By JASMIN IRISHA JIM ILHAM
Remember when the terms “global warming” and “climate change” were non-existent? When we did not have to worry or feel guilty about using plastic bags, throwing aluminium cans into rubbish bins and consuming turtle eggs?
Life was much simpler back then. But change is inevitable, and times have changed. There is no denying the fact that global warming and climate change are now part of our vocabulary and very much a part of our concerns for the next generation.
Before we welcome the 40th World Environment Day on June 5, 2012, let us consider what your child has done to protect the planet.
Notice how the question is directed at your child rather than you? Let me explain why. To tackle an issue as vast as nature itself, one must first determine the root cause – the principal reason behind why the state of the environment is deteriorating at a rapid pace; why we are where we are today.
According to multiple studies worldwide, the only possible and explainable answer to this common question is none other than the lack of environmental awareness.
More often than not, we tend do things by ourselves. We recycle by ourselves, we go grocery shopping by ourselves and we even eat organic food by ourselves.
To effect change, parents need to include their children and they need to start from young. Habits are formed from a young age and what better habit to instil in children than recycling and preserving the Earth.
Here are some ways that have worked with my own family:
Recycle with your children
Teach them the importance of recycling, how it promotes sustainable living and minimises waste problems.
|Learning to recycle is something children need to start practising from young.
Go grocery shopping with your children
Teach them to only buy things that are on the shopping list, explain how opting to bring grocery bags reaps countless benefits and to always be savvy and thrifty.
Eat organic food with your children
Teach them how to eat their way to a healthy lifestyle, explain the bad effects of junk food and get a head start to a wealthy health.
Teach by example
This year, my family celebrated Earth Hour 2012 by switching off our lights at exactly 8.30pm.
My four-year-old brother Johan asked me, “Why are we switching off the lights, Kakak?”
“To save the Earth,” I answered.
He was instantly contented with my answer, and then off he went gleefully running around with torchlight in his hand as if he was a superspy, spying in the dark. Now and then he occasionally switches off the lights in my room with the torchlight in his hand. As he switches off the lights, he announces, “I’m saving the Earth!”
Yes, switching off your lights for one hour a year isn't going to make a significant difference, but the message sent forth is more powerful than a lot of people realise.
Researchers have proven to us time and time again that children’s IQ is constantly developing as they grow. They tend to mimic what others do. This is one of the many reasons why moral and environmental values should be inculcated in them at a very young age. However, it is also proven that children have a short attention span. Thus, parents also need to make these practices fun yet educational.
Everyone can be trained
In March, we had a family trip to Singapore. It was my first visit to the island republic. We spent five days there and treated ourselves like major tourists. My uncle suggested that we should go to the Night Safari on the fourth day since we already rocked at Hard Rock on the first, raided Universal Studios on the second, and shopped at Orchard Road on the third.
As soon as we purchased our tickets, we went to watch the first available animal show. I expected to see seals catching and balancing a ball like we have seen at Zoo Negara or a monkey doing a somersault – same old, same old ….
I didn’t actually brace myself for this: Recycling otters. That’s right. I was astounded at how well the trainers had coached and managed these three otters that could identify plastic, aluminium and glass, and even recycle by throwing the items into their designated coloured bins!
At that moment I thought, if otters can do it, why can’t we?
Educate by experience
Take your children to zoos, forest reserves and planetariums. Your children will learn, understand and remember better if they experience life firsthand. Television is helpful, too. How do you think your four-year-old knows what a platypus is if not for Phineas and Ferb?
Expose them to TVIQ, Animal Planet and National Geographic instead of just Disney Channel and Nickelodeon. You’ll be amazed to find out what they can learn in just an hour. Movies are inspirational as well, especially Dr Seuss’ legendary works such as The Lorax and Horton Hears a Who! Not only are they fun, exciting and a great way to spend time with the family; they also instil positive values.
It is erroneous to say that carrying out green deeds is burdening and troublesome. Take it as your social responsibility for the future of your children and their children. When we instil environmental awareness in children and inspire them to make the world a better place, we must remember one thing: Children are smart. They are innovative. They are the future.
Therefore, what you teach your child to do today - whether it’s switching off the tap while brushing teeth to save water, drawing on both sides of the paper instead of one to save the trees, or switching off the television when done to save electricity - does not only benefit himself/herself, but the whole generation ahead.
Remember, these are good habits they learn today which they will practise for a lifetime and hopefully pass on to their own children.
This is our 2012 reality. We only have one planet which we can call home. It is here or nothing. It is not fair to make the future suffer for our wrongdoings. Hence, we must all play our part. Engineers are producing hybrid cars, architects are designing eco-buildings and environmental lawyers are reinforcing the law. As parents, you know what to do.
Happy 40th World Environment Day!
Jasmin Irisha Jim Ilham is an environmental enthusiast, but prefers the term “environthusiast.” This not-so-average 18-year-old Malaysian is an avid reader, ambitious teenager and oddly but easily inspired by the little things in life. She blogs at theenvironthusiast.wordpress.com.