By Tim Lydon
Climate-related disasters are on the rise, and carbon emissions are soaring. Parents today face the unprecedented challenge of raising children somehow prepared for a planetary emergency that may last their lifetimes. Few guidebooks are on the shelves for this one, yet, but experts do have advice. And in a bit of happy news, it includes strategies already widely recognized as good for kids.
First, consider that a child born today enters a world growing progressively hotter, where recent weather extremes have displaced tens of millions of people. Scientists say displacement may swell into the hundreds of millions in the years ahead, as the rapid melting of glaciers now underway drives sea levels upward. The resulting migrations will likely trigger conflict, hunger, and political instability. As we already see in the children pressed against the U.S.-Mexico border, many of them fleeing drought in Central America, migrations may also lead to hardened borders and xenophobic or racist impulses. All this causes military analysts to call climate change a "threat multiplier" that can exacerbate existing social problems.
Parents today must brace kids for both the direct physical impacts of climate change and the humanitarian crises they will trigger, which may be worsened by human behaviors. Whether kids experience the events personally or in the context of world news, experts say kids will need strong foundations in resilience, positive thinking, compassion, and other skills to maintain mental health and inform their responses.
"It's a lot for parents to think about," said Tracey Wiese, an advanced nurse practitioner who specializes in family practice and psychiatric mental health in Alaska. As warming brings transformative change to Alaska, upending landscapes, cultural norms, and nutritional resources, Wiese sees growing anxiety among parents.
"I hear about it every week now," she said from her office in Anchorage. "Parents are worried about existential stuff, like clean water, a livable planet for their kids, even catastrophic environmental events."
Wiese said parents can use a range of strategies to help children, but that kids first require a supportive relationship with one or more caregivers.
"That connection is vital for helping children develop skills such as resilience," she said.
PoPositive Stress and Strong Support Networks
Wiese defines resilience as the ability to manage stress and adapt to change. Her words are backed by a 2017 American Psychological Association report on the mental health impacts of climate change, which also emphasizes strong caregiver support and the value of resilience. For parents, the report's authors recommend cultivating belief in a child's own resilience, fostering optimism, and teaching children to control emotional responses to change. These are common tenets of modern parenting the report said are made especially important by climate change.
Psychologists also describe the value of "positive stress," which may include public speaking, making new friends, and other experiences that can briefly increase heart rates but that help wire young minds to adapt to change. Parents who provide supportive coaching through these normal life experiences help kids develop resilience.
"Parents also need to model positive and appropriate responses to stress," Wiese said.
Like many things, what happens earliest in life matters most, but teens and even adults can still improve resilience. The APA offers an online guide with age-appropriate strategies for parents.
In contrast, stress related to poverty, malnutrition, violence, or abuse can weaken a child's resilience, acting as "threat multipliers" of their own for children born into the climate change era. In such cases, climate can compound existing stress, potentially increasing odds for substance abuse, anxiety, or depression, according to the authors of the APA report.
Especially where caregiver support is lacking, coaches, teachers, and other mentors can help young people manage these negative stressors. It's a reminder that entire communities, not just parents, will have a hand in raising climate-resilient children.
That community focus is an important factor according to Susan Clayton, a psychologist at Wooster College in Ohio and co-editor of Psychology and Climate Change: Human Perceptions, Impacts, and Responses, which summarizes psychological research tied to climate change.
"Strong social support networks give children a better foundation in resilience," Clayton said. She lists teachers, clubs, and faith communities as good examples of social networks that become "sources of meaning" for kids.
Connnection to the Outdoors
Connecting youths to the outdoors is also important when it comes to climate change. Research shows time outdoors, especially at an early age, can reduce childhood stress and anxiety, while strengthening confidence, imagination, and physical health — all characteristics that will help tomorrow's adults adapt to a changing world.
"Nature-based education [and] therapy are real sources of strength and resilience for young people," Clayton said.
But not everyone grows up with access to the outdoors, and both climate change and population growth are driving greater movement to urban areas worldwide. It means more kids live in developed areas with limited time in nature.
