Severn Cullis-Suzuki was only nine years old when she founded the Environmental Children’s Organisation (ECO) in 1988; ECO comprised a group of children who studied environmental issues and taught other children as well. At the age of 12, Suzuki, alongwith other
members of ECO, raised money to attend the Earth Summit which was being held in Rio de Janeiro. There, she made a speech to the delegates on environmental issues, which has since become popular on YouTube as the video of “The Girl who Silenced the World for 5 Minutes”. The following year, in 1993, Suzuki was honoured in the UNEP’s (United Nations Environment Programme) Global 500 Roll of Honour and her book “Tell the World” was published.
Suzuki’s story demonstrates that children can be very effective weapons in the fight against environmental degradation. With Environmental Education being taught as a subject in schools, they are being made aware of the state of their world. Youngsters are campaigning for cleaner roads and surroundings. They are looking after animals abandoned on the roads. They are organising protests to reclaim beaches and save trees from being chopped down. In fact, many NGOs today actively use the help of youngsters to spread their messages.
And as a parent, if you are more concerned with what your child will get out of working with and in the environment, the answer is simple. Environmentally-inclined children are responsible citizens who understand the value of their surroundings and are more likely to be sensitive even as adults. If you teach your child early on about the importance of caring about issues bigger than herself, you are preparing her to be a thoughtful and concerned member of her community as an adult. She will develop the qualities of patience, understanding and perseverance. And finally, environmentally-inclined children learn how to appreciate diversity, and find beauty and uniqueness in everything around them.
Kimberly Griffiths, Senior Vice President at Jones Lang LaSalle, a real-estate firm, is passionate about, and deeply involved in, environmental activities. She has this to say on how a child who is ecologically aware is at an advantage when compared to others—“Children need to learn to preserve nature so they can enjoy its benefits and beauty, and learn that it is a gift they can share with others and eventually pass along to their children. Kids who play and enjoy the outdoors are generally healthier and more fit, while appreciation of nature can bring about tranquility, creativity and curiosity, which expand the mind and intellect. Working with the environment creates a sense of compassion for taking care of nature, compassion which then applies also to other people.”
You can start early with children, teaching even a child as young as three or four to care for her surroundings, and be aware of the importance of ecological issues. Griffiths mentions a few things that parents can do to inculcate a love for the environment in children:
- Enjoy time with your kids in nature – hiking, camping, and visiting lakes
- Have them watch educational programmes on nature, such as National Geographic specials
- Allow them to have and take care of small pets
- Encourage them to identify birds, plants, animals and insects that are local to the neighbourhood
- Explain to children that their food and water comes from the earth and that for them to stay healthy, the plants and animals and water sources need to be healthy and protected
- Have kids pick up trash or participate in volunteer activities geared toward conservation
- Take them on nature trips, such as to safaris or zoos
- Have kids play and read outdoors to learn how to enjoy being outdoors instead of staying inside watching TV or playing video games
- Let them run out in the rain, watch storm clouds come in and just learn to appreciate nature in all of its different permutations
- Take picnics and create family memories that are geared around enjoying nature together
- Ask them to picture how barren the world would be without trees and flowers and animals to keep us company