AYCC] because I felt a sense of absolute and utter urgency, but I understand the need to maintain youth innocence, so kids aren’t having 1/4 life crises at 18 like I did…[but] there shouldn’t be an age limit on when you can start learning, especially about climate change, which children inherit from previous generations’ mistakes.”

Sarah Plaut, Asheville High School, Drawdown EcoChallenge winner

Sarah Plaut, a 17-year-old, was a student at Asheville High School, North Carolina, USA. Her school group won the Drawdown EcoChallenge in 2018. I asked her what inspired her to get active in protecting our safe climate: “Throughout my life I noticed temperatures rising by the year and strange weather patterns. Seeing hurricanes crash into the Caribbean year after year is terrifying. [In] science classes I started to learn the science behind climate change. This year specifically, hearing about drawdown, I began to realize there are things that we as individuals can actually change.” She offered the following advice for kids (and adults) wanting to do more to look after our climate and our planet: “Your actions can make a difference. Everyone thinks just because the problem is too big it can never be solved. However, small actions such as reaching out to your government officials or eating less meat actually do make a huge impact.”

Here are some resources to help you on your way to becoming a private or a public advocate for your own future (and your parents might find these helpful too!):

 A) Fact-checking and critical analysis:

One of the issues raised by young people in a recent ABC Behind the News QandA (https://twitter.com/BehindTheNews) was how to tell fact from fiction in the news. Young people in the show wanted to know how best to develop critical analysis skills. Here are a few ideas and resources to help with this for climate awareness: 

  1. Stick with the global authorities and internationally recognised voices to start with. Just as there are climate science deniers, there are some people who believe in climate change but speak of doomsday scenarios. However, the majority of respected climate scientists, such as those listed below, say that reversing global warming will be hard but is do-able. Then once you get your confidence up, you can venture online and further develop your own opinion – but try to focus on the solutions!!
  2. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC, www.ipcc.ch) is the leading global authority on climate change. However their output generally consists of detailed reports. I would love to see them share more infographics and simple, accessible information.
  3. Alliance for Climate Education (ACE, acespace.org/the-deal): head to their website and learn how climate change is “simple, serious andsolvable”. This website provides climate science and action resources for kids
  4. Look for peer reviewed articles, from scientists trained in the relevant area. (See my list at the end for some of my favourite climate scientists and activists that you can follow on twitter, etc.)
  5. Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science: a) Google it (do an internet search to check for corroboration), b) check Snopes.com, c) look in an encyclopaedia, d) ask a professor in that field
  6. Reliable climate news in Australia can usually be found at https://www.theguardian.com/au/environment and https://reneweconomy.com.au
  7. Learn basic chemistry/maths/critical analysis so you can make up your own mind as new climate topics/solutions/actions come to light
  8. Emily Willingham (Forbes, 2012) offers some more ideas to tell real news from fake news: “10 Questions To Distinguish Real From Fake Science” https://www.forbes.com/sites/emilywillingham/2012/11/08/10-questions-to-distinguish-real-from-fake-science/#65ece90d146c

 B) Advocacy and education for young people:

  1. Switched on Schools switchedonschools.org.au (Australia, via AYCC)
  2. AYCC (www.aycc.org.au) (Australia)
  3. Seed (seedmob.org.au) (Australia)
  4. Alliance for Climate Education (acespace.org) (USA) 
  5. ThisIsZeroHour org (thisiszerohour.org) (USA) 
    Youth Climate March Washington DC July 21 2018 + sister marches
  6. Parachutes for the Planet (for kids of any age):
    (motherearthproject.org/parachutes/) (USA) 
  7. Citizens’ Climate Lobby Australia: ccl.org.au (sign up with your parents!!) (Australia)
  8. My site: https://climatekiss.com/creative-environment-kids/and facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CreativeEnvironmentKids/
  9. Learn more about solutions to climate change that are good for our communities now: Project Drawdown: (drawdown.org/solutions)
  10. https://www.footprintcalculator.org
  11. https://www.watercalculator.org
  12. Look after yourself!! Reachout mental fitness: https://au.reachout.com/mental-fitness
  13. Start your own movement or find your own solution: Katharine Hayhoe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PslL9WC-2cQ
  14. Greta Thunberg’s climate strike from school in Sweden: https://twitter.com/GretaThunberg
  15. How to talk to kids of different ages to engage them on climate change and environmental issues (my article): https://climatekiss.com/2018/05/16/how-to-talk-to-kids-of-different-ages-to-engage-them-on-climate-change-and-environmental-issues/ 

