The Rainforest Alliance is highlighting the importance of following its ‘SAFE’ steps when talking to children about climate change and environmental sustainability and providing them with the knowledge they need to feel empowered. The international non-profit organisation is also encouraging families to take part in a range of at-home activities including taking a 30-day sustainability challenge to prompt big and small changes; and measuring their own carbon footprint.
This coincides with a recent study by an international group of researchers which found that greater investment and innovation in educating children about environmental issues is needed to help future generations respond to the climate emergency.
Melanie Mokken, Markets Transformation Manager Asia Pacific for the Rainforest Alliance says everyone can make a difference.
“With the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) scheduled to take place in Glasgow next month, it is timely for families to open up the conversation on climate change and the achievable steps we can take to make positive changes. The impact of climate change is something that our children are already facing. The recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that land areas in New Zealand have warmed by 1.1C between 1910 and 2020. The report also says that as the globe heats, New Zealand will become a land divided by weather extremes – the west and south will be hit by heavy rain leading to floods, while high temperatures will bring drought and fires to the east and north.
“Of course, we don’t want to alarm children, however, it’s important to make them feel empowered to make positive changes in the world. Sustainability is a critical issue for New Zealand therefore it is more important than ever to talk to children about sustainability and how we can all make changes for the good of our planet.
“Change can feel overwhelming, so at the Rainforest Alliance, we’re here to guide you in amplifying your individual choices into a meaningful collective impact. By talking to children early, we can improve their knowledge, whilst developing their appreciation of the environment around us. Sustainability really comes down to understanding the changes we can make to our everyday lives that are better for people, for nature and the planet,” said Melanie Mokken.
The Rainforest Alliance suggests following its four ‘SAFE’ steps when talking to children:
- Success stories;
- Facts; and
Offer a positive reminder that whilst climate change is urgent, we are not powerless against it. It is possible to pre-empt despondency by recounting success stories. For example, in 1987, nations around the world came together to ban ozone-depleting substances and successfully averted the disaster of a UV-bombarded Earth. In fact, ozone levels are projected to return to 1980 levels by 2032.
Take action and encourage children to get their friends involved too. Below are some concrete steps for you and your children to take action at home.
- The Rainforest Alliance recently launched its Take Action platform, Let’s Grow Together, providing inspiration to make more sustainable choices and changes every day on an individual, collective and global level. This practical platform provides guidance on a range of topics, including choosing certified products, sustainability at home and using your voice.
- Forests are an important ally in the fight against climate change. Here are some tips on how kids can help save rainforests.
- Measure your own carbon footprint and explore what simple changes can be made to walk the talk and reduce your own carbon footprint.
- Trees are the strongest defence against climate change. Plant and nurture a tree in the backyard, school, or community garden or support initiatives to increase green space in your community.
With so much misinformation about climate change, it’s more important than ever to consult science as the means to sort fact from fiction. The science overwhelmingly demonstrates that climate change is real—and that it is caused by humans.
It is also worthwhile providing the ‘basics’ on the climate. The mechanics of climate change may be too complex and overwhelming, especially for young children. Rather than starting with greenhouse gases and melting ice caps, it is best to start with something more tangible for them. For example, a houseplant could be used to explain how plants “breathe in” the gases that we breathe out, and vice versa, in a mutually beneficial cycle. It’s important to remind children that “the environment” is not some faraway place, but our immediate surroundings—and that we are all connected whether we live in big cities, sprawling suburbs, or rainforests
Education – don’t go it alone
Children don’t often receive much exposure to climate change education in school. To help change that, parents can let their school leadership teams know that climate education is a priority for them. It may be useful to talk to leaders of extra-curricular groups about leading some climate-related activities.
“The concept of climate change can be overwhelming, for adults as well as children, and we often hear that our individual actions don’t matter, however that is not the case. Everyone can make a difference and it can be as simple as making informed daily choices.
“There is great power in the collective, and when we act together it is possible to make a difference. As climate change is such a wide topic it can be challenging teaching children in a way that is interesting and provides all the facts but doesn’t scare them. By using this simple guide, the Rainforest Alliance believes it is possible for everyone to tackle what is a complicated and sometimes scary subject with children,” said Melanie Mokken.