Staying with our hosts in Helena, Shiloh and Mary brought to my attention the challenge of raising environmentally responsible children in an era of climate change. I really admire Shiloh and Mary in their personal commitment to live lighter on this planet and their dedication to teaching their children to do the same. Ana and Teo are 3 and 5 and like any children their age – energetic, boisterous, quick to show emotion. Life is simple for children this age. The world is divided into good guys and bad guys. Comic books lay it out this way and it’s easy to understand. The challenges of climate change and it’s solutions are not nearly as neat and simple, but with kids this age one is forced to try to paint it in this light. Pollution is bad, clean energy is good. Sending things to the landfill or littering is bad, recycling or reusing is good. Biking is good. “Mindy & Ryan are climate heroes biking across the country.” Oh good, they like heroes. Mary tells us of one challenge in teaching these lessons in life. Ana no longer wants to ride in the “polluting car” but has also decided that the bike trailer “is for babies.” So what is a mother to do to transport her child when Ana’s legs are still too short to ride a tag-along bike? Hmmm. The other day Ana’s bracelet with the large plastic beads broke while they were out on a walk and fell in a storm drain. First she sobbed for the loss of her pretty beads, then she sobbed “will the beads go to the ocean and poison the fish?” They’ve been talking about how plastic in the ocean is bad for the fish. Hmmm. “No, I think there is a filter and you don’t need to worry.” Because what good does it do for her to worry about something she didn’t do on purpose and can’t change?
In their household, they recycle all they can, use washable rags and napkins rather than paper, reuse what can’t be recycled when possible, buy in bulk using their own containers over and over, raise bees for their own honey (hives on top the garage roof to keep away from curious children), compost all food scraps (some with worms), and grow some of their own food. And eat healthy foods. And read together every night. And using biking and walking for most of their transportation. Wow, not easy with small children.
Trying to live lightly on this earth and to teach your children well is a struggle, but a good struggle. A struggle to do the best we can while forgiving ourselves for not being able to live up to our own highest standards. We won’t always have the perfect answer or example for the children around us, but we try to do our best. Some days that’s stellar, some days maybe barely above average. But it is all worth the effort. Thank you Shiloh and Mary for being a great example!