 

Politicians speaking up for climate:  

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, USA:

https://twitter.com/Ocasio2018

Mark Butler:

https://twitter.com/Mark_Butler_MP

 

Cool climate scientists:  

Katharine Hayhoe

https://twitter.com/KHayhoe

Michael E Mann:

https://twitter.com/MichaelEMann

Kim Cobb:

https://twitter.com/coralsncaves

Leading Australian climate scientists via the Climate Council

https://twitter.com/climatecouncil

 

About the author:

Dr Heidi Edmonds is an ecologist / environmental engineer with a PhD in freshwater ecology who is currently a freelance research scientist while raising two young children. As a science communicator and a mother, she is especially interested in making climate science and climate action accessible, simple and easy to understand for more people. Check out her blog at climatekiss.com (www.climatekiss.com)

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A dose of climate optimism… “Dear tired climate activist”

Ok…. you guys, the amazing folks who have been working on raising climate awareness for decades but you are feeling a bit tired and fed up with it all… this is for you…a dose of climate optimism. 

I initially wrote a version of this post to a friend on Facebook who has been engaged with raising awareness about the climate emergency for many years. In the face of climate denialists and the massive changes in our energy use that we need to action pronto to protect our planet, my friend was feeling disheartened and possibly making some other people feel disheartened too. So I wrote a climate optimism piece in rebuttal. Since then i have felt I needed to share some of these ideas with others on other platforms like twitter, and in real life. 🙂 I see a need to spark climate optimism amongst people who can get disheartened with the effort over many years of trying to wake people up to the climate emergency. I think that everyone needs to be uplifted and reenergised as we hit crunch time in the climate protection fight. We need to energise and nourish ourselves so we can move forward and help make the changes to society’s energy use and follow the sustainable practices that are required. I feel that I have some insights into why we should be optimistic. So here you go: 

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Dear tired climate activist,

I am going to have to start rebutting you and your gloominess as actively as I do my climate-change denying pals. Humanity is not doomed. It’s in dire peril, I admit, but I am on the case now and I am pretty sure that I am part of a growing movement of awareness-raising, solutions-focused, info-graphic wielding, general public. I am also part of a growing movement of engineers and non-pure-scientists sensitively taking up the technical concerns of how we are going to protect our world.

If you look at your comments, even when you write gloomy things, you do sprinkle hope throughout… so as a fellow scientist I encourage you to update your executive summary/one liners! Put the hope up front. We have to lead with hope for the future we want and love for the things that we cherish and want to protect. These are powerful forces. My father is a Professor of Economics, and he gave me some great advice when I first started engaging with the climate emergency. He suggested that I acknowledge the scary realities of the situation, and then focus on the solutions. I have found this to be a great approach to keep my energies focused.

Looking for inspiration and motivation? As i state in my presentation on talking to kids in age appropriate ways about climate and environment it’s up to us adults to find our optimism to enable the kids voices to lead change. Young people are one of my greatest sources of hope as they know A LOT about climate and can even teach adults about it. Many of them learn about the science in school, and they understand how important finding solutions to protect our climate is, because it’s their future we are working to protect. But we all need to be teaching ourselves more about the solutions, which will require more than just renewable energy and reducing resource use. I feel hopeful for and inspired by youth-led climate action like thisiszerohour.org, aycc.org and MANY other groups of amazing young people who share personal stories and articulate social-justice based climate solutions.

Want to know where to find out more about potential solutions? How about Healthy Climate Alliance ? Yes, we have exceeded safe atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. We are going to need to accelerate the transition to renewable energy and invest in ecologically sensitive geoengineering, optimal land-use, or other techniques to remove carbon from the atmosphere. It can all be a bit daunting and scary I know, but it’s also exciting and challenging to engage with potential solutions. Not even climate scientists are experts in climate rehabilitation so I encourage you to check out Healthy Climate Alliance or similar. Or do a search for a carbon drawdown / negative emissions conference close to you. You should also check out drawdown.org and their 100 solutions to reverse global warming. I feel fortunate that the start of my climate activist journey coincided with the release of Project Drawdown’s body of work, with a road map and inspiration to get to the point where carbon in the atmosphere will drawdown.