Fortunately, concern over how much time kids spend hitched to phones and computers has already sparked a revival in nature-based education. Parents and teachers today can access a growing network of tested programs. Some, such as Project Learning Tree and the National Environmental Education Foundation, are active across the country, but an expanding galaxy of others function at the local level. At the movement's cutting edge is a growing number of outdoor-focused preschools and kindergartens that provide formative experiences in natural settings, including within urban areas.
Proponents say nature-based education is good for older kids, too, and can spark interest in science and other fields that will be crucial in the decades ahead, as people engineer solutions to climate-related challenges. Such programs may steer teens toward promising careers. But in the short term, learning about science and nature can instill optimism in the face of discouraging climate news.
Discuss and Model Solutions
But what about day-to-day actions in the home? Experts agree that discussing climate change and modeling behaviors that reflect climate solutions are important, too. Discussions need to be age-appropriate to protect young children from unnecessary stress and anxiety. But exhibiting climate-positive behaviors such as energy conservation and avoiding single-use plastics carries value at all ages. According to Wiese, it shows kids that parents are engaged in trying to better the world, and it fosters resilience by channeling energy toward tangible action.
Mary DeMocker, author of The Parents' Guide to Climate Revolution, agrees. As the mother of two young adults, DeMocker spent more than two decades raising kids with climate change in mind, and she believes in empowering young people to create solutions.
"Anything that gives kids a sense of agency is important," she said. "Maybe they help put together the family's emergency plan or evacuation kit. For older kids, it might mean writing letters to Congress."
DeMocker's book contains 100 short, action-oriented chapters with ideas on greener lifestyles, getting kids outdoors, and promoting solutions to the climate crisis. She is attentive to the science of climate change and the urgent need for a swift transition to clean energy. That drives her belief that children growing up today must feel empowered to create change. In addition to strong support networks, time outdoors, and positive thinking habits, she said, empowerment comes from solid foundations in both civics and climate science.
"I encourage parents to push for climate literacy in schools," she said. "Climate change is the biggest thing that's going to affect their children's future. Kids need to know the science and causes but also the solutions. And it needs to be taught free from the constraints of political interests."
DeMocker said young people should not be told "what to think about climate, but how to think about it." She believes teaching kids to think critically about the issue, including in geopolitical terms, helps them avoid despair and instead empowers them to create change. A grounding in civics and democracy then informs kids how change can occur.
Compassion is also a theme in DeMocker's work. She said it's an important emotional response for parents to exercise while listening to a child's fears about climate change, which may include concerns about wildlife, natural disasters, or the well-being of friends, family, and even pets.
In Alaska, Wiese also sees the importance of compassion. She said parents foster compassion when they provide a safe emotional place for kids to express their feelings and where feelings are respected. For younger children, she also sees value in compassion-based play.
Exercising compassion models behaviors young people will need in the future, too, as they emerge as adults into a world undergoing significant physical and societal change. Global experts predict low- and middle-income people — and especially children — will continue feeling the brunt of weather extremes, food shortages, and other climate-related events. Tomorrow's adults will need to know the value of compassion to promote responses that alleviate suffering, foster social justice, and decarbonize the economy. That provides a check against intolerance, nationalism, and other negative reactions that can compound suffering and civil unrest. Practicing compassion also carries mental health benefits that can help tomorrow's adults weather the climate disruption they will experience.
Like climate change itself, the prospect of raising children on a warming planet is daunting. When it becomes overwhelming, Wiese said, parents should focus on what they can control: Practice self-care. Provide kids with safety and support. Teach resilience and compassion. And model planet-healthy choices that orient children away from anxiety and toward solutions.
Tim Lydon has worked on public lands issues for many years and is a founding member of the Prince William Sound Stewardship Foundation. His writing has appeared in Hakai Magazine, The Revelator, The Hill, Terrain.org, and elsewhere.
Reposted with permission from YES! Magazine.
