'Things are most scary when we feel no control of their outcome'
Greener Living: As part of our special on easy ways to tread softly on the planet, Dr Cara Augustenborg, Environmental Policy Fellow at University College Dublin, speaks about the importance of teaching the next generation about eco responsibility
As an environmental scientist, each week I read new reports predicting what awaits us over the coming decades as our planet responds to a warming atmosphere. As a parent, it is impossible not to factor those projections into a vision of the world my nine-year-old daughter, Eva, will live in.
When I speak to children about climate change, I am conscious not to terrify them but also to speak honestly about what their environment may look like. Recent heightened public interest in climate action gives me new hope that we might transition fast enough to a more sustainable society and avoid the worst climate impacts.
However, if government inertia continues and their policies fail to change, we will miss our window of opportunity to halt the climate crisis.
Eva is aware her future may not be so bright if we fail, but things are most scary when we feel no control over their outcome. That's why I emphasise the opportunities we have now to avoid climate catastrophe. It is essential for children to trust that the adults in their lives are doing what they can to stop the worst impacts of climate change. My own dedication to climate action makes it possible for Eva to face climate change with less fear.
At the moment, Eva's biggest climate concern is the potential for more mosquitoes in Ireland due to a warmer climate. This has given us an opportunity to talk about species migration, vector-borne disease, and the importance of mosquitoes as a food source for other animals. Knowledge brings power so as Eva learns more about the interconnectedness of nature, her fears subside.
"Respecting nature is a part of our family values. The walk to school provides endless opportunities to convey our dependence on nature by pointing out changing seasons; the importance of clean air and water; what happens to our waste; or our reliance on other species for food production, for example. Eva especially loves insects, so this summer we took a beekeeping course together to encourage that interest.
Even for parents who don't work directly on sustainability, attending a climate event with your child or lowering your household carbon footprint makes them feel more in control in the face of climate change. No one yet knows which path humanity will take as we face this climate and biodiversity emergency.
As parents, we must prepare our children for all possibilities. Supporting Eva's environmental education is my way to both effect positive change now and prime her for the future, whatever it holds.
Cara’s parenting tips — CARE
1 Connectedness: Educate your child about our dependence on and connection to nature.
2 Awareness: Prepare your child for the next technological revolution, making them aware of what their lives may be like in a fossil-fuel-free future.
3 Resilience: Develop your child's resilience to a rapidly changing environment by teaching them new skills, such as growing food, upcycling and computer coding.
4 Enthusiasm: Climate change can be scary but showing enthusiasm for the innovations needed to solve the crisis can combat your child's fear of an uncertain future.