In a recent editorial, ColoradoPolitics, a Denver-based weekly, cautions adults not to tell kids the truth about the severity and urgency of the climate crisis. “Our children and teens already deal with bullies, drugs, a future of national debt, and increasing demands on their time and talent. Don’t tell them global warming dooms their immediate future.”
Just as the Nobel-Prize winning IPCC scientists release their most dire warning to date—that if we do not significantly limit climate change within twelve years, hundreds of millions of people may die, and global warming fatal to us all may become irreversible—ColoradoPolitics believes we must protect our children because “Rhetoric so dark, causes hopelessness and despair.”
Instead, we must do what? Become dodgy parents about yet another topic that is too complex or difficult to honestly discuss with our children? Downplay the undeniable risk of the carbon economy? Ignore the hard truth that we are fracking our species into a mass grave?
Of course, parents must consider age-appropriateness when discussing any real threat with young children. It has, for example, been pointed out that active shooter drills can have dangerous psychological effects on children, but that has not stopped over five thousand school districts from implementing active shooter plans.
One mistake parents may make is to merely assume schools are teaching the science of climate change. In a paper published in Science, researchers found that “although most students will hear something about climate change in a science class, the median teacher devotes only 1 to 2 hours to the topic.” And much of that instruction, especially in culturally conservative areas (like the Allegheny Watershed), will fail to mention the overwhelming scientific evidence that climate change is human-caused.
Teachers who give students such ambiguous information about the cause of climate change may save themselves and their school district from fielding angry calls from parents who are climate-change deniers, but this ambiguity may inadvertently create heightened anxiety in children, since the main method children have of reducing despair is to understand they can do things to avert climate disaster. If they believe climate change is natural, they may feel it is hopeless. On the other hand, if students understand climate change is human-caused, they will usually feel empowered by taking personal action.
Want to talk honestly with your kids about the climate crisis? The Rainforest Alliance provides “5 Tips for Talking to Kids About Climate Change (Without Freaking Them Out)“
Given recent media attention on female climate leaders, it is predictable that the editorial focuses ire on young females who brazenly speak out against the male-dominated carbon establishment, which the International Energy Agency claims is “one of the least gender diverse sectors in the economy, despite recent efforts to promote and encourage women’s participation.”
Calling warnings about the climate crisis “histrionics,” the editorial singles out sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg, whom it derogatorily identifies as “the media’s new teen superhero.” Then it denigrates twenty-nine-year-old Congress Member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as “six years too young to run for president.” Such carefully couched terms are clearly intended to discount youthful and feminine wisdom, and mirrors more blatant verbal attacks on Thunberg and Ocasio-Cortez, including by President Trump.
No doubt emboldened by President Trump’s claim that climate change is “a Chinese hoax,” a significant number his followers believe the climate crisis must not be discussed, particularly by young women who ought to hold their sharp tongues, lower their gaze when presidents enter the room, toe the establishment line in Congress, and defer to the men (mainly) who are busy withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord … gutting environmental regulations … building-out the fracking infrastructure in complete disregard of human health … giving billion dollar tax subsidies to cracker plants … and cashing-in their personal portfolios of fossil fuel stocks before they crash.
As Greta Thunberg said in her U.N. speech, “We are in the middle of a climate breakdown, and all they can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth.”
Worse, too many parents are telling their children that this economic fairytale has a happy ending. Would it be surprising to learn that Exxon-Mobil and Disney are teaming up to make that movie right now?