- 5 Answers for Kids Concerned About Climate Crisis - EcoWatch ›
- 5 Ways to Teach Children About Climate Change - EcoWatch ›
- Your Guide to Talking With Kids of All Ages About Climate Change ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The shelter in place orders that brought clean skies to some of the world's most polluted cities and saw greenhouse gas emissions plummet were just a temporary relief that provided an illusory benefit to the long-term consequences of the climate crisis. According to new research, the COVID-19 lockdowns will have a "neglible" impact on global warming, as Newshub in New Zealand reported.
- Coronavirus Lockdown Linked to Falling Air Pollution Levels in Italy ... ›
- Greenhouse Gas Emissions Set for Record Decline Due to ... ›
- Coronavirus Lockdowns Led to Record 17% Emissions Drop ... ›
- India's Air Pollution Plummets in COVID-19 Lockdown - EcoWatch ›
Scientists have discovered and diagnosed the first instance of malignant cancer in a dinosaur, and they did so by using modern medical techniques. They published their results earlier this week in The Lancet Oncology.
- New Blood Test Can Detect Cancer 4 Years Before Symptoms ... ›
- Skull of Smallest Known Dinosaur Found in 99-Million-Year Old Amber ›
- Antarctica Was a Rainforest During the Times of Dinosaurs, New ... ›
- Earth Is Hurtling Towards a Catastrophe Worse Than the Dinosaur ... ›
- Help Save the World's Last Dinosaur - EcoWatch ›
By Joe Roman and Taylor Ricketts
The COVID-19 pandemic in the United States is the deepest and longest period of malaise in a dozen years. Our colleagues at the University of Vermont have concluded this by analyzing posts on Twitter. The Vermont Complex Systems Center studies 50 million tweets a day, scoring the "happiness" of people's words to monitor the national mood. That mood today is at its lowest point since 2008 when they started this project.
The Hedonometer measures happiness through analysis of key words on Twitter, which is now used by one in five Americans. This chart covers 18 months from early 2019 to July 2020, showing major dips in 2020. hedonometer.org<p>These same tweets also indicate a potential salve. Before pandemic lockdowns began, doctoral student <a href="https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=0P0ZYbIAAAAJ&hl=en" target="_blank">Aaron Schwartz</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/pan3.10045" target="_blank">compared tweets before, during, and after visits to 150 parks, playgrounds and plazas</a> in San Francisco. He found that park visits corresponded with a spike in happiness, followed by an afterglow lasting up to four hours.</p><p>Tweets from parks contained fewer negative words such as "no," "not" and "can't," and fewer first-person pronouns like "I" and "me." It seems that nature makes people more positive and less self-obsessed.</p><p>Parks keep people happy in times of global crisis, economic shutdown and public anger. Research has also shown that transmission rates for COVID-19 are <a href="https://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/Is-risk-of-coronavirus-transmission-lower-15287602.php" target="_blank">much lower outdoors than inside</a>. As scholars who study <a href="https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=yFzb2EUAAAAJ&hl=en" target="_blank">conservation</a> and how nature <a href="https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=CCnUeN8AAAAJ&hl=en" target="_blank">contributes to human well-being</a>, we see opening up parks and creating new ones as a straightforward remedy for Americans' current blues.</p>
Park Visits Are Up During the Pandemic<p>According to the Hedonometer, sentiments expressed online started trending lower in mid-March as the impacts of the pandemic became clear. As lockdowns continued, they registered the lowest sentiment scores on record. Then in late May, effects from George Floyd's death in police custody and the following protests and police response once again could be seen on Twitter. May 31, 2020 was the saddest day of the project.</p><p>Recent surveys of park visitors around the University of Vermont have shown people <a href="https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/sd3h6" target="_blank">using green spaces more</a> since COVID-19 lockdowns began. Many people reported that parks were highly important to their well-being during the pandemic.</p>