I feel that as an engineer + ecologist + science communicator I am well poised to help the world make some of the big and tough decisions we are going to have to make. Confronting climate change, its mitigation and adaptation is not without grief. We have already lost amazing animals and people to our changing climate. But there is hope that we are going to turn this around in the next few years, because we have to. As part of that we need to make sure people are all doing their part to make and inspire change. The biggest challenge still appears to be getting global action, getting enough people on board to instigate major shifts in how we generate energy.

Please have a think about how you talk about climate. Leading with “we are all doomed” without a reference or link or any need to say that in the first place is going to switch people off from trying to make change!! It is ok to coast and to give up (preferably while still eating predominantly plant-based diets and reducing, refusing and reusing waste) when you have been struggling so long to get the world to listen. But please don’t be an agent to make people tune out, as I blame an article I once read that was a bit too gloomy for disempowering me when I could have been forging ahead.

For every gloomster there is a hopester. Maybe that’s what a hipster really is.  None of this “good one humanity” business, please. There are so many bright, bright lights and inspiring people that we have to keep seeing the light. I believe that the pursuit of joy and happiness, building hope and leading with love, rather than running from the darkness, is going to get us through.

Don’t let the global warming deniers get you down. We can solve this despite the deniers.  We just need to activate the believers who are not doing enough to make change, we need to turn some more of these slackers (slacktivists?) into activists. We don’t need to convince everyone to pay attention to climate, just enough people

Like a university student who does their best work the night before an assignment is due, i believe that it is now that we are noticing global heat waves, and seeing our precious coral reefs bleaching, that we are going to see a global movement for change. Just in the nick of time, but building on all the work that has gone before.

My friend Dr Tammra Warby paints a picture of a kind of solutions focused optimism that helps you find solutions even in dark times. It is this optimism that I champion. One driven by the ability to seek out and cherish what we love, that my favourite author Regena Thomashauer writes of – using pleasure to have our way with the world. For I believe in imagining the world we want. Then we work towards that. Don’t dwell on the dangers. Acknowledge them, and then cherish what it is that we are protecting, and protect it. Our kids’ future. The kids of the future are all of ours. We are all parents, aunties, uncles, friends, teachers, carers for our future loved ones.

Addendum: #climateoptimism in an ongoing pursuit. For me, when I discover new angles on the challenges facing us in the efforts to protect the future for those we love, I just seek out new solutions. For the moment, my efforts towards solutions are focused on talking about climate action and the need to invest in renewables, carbon capture and climate adaptation… tomorrow I might need to focus on something else, on something more. Here are some articles and links to resources that provide optimistic (though sometimes confronting!) food for thought, written by some of the climate optimists among us.

 

Links to articles by some of the climate optimists among us (updated August 13th 2018): 

Naomi Klein:
https://theintercept.com/2018/08/03/climate-change-new-york-times-magazine/

Dr Erle C. Ellis

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/11/opinion/sunday/science-people-environment-earth.html

Akshat Rathe:

https://qz.com/1350565/the-hothouse-climate-change-study-is-big-news-thanks-to-the-heatwave/

Kate Marvel:

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/hot-planet/climate-change-were-not-literally-doomed-but/

Shannon Osaka:

https://grist.org/article/what-the-new-york-times-got-right-and-wrong-about-the-super-wicked-problem-of-climate-change/

Katharine Hayhoe:

https://twitter.com/KHayhoe/status/1026841570115563520

Me!

https://twitter.com/heidikat/status/1026072601146191872

Katherine Richardson

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-45084144

Andy Martin:

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/long_reads/climate-change-stop-global-warming-apocalypse-earth-planet-roy-scranton-essays-a8484271.html

 

About the author:

Dr Heidi Edmonds is an ecologist / environmental engineer with a PhD in freshwater ecology who is currently a freelance research scientist while raising two young children. As a science communicator and a mother, she is especially interested in making climate science and climate action accessible, simple and easy to understand for more people. Check out her blog at climatekiss.com (www.climatekiss.com)

Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

Slides + video: conversations with kids on climate + environment

david-clode-527265-unsplash

Big thanks to Citizens Climate Lobby: Australia for sharing the video and powerpoint slides from my guest presentation about talking to kids about climate and the environment. Links to both here: https://au.citizensclimatelobby.org/1605-2/

Big thanks to Emelly and Jamie from Zero Hour, Grace, Chante and Nicholas from Australian Youth Climate Coalition, kids from Asheville High School who won the Project Drawdown EcoChallenge and Sunni Tang from the Alliance for Climate Education for taking the time to answer my interview questions. Direct links to youtube and slides below to make it easy for you to find them  x Heidi

Slides: http://www.ccl.org.au/MonthlyMeeting/2018-06-09-HeidiEdmondsTalkingtoKidsOnClimate.pdf 

Presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1031&v=VKWA3bi-vwc

Blog article for parents: https://climatekiss.com/2018/05/16/how-to-talk-to-kids-of-different-ages-to-engage-them-on-climate-change-and-environmental-issues/

Blog article for kids coming soon!

