Caring for our natural environment is a collective responsibility, together it is everyone’s business and in order to encourage our kids to make good choices when it comes to rubbish and the environment in general, we need to first start by making these positive choices ourselves.
Whilst we don’t want our kids collapsing in a puddle of tears created by the overwhelming burden of climate change, there are still many age appropriate ways we can engage their interest and instil a sense of responsibility towards the wellbeing of our planet. Looking after the beautiful resources and magical wonders of our natural world is a collective responsibility and the attitude of ‘Someone else will do it’ or ‘I’m too busy to deal with that’ or even the common cliché of ‘don’t touch that it’s dirty’ is just not going to cut it when it comes to ensuring that all of our past and present actions and choices don’t lead to our children’s future being bleak.
Now to step off my little soap box, let me explain my motivation for such a deep and passionate tirade. As a mother of two young children I have several factors which motivate me to be passionate about being part of the change and leading by example when it comes to environmental change. I have two sets of ever inquisitive, absorbing eyes watching on and learning from my every move. I feel the responsibility of knowing that every choice I make will impact their future, and therefore can either have a positive effect or a negative one. I, like most of us also have a history of imperfect choices during my younger years and feel a sense of debt that I wish to repay to the environment to make amends and in turn educate myself and my children better. All of these factors have been influencing and driving my motivation for some time.
When it comes to choices, every day that I visit my local playground and pick up handfuls upon handfuls of lolly wrappers, discarded poppers and plastic packaging which has usually been left behind carelessly by children just a little older than my own, I ask myself, why is it that many children don’t seem to have a conscience when it comes to littering? Why is it that so many adults as well as children so easily disregard their rubbish without a single thought for where it goes, who else will be picking it up and what damage it could be doing. The dots just don’t seem to get connected for many children – they don’t think of that plastic wrapper choking up the turtles in the duck pond, or the poor seagulls dying with bellies full of plastic schrapnel. Now this image may be grotesque and some may even say way too harsh for the minds of our precious little ones – but is it really? Or is the censorship of these harsh realities why many children simply don’t ever think of the consequences of their actions when it comes to leaving behind a little wrapper at the playground.
It is not only the responsibility of correct and appropriate disposal of our own rubbish that seems to be an issue, but also who’s responsibility it is to be collecting the rubbish left by others. Let’s be honest, we all walk by the odd discarded plastic bottle, glance at it, notice it is there and walk on forgetting about it a moment later. But who do we think is coming along behind us? If not us, who? Why are we so detached, why has society lost connection so much with nature, become so out of tune with the universe that we no longer see it as a part of us but simply something we walk on, take from, dump on and use. Instead if we look back to many traditional cultures, they have a beautiful connection with mother earth, seeing all as living, breathing, connected – all as one. If we are all as one, why do we walk past the plastic bottle left on OUR land, polluting OUR oceans, killing OUR friends in the sea and spoiling the clean air that we all need in order to breathe, live and thrive? OK, ok, off the soap box already.
The protection of nature depends on more than the organisational strength of stewardship organisations; it also depends on the quality of the relationship between the young and nature – on how, or if, the young attach to nature. - Richard Louv
If not you ….. WHO?
In his book 'Last Child in the woods', Richard Louv so aptly states “the protection of nature depends on more than the organisational strength of stewardship organisations; it also depends on the quality of the relationship between the young and nature – on how, or if, the young attach to nature”.
Closer to home I become confronted on a regular basis by the excuse or reason that many adults give for why they themselves don’t take it upon themselves to pick up discarded rubbish of others or why they don’t encourage their little ones to pick up rubbish of others. The germs, the dirt, it’s disgusting, filthy…….., let me ask you then, do you use public toilets if out and about and nature calls? Do you pop the kiddies in the shopping trolley when you are getting your weekly shop done? Do they hold the railing on the escalators? What about the joys of pushing the elevator buttons? Or are you also gravely concerned about germs then too? Surely these are not occasions where you forbid them to touch the buttons, or hold the railings for fear of germs? I am sure you just get them to wash their hands and life goes on. Why then is picking up an old milk bottle lid from the beach or a lolly wrapper from the sandpit such a problem? Can they not also wash their hands after doing that too? Even better, if going to the beach with purpose, why not bring gloves – kids sizes are available in so many hardware and department stores – make it a mission to collect a bucketful before heading home – it’s a sad story but so true that it would probably only take you a few minutes to fill a whole bucket of rubbish from the beach or playground – most of which will be recyclable!.
Let’s be inspired!
To inspire us all there are so many wonderful environmental initiatives and organisations aimed at encouraging people to get involved and be a part of the mission to clean up our world. I have come across a few stand outs that I would love to share. My personal favourite would have to be Take3forthesea based in Sydney. This one is perfect for getting even the littlest of family members on board and taking small steps to get started. This organisations simple suggestion is that each time you visit the beach, a waterway or anywhere for that matter – you simply take 3 pieces of rubbish away. My darling 4 year old pipes up every time we are at the beach or the playground – “now don’t forget mummy, we need to take3forthesea!!" oh, it makes me so proud and this demonstrates that being a part of the change and leading by example need not be something we save doing until they are 10.
Another great one is Sea Sheppard, they have an Australia wide campaign aimed at marine debris at the moment which brings communities together to help clean up and remove rubbish from local beaches all over Australia. Check them out and look for one in your local area as they hold regular events where the whole family can be a part of a community event, cleaning up and raising awareness.
A great opportunity to get the kids involved in sustainability and their local environment is to attend a local council tree planting or revegetation event in your area – the dates of these can be found on most local council websites or via the council environmental sustainability team or what’s on, events page.
Another way I have encouraged a little gentle yet appropriate thought and responsibility into my daughters’ is a little visit to our turtle hospital which is a dedicated facility for sick and injured marine turtles. Ours is located at our local aquarium Reef HQ in Townsville, however there is also a wonderful facility in Bundaberg called the Mon Repos Turtle Centre. Further east in the Moreton Bay region there is The Lifeline for Moreton Bay project which organises community clean up events as well as providing education in relation to awareness for solutions specific for this region. With the internet at most of our finger tips it doesn’t take long to track down a conservation project or sanctuary in most areas of Queensland which can help us educate our children in the effects of bad choices on our environment, and provide education in simple ways to help contribute to solutions and instil care and appreciation for our wildlife and the risks they face.
On that note, my last and one extremely age appropriate and grass roots program directed at school aged children is the Reef Guardian Program, this program is run by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and its purpose is to raise awareness and encourage volunteers from the community as well as industries to work towards solutions and take action to help protect and improve the health of our Great Barrier Reef – Is your children’s school on board with the Reef Guardian Schools initiative?
As you can see there are many fantastic opportunities to get the kids thinking but on a day to day and practical basis, why not start by keeping an old library bag in the boot, the pram or your handbag and just taking the time to pick up that coke bottle, milk lid or beer bottle. So much of what I pick up each time I go out is recyclable!!. Crazy that it is just being swept up into the great pacific garbage patch.
Some great links to get you revved up and inspired are:
- Short clip on Reef Guardians Schools
- Great Pacific Garbage Patch - National Geographic Society
- Longer clip from the United nations on plastic pollution in the ocean
I sincerely hope this blog might inspire a little more activity on the beach and at the local playground this coming holiday break. Let’s pick up that stray plastic bottle and encourage our kiddies to do the same or visit a local wildlife sanctuary and get acquainted with the little critters that need our help.