<div id="4c7e4" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bc0ac146ab2a94228f32d973fc2ab272"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1289428912879964160" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">#Goldengatepark #sf #quarantinemood https://t.co/9l3ufnbkt6</div> — Suvd (@Suvd)<a href="https://twitter.com/Suvd19486406/statuses/1289428912879964160">1596258783.0</a></blockquote></div><p>The powerful effects of nature are strongest in large parks with more trees, but smaller neighborhood parks also provide a significant boost. Their impact on happiness is real, measurable and lasting.</p><p>Twitter records show that parks increase happiness to a level similar to the bounce at Christmas, which typically is the happiest day of the year. Schwartz has since expanded his <a href="https://arxiv.org/pdf/2006.10658.pdf" target="_blank">Twitter study</a> to the 25 largest cities in the U.S. and found this bounce everywhere.</p><p>Parks and public spaces won't cure COVID-19 or stop police brutality, but they are far more than playgrounds. There is growing evidence that parks contribute to mental and physical health in a range of communities.</p><p>In a 2015 study, for example, Stanford researchers sent people out for one of two walks: through a local park or on a busy street. Those who walked in nature showed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2015.02.005" target="_blank">improved moods and better memory performance</a> compared to the urban group. And a team led by <a href="https://penniur.upenn.edu/people/eugenia-gina-south" target="_blank">Gina South</a> of the University of Pennsylvania showed in a 2018 study that greening and cleaning up blighted vacant lots in Philadelphia <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.0298" target="_blank">reduced local residents' feelings of depression, worthlessness and poor mental health</a>.</p>
Creative Strategies<p>It isn't easy to create new parks on the scale of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park or the Washington Mall, but smaller projects can expand outdoor space. Options include greening vacant lots, closing streets and investing in existing parks to make them safer, greener and shadier and support wildlife.</p><p>These initiatives don't have to be capital-intensive. In the University of Pennsylvania study, for example, renovating a vacant lot by removing trash, planting grass and trees and installing a low fence cost only about US$1,600.</p><p>Urban green space is most needed in neighborhoods that have lacked funding for parks, especially given <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/08/nyregion/coronavirus-race-deaths.html" target="_blank">COVID-19's disproportionate impact on Black and Latinx people</a>.</p><p>Cities can also create parklike spaces by <a href="https://theconversation.com/with-fewer-cars-on-us-streets-now-is-the-time-to-reinvent-roadways-and-how-we-use-them-140408" target="_blank">closing streets to cars</a>. Many cities worldwide are currently retooling their transportation systems for the post-COVID-19 world in order to <a href="https://thecityfix.com/blog/bicycles-slower-speeds-livable-city-paris-mayor-anne-hidalgo-plans-ambitious-second-term-dario-hidalgo/" target="_blank">reallocate public space</a>, widen sidewalks and make more space for nature.</p><p>Urban designers, artists, ecologists and other citizens can play a direct role, too, creating pop-up parks and green spaces. Some advocates <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-15/a-brief-history-of-park-ing-day" target="_blank">transform parking spaces into mini-parks</a> with grass, potted trees and seating for just the time on the meter, to make a larger point about turning so much public space over to cars.</p><p>Or cities can invest a little more. Minneapolis, Cincinnati and Arlington, Virginia, have won <a href="https://www.tpl.org/parkscore" target="_blank">national recognition</a> for their ambitious investments in public park systems. These areas could serve as models for neighborhoods that lack access to parks.</p>
<div id="25fd0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="383f0d2df0237e9359c30dcce6cd6c42"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1276558744835379201" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Looking to safely get outside? Check out the best parks for social distancing in this year's top ten ParkScore citi… https://t.co/HJjEtDsrTD</div> — The Trust for Public Land (@The Trust for Public Land)<a href="https://twitter.com/tpl_org/statuses/1276558744835379201">1593190296.0</a></blockquote></div>