For more kids resources head to: https://climatekiss.com/creative-environment-kids/ 

Image: David Clode via Unsplash

 

 

 

Zoom talk: June 9: How to talk to kids about climate and the environment

Hi folks,

I will be the guest speaker for a special Zoom presentation for Citizens’ Climate Lobby Australia this Saturday 9 June at 2 pm Brisbane (Queensland, Australia) time. Here are the details:

Title: How to talk to kids about climate and the environment

Saturday, 9 June 2018 on ZOOM @ 2 pm Brisbane (Queensland, Australia)

2 pm NSW, VIC, ACT, TAS, QLD | 1.30 pm SA, NT | 12 noon WA

Details on how to connect can be found here:

https://au.citizensclimatelobby.org/australian-blog/

According to Michelle Nijhuis in The Atlantic, a lot of climate-change education materials for children “focus on how to explain climate change” but rarely focus on “when and why teachers ought to discuss climate change in class”…

smiling calm 1

In this presentation Heidi Edmonds will talk about age appropriate engagement on environmental and climate issues for kids.

As part of this, she will also touch on how to fact-check climate news, ways to protect mental health in a changing climate, and some of her climate heroes.

Dr Heidi Edmonds is an ecologist and environmental engineer with a PhD in freshwater ecology and experience in science communication.

As a mother of young children, and an advocate for protecting our climate, she is passionate about making climate science and climate action accessible, simple and easy to understand.

Check out her blog at www.climatekiss.com (KISS = Keep It Simple Sweetheart), including a new series of posts on kids and climate. Heidi is based in Brisbane, Queensland and is a volunteer with CCL Australia

 

 

How to talk to kids of different ages to engage them on climate change and environmental issues

I am starting a series of blog posts aimed at children and parents about climate change. But first I wanted to start with a look at what type of topics and content are appropriate for children of different ages. bdjloph78m8-samantha-sophia.jpgThis working document combines my own research and other writers’ work, especially inspired by a well-written recent article in the The Atlantic. It is also inspired by passionate and engaging teenage climate activists from the @ThisIsZeroHour movement and other movements. I have tried to present here the key points I have discovered around the current thinking on age-appropriateness with some suggestions for appropriate content. I hope this overview can act as a guide for parents and teachers regarding how to talk to children about climate change. Initially, for very young children, it is enough to foster an interest in our natural world and its creatures, to nourish their sense of caring for the Earth they will inherit. I would appreciate feedback from climate educators, kindy, primary and secondary school teachers in Australia (or elsewhere) as well as environmental psychologists.

As I have found myself, the journalist Michelle Nijhuis argues in a recent article in The Atlantic that the majority of climate-change education materials “focus on how to explain climate change” but rarely focus on “when and why teachers ought to discuss climate change in class”, that is, when are kids actually ready, “intellectually and emotionally” to engage with various aspects of climate change science and more specifically the implications of how their futures may be affected.

She asks “what, exactly, do we want kids to learn from their first lessons about climate change?”

Do elementary students (ages 4-11 in the USA) really need to learn that “the sea ice is melting and polar bears are starving” or are we prematurely burdening them with our own worries that they aren’t yet ready to take on?

For children under 12, she suggests referring to global warming as “a kind of pollution” that “a lot of people are working on fixing”, an explanation that satisfies her daughter’s curiosity.  Children are likely to hear the terms “global warming” and “climate change” elsewhere so such simple and empowering explanations may be important to have on hand.

The work of David Sobel offers what could be a good framework for considering when and how to present climate science (and climate advocacy). Neighbourhood maps drawn by children aged 4-15 were used to draw out ways in which they engaged with their environment. The children, from diverse countries including USA, UK and the Caribbean, all imagined themselves in ”close, knowable worlds.”

I have combined my own research with the insights of David Sobel and Michelle Nijhuis to summarise what I think makes for age-appropriate environmental and climate content for engaging kids. These suggestions are listed below. The presentation of potentially scary information on climate change and its likely impacts may not be appropriate for children 11 and under. However parents and teachers can use their own judgement and the lead of the children’s curiosity to guide what they present. 

