When I think about the environment and kids, and the future of our planet, one particular story always comes to mind. It’s the tale of the most surreal argument between a parent and child that I have yet to witness. It took place on a sweaty summer day in my old neighborhood in New York and it went something like this:
A mom passed her son, who couldn’t have been more than two, a piece of candy. He smiled and accepted it gratefully, then slowed down his walk to concentrate on peeling off the wrapper. Successful, he popped the treat into his mouth. Casually, the mom turned turn towards her son and told him to throw the candy wrapper on the sidewalk. The little boy shook his head no. His mom repeated her request. The little boy shook his head no again, and closed his fist around the piece of paper. The boy’s mother stopped walking abruptly. She turned to her son in the middle of the sidewalk, and yelled at him in full mom volume, to THROW THE WRAPPER ON THE GROUND. Her son stiffened and stared back at her, but kept his fist closed. In a flurry of gestures, the mother put down her shopping bag, grabbed her son’s wrist, pried his hand open, and swiftly plucked out the candy wrapper and tossed it violently on the ground. And then they kept walking.
And I kept walking behind them, filled first with a sense of bewilderment, and then rage, and then a sudden overwhelming despair. For a split second, this single, small scene felt like the surest proof that our planet was doomed – what hope could there possibly be for its future if we were actively teaching our children to do it harm?
I’ve recounted this story often, and over time my feelings have changed. What I hold on to now is that tiny little boy’s resistance, and what I like to think of as his instinct – his innate desire to do the right thing by our earth. I think that all of us are born with this same instinct to protect our home, to keep it clean and nice, pretty and wholesome, and that with the right education, the right reinforcement, and the right tools, we can preserve this instinct and turn it into action.
In this issue, we let kids speak up about the environmental issues that they care about and tell us how they are making changes, and we learn about how schools and students are cooperating to protect the planet. Also, we show you how to go green at home, because sometimes the most meaningful lessons are the habits and practices we learn from our parents. Like where to throw our candy wrappers.