A New Park Deal?<p>The United States has historically driven economic recovery with major infrastructure investments, like the New Deal in the 1930s and the 2009 <a href="https://www.investopedia.com/terms/a/american-recovery-and-reinvestment-act.asp" target="_blank">American Reinvestment and Recovery Act</a>. Such investments could easily include nature-positive spaces.</p><p>Parks are not panaceas, as evidenced by the widely publicized <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/06/nyregion/amy-cooper-false-report-charge.html" target="_blank">racist confrontation between a white woman and a Black birder</a> in New York's Central Park in early July. But Hedonometer data add to a <a href="https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/5/7/eaax0903?utm_source=miragenews&utm_medium=miragenews&utm_campaign=news" target="_blank">growing body of evidence</a> that they provide <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1807504116" target="_blank">clear mental health benefits</a>. Creating and expanding parks also <a href="https://www.nrpa.org/contentassets/f568e0ca499743a08148e3593c860fc5/economic-impact-study-summary.pdf" target="_blank">generates jobs and economic activity</a>, with much of the money spent locally.</p><p>We believe investments in nature are well worth it, offering both short-term solace in difficult times and long-term benefits to health, economies and communities.</p>
- Growing Up Near Nature Is Good for Your Adult Mental Health, New ... ›
- Doctors Prescribe Spending Time In Parks - EcoWatch ›
- This Is the Best Type of Green Space for Your Mental Health ... ›
New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced Thursday that she will attempt to dismantle the National Rifle Association (NRA), arguing that years of corruption and mismanagement warrant the dissolution of the activist organization, as CNN reported.
<div id="7eb49" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="83819841e380a7072ec66d3186c160e8"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1291705003984510977" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨RESPONSE to #Mauritius #OILSpill 🚨 “Once again we see the risks in oil: aggravating the #ClimateCrisis, as well as… https://t.co/PBLioZat6X</div> — Greenpeace Africa (@Greenpeace Africa)<a href="https://twitter.com/Greenpeaceafric/statuses/1291705003984510977">1596801446.0</a></blockquote></div><p>"There is no guaranteed safe way to extract, transport and store fossil fuel products. This oil leak is not a twist of fate, but the choice of our twisted addiction to fossil fuels. We must react by accelerating our withdrawal from fossil fuels," Greenpeace Africa Senior Climate and Energy Campaign Manager Happy Khambule said in a <a href="https://www.greenpeace.org/africa/en/press/11864/greenpeace-africa-response-to-mauritius-oil-spill/?utm_campaign=oil&utm_source=t.co&utm_medium=post&utm_content=single-image&utm_term=mauritius-oil-spill-reactive" target="_blank">statement Friday</a>. "Once again we see the risks in oil: aggravating the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/climate-crisis" target="_self">climate crisis</a>, as well as devastating oceans and <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/biodiversity" target="_self">biodiversity</a> and threatening local livelihoods around some of Africa's most precious lagoons."</p>
- Which Country Will Be First to Go Completely Underwater Due to ... ›
- Overfishing Starts Here - EcoWatch ›
By Gianna-Carina Grün
While the first countries are easing their lockdowns, others are reporting more and more new cases every day. Data for the global picture shows the pandemic is far from over. DW has the latest statistics.
What's the Current Global Trend?<p>The goal for all countries is to make it to the blue part of the chart and stay there. Countries and territories in this section reported zero new cases both this week (past seven days) and the week before.</p><p>Currently, that is the case for 14 out of 209 countries and territories. </p>
How Has the Covid-19 Trend Evolved Over the Past Weeks?<p>The situation has improved slightly: 87 countries report more cases this week than last week. </p>
- Coronavirus Has Infected More Than 60,000 Worldwide, New ... ›
- Apple Fire Forces 7,800 to Seek Shelter in Coronavirus-Ravaged ... ›
- CDC Expands List of Those With Higher COVID-19 Risks - EcoWatch ›
- The South Isn't Prepared for a COVID-19 Surge - EcoWatch ›
- Until Teachers Feel Safe, Widespread In-Person K-12 Schooling ... ›
- Teens and Tweens Are Fastest COVID-19 Spreaders, New Study ... ›
- How Other Countries Reopened Schools During the Pandemic ... ›
- Young Children May Have Higher Coronavirus Levels, Raising ... ›
- COVID-19: What Experts Think About Reopening Schools - EcoWatch ›