Summary of child development stages and suggested topics to foster a sense of connection with and care of the environment and nature, and, when appropriate, climate change:  

Kids aged 1 to 3:

Kids under 4 weren’t studied by David Sobel for the neighbourhood drawing study (that I know of) but I know from my own experience observing my 4-year-old daughter’s kindy class that she can accept that we need to protect fish from plastic pollution (they made paper plate glitter fish and dangled plastic bags off them after a sea life touch and feel class with live sea stars, sea cucumbers and a baby shark). On ABC kids television, Australian content for pre-kindy kids shown here in Queensland include Peppa Pig presenting recycling as a matter of fact way to sort our garbage. The Octonauts rescue sea creatures from various dangers in the sea. In Charlie and Lola, Lola becomes passionate about helping to protect endangered pandas. Solutions focused, action oriented engagement is presented. Kids can be heroes. I also love this cute song about sharks that lets kids connect with their inner shark, instilling a love of sharks!

Suggested topics for kids aged 1-3 include: amazing animals, amazing nature, gardening, plastic pollution, saving water for fish etc. possibly climate change as pollution.

Kids aged 4 to 7:

Children aged 4 to 7 drew their maps with their homes filling up the centre. Children also often describe, and feel protective of, the creatures that live in their gardens or their blocks.

Suggested topics for kids aged 4 to 7 include: amazing animals, amazing nature, gardening, plastic pollution, saving water and resources, etc. for fish etc., endangered animals, possibly climate change as pollution.

Kids aged 8 to 11:

Kids ages 8 to 11 drew their homes as smaller elements, often on the margins of their maps. Maps included elements of the children’s “explorable landscape”of forests and neighbourhoods.

Suggested topics for kids aged 8 to 11 include: amazing animals, amazing nature, gardening, plastic pollution and resource use minimisation, with the addition of climate change as pollution and what to do about it.

Kids aged 12 to 15:

Kids aged 12 to 15 drew maps of greater scope that were more abstract, but still anchored in familiar, often social places. Less focus was on forests and more on social places like malls, town parks, and places downtown to eat lunch.

Suggested topics for kids aged 12 to 15 include: amazing animals, amazing nature, gardening, plastic pollution and resource use minimisation, climate change as pollution and what to do about it, with additional material: ocean acidification, rising seas, extreme weather, impacts on people and what to do about it. Let them know about the inspiring children and adults working to make change. One good resource I have found that presents climate change as simple, serious and solvable is the Alliance for Climate Educationhttps://acespace.org/the-deal 

Nijhaus suggests that for kids in the 12 to 15 years age group “climate change had become part of their explorable landscape—and they were ready to face it.” She makes this claim based on her experience talking to them and their excited questioning while they were working on a student film about recent climate exacerbated wildfires.

Kids aged 16+:

Kids aged 16+ were not studied by David Sobel that I know of, however I am well aware of young teenage activists such as those involved with Zero Hour who are assuming climate leadership rolls for their peers.  

Suggested topics for kids aged 16+ include: amazing animals, amazing nature, gardening, plastic pollution and resource use minimization, climate change as pollution and what to do about it, +ocean acidification, rising seas, extreme weather, impacts on people and what to do about it.  Let them know about the inspiring children and adults working to make change. As mentioned above, a good resource is available via the Alliance for Climate Education which presents climate change as simple, serious and solvablehttps://acespace.org/the-deal. 

I have summarised these suggested topics into a table of age appropriate environmental and climate topics for kids, so you can see my suggestions at a glance. The ideas suggested in the table are based on the Michelle Nijhaus article, David Sobel’s Neighbourhood maps, kids TV that my kids like, observation of my children’s kindy programs, interviews with ACE educators and the Zero Hour activist kids.

Enviro and Climate Topics for Kids - Age Appropriate copy

Further thoughts, part 1:

Sunni Tang from the Alliance for Climate Education (https://acespace.org) and Emelly Villa, a 17-year-old activist involved with the forthcoming @Zero Hour march (http://thisiszerohour.org) recommend starting at any age to teach about climate change. Emelly stresses making it age appropriate. She says “It’s a lot harder to grasp what climate change really is at a young age, so I would start by teaching them about endangered species and use a hands-on approach. Then as they get older, start including much more of the scientific research on climate change and also teach them to speak out about the topic as it will have an impact on their future.” Sunni Tang from the Alliance for Climate Education tells me “When our young people communicate about climate change, they always tie the story of climate change back to their own personal experiences of how climate change threatens something they love.” And this approach is perhaps more accessible to young people at any age. She says “It’s never too early to have the talk about climate change. Climate change isn’t just a science issue, it’s a human justice issue and the fight for climate justice is a fight for values such as equity, justice, and sustainable living.”

