We are having a family conference this week on climate change and including grandchildren, three boys, 15, 13 and 11, and as it happens, all Boy Scouts. The subject, while not exactly the elephant in the room, has been off-limits to date, even among the adults — as uncomfortable as money, politics, or the fact of death. Environmental education exists in Florida, see Pine Jog Environmental Educational Center, despite deniers in high places. But I wanted to know how global warming/climate change was being presented to young people by various groups, including the Boy Scouts of America. So this morning I did some research (see links at the end of the post). Laurie David, a global warming activist and the producer of the Academy Award-winning film An Inconvenient Truth and the HBO documentary Too Hot Not to Handle, has collaborated with Scholastic publishing to produce an excellent guide to the science of global warming and what families can do to mitigate its impacts. The graphics are delightful and on target.
There is a measured tone to this guide (and others) that reminded me of President Obama’s response to NBC 6 Chief Meteorologist John Morales’ ‘what now’ questions (upon the release of the National Climate Assessment): more fuel efficient cars and Energy Star appliances and letting one’s elected officials know ‘this is important.’ It all seems so sensible and doable, like doubling up on recycling and changing out lightbulbs, and in some ways easier to swallow than adaptation*, which is where most climate experts and savvy political leaders are beginning to put their attention. For their part — and I commend them for it — the Boy Scouts of America have added a new Sustainability Merit Badge to the existing one covering the Environment. Eagle Scout candidates need at least one of the two to qualify. Not so surprising given the 100 year old organization has been devoted to nature and conservation throughout its history. There are 100 million scouts worldwide, making it the largest youth organization on the planet, so this is big news.
What lit a fire under my seat about getting the family together now was the release of the National Climate Assessment with its segments on regional impacts. For Floridians, as I’ve noted here before, preparing for hurricane season is an annual ritual, albeit some people have been reassured by a succession of relatively quiet years. Preparedness is a mindset one can work with when it comes to serious talk about climate, simple as the Boy Scout motto. Because as the Southeast regional report makes clear, Florida is exceptionally vulnerable to all the impacts of global warming, among which flooding due to sea level rise and salt water contamination of our drinking water and soil, are perhaps the most immediate and most worrying. First, we have to be willing to get it all out on the table: confusion, denial (whatever form that takes), fear, distrust. What will be important is to recognize that every day we waste politicizing the facts of climate science is a day we don’t take action. We need to leave the ‘debate’ to those whose interests it serves, and get on the same page in terms of risk assessment. You can bet the insurance industry IS paying attention.
“You won’t find many climate change doubters these days within the property insurance business.” ~ David Kodama, senior director of research and policy analysis for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, or PCI. (Bankrate)
Our strategy so far has been to show more than tell (although we’ve done some of that, too), and it is by now quite clear to everyone in our immediate and extended family and circle of friends, that we are tree-hugging climate activists. None of the things we have done so far — KXL protest march, EV, renewable energy for our utilities, tree-planting, vegetables from a local farm, no CAFO’s, organizing for Transition, feels like a big deal sacrifice. It’s child’s play compared to what we — and that means every capable person — may yet be called to do.
Down to Earth (Scholastic), Laurie David’s guide
The National Science Foundation’s Exploratorium, great for older kids
The EPA’s Climate Change and Kids site, multi-age groups