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Emelly Villa thisiszerohour.org 

Further thoughts, part 2: Suggestions for parents taking part in front-line, non-violent, direct climate action:

During a presentation I gave on this topic for Citizens’ Climate Lobby Australia, I was asked a question by a mother of a 2-year-old boy, who was taking action on the front lines of climate action (civil disobedience or non-violent direct action). She asked for ideas on how she could best protect her young son from any harm to his current and future mental health while she was taking action like this. Here I want to share my answer and some additional insights.

Firstly, as we can see above, in David Sobel’s research into how children draw maps of their own neighbourhoods, he highlights how young children have views of the world that focus on their home and family, and on special creatures they see in their gardens and close to home. So I suggested that rather than talking to her son about the broader topic of climate change, she can make it personal and comprehendible to him. She can let him know that she is working to protect some iconic species that he loves, or perhaps one that lives in the vicinity of where she is taking action. Perhaps a special frog or a bird, something the young son is interested in. He needs a sense that he is loved, cared for and safe. With this in mind I want to recommend an Australian author who writes on how to nourish and care for our children’s healthy mental development, Steve Biddulph. Through his books “Raising Boys” and “Raising Girls” he offer insights into how can protect and nourish our children, and protect ourselves, as parents for their mental development. Another online audience member,  during my presentation, put it beautifully to the mother “your son will be fine as long as you practice self-care”.

 

Authors note:

The above age appropriate content suggestions are part of my own interpretation of the information on climate change and child development. I am not a child development expert, I am a science communicator and a mother passionate about protecting our climate and our kids. So I hope you find this information useful, but you may wish to speak with your child’s teachers to get more insights into how to positively engage them in caring for their habitat, planet Earth. Thank you to everyone who has offered me feedback on this article so far.

Links:

My presentation on talking to kids about climate and environment for Citizens’ Climate Lobby Australia:
https://au.citizensclimatelobby.org/1605-2/

David Sobel Neighbourhood map making with children:
http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/education-for-life/803

How I Talk to My Daughter About Climate Change
https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2018/04/raising-kids-climate-change/554969/
Michelle Nijhuis

Alliance for Climate Education:
https://acespace.org

Zero Hour:
http://thisiszerohour.org
Youth Climate March Washington DC July 21 2018

Other links:

Talking about climate change is very important:
https://thinkprogress.org/the-most-important-thing-you-can-do-to-fight-global-warming-b0cbe1fdf775/

Project Drawdown 100 best solutions to reverse global warming:
www.drawdown.org/solutions

Project Drawdown EcoChallenge by the North West Earth Institute:
https://drawdown.ecochallenge.org/challenges

Parachutes for the planet (for kids of any age):
http://motherearthproject.org/parachutes/

Principles of Climate Literacy: outline of major concepts and subconcepts that can be adapted as appropriate for each age:
https://www.climate.gov/teaching/essential-principles-climate-literacy/essential-principles-climate-literacy

NAAEE and NWF Climate Change Education guidelines. Suggests starting Climate Change education in Grade 4.
http://online.nwf.org/site/DocServer/NWF_NAAEE_Educational_Guidelines1.pdf

NASA’s Climate Kids resource:
https://climatekids.nasa.gov/

Slides + video from my presentation: How to talk to kids of different ages to engage them on climate change and environmental issues: https://climatekiss.com/2018/06/14/slides-video-conversations-with-kids-on-climate-environment/

My article for kids 12+ about adults and children who are protecting the climate for the future. “Dear kids, I am an adult working to protect your safe, liveable planet. And I just want to say… hello…”: https://climatekiss.com/2018/08/20/dear-kids-i-am-an-adult-working-to-protect-your-safe-liveable-planet-and-i-just-want-to-say-hello/

 

Image credits: Samantha Sophia via Unsplash and Emelly Villa courtesy of  http://thisiszerohour.org

 

About the author:

Dr Heidi Edmonds is an ecologist / environmental engineer with a PhD in freshwater ecology who is currently a freelance research scientist while raising two young children. As a science communicator and a mother, she is especially interested in making climate science and climate action accessible, simple and easy to understand for more people. Check out her blog at climatekiss.com (www.climatekiss.com)