If there’s one thing recent actions on climate change have taught me, it’s that kids can be an inspiration. On the day my seven-year-old son, Oscar, learned about the realities of climate change, he wasn’t aware that anyone else cared. He didn’t know about the high school kids across the country who would soon be marching for climate action – that there were other kids out there who cared as much as he did. He didn’t even know his parents were worried about it – we talk a lot about being kind to the earth, but hadn’t sat down and had a discussion about climate change with our five- and seven-year-old sons. On the day Oscar learned about climate change, he realised that individual action wouldn’t be enough,and he decided to do something about it.
While we were doing housework and talking about Important Things, Oscar and his little brother were apparently happily drawing at the kitchen table, listening to audio books, and getting themselves fruit from the kitchen. They were uncharacteristically quiet for a few hours, which I attributed to the late night they’d had. Oscar busied himself with getting plastic sheets out of the stationary box, along with drawing pins and a hammer, and by the time I saw what he was up to, he was nailing his handiwork to the fence. Oscar had not asked us any questions. He had not expressed any worries or concerns. He just got to work. Nailed to our fence was a drawing representing the effect of melting ice and rising sea levels, and a sign that read “Global warming is destroying the earth. Humans can help. How? Write your answers below with your name”. He had left a space for passers-by to offer contributions, and a pen. Later, he also nailed up a “Stop Adani” sign he had made, and he asked me to take a photo of it all and post it on facebook, so that friends who live outside of our neighbourhood could make contributions.
Climate change has kept me awake at night. I’ve made small changes in my day-to-day life, then felt helpless because it all seemed pointless. Oscar worried for a moment then got to work, not burdened by fears that it might be too late, or that there are people who need to be convinced who are unreachable. Imagine if everyone just thought for a moment then acted? He is proud and relieved that everyone who posted their solutions or wrote them on the sign saw the other solutions as well – “now people will have so many ideas, Mama!”. Last weekend as I headed over to Cass and Warwick’s, for one of their inspiring kitchen-table discussions on climate change, Oscar stopped me at the door, because he wanted to have a chat about his ideas convincing people to vote for the current government out at the next election.
It’s easy to underestimate kids and what they’re capable of – the reason I hadn’t told my kids about the reality of climate change was because I didn’t want them to worry about something they could do nothing about. But you don’t have to single-handedly reverse climate change to “do something”, and Oscar, and all the kids who marched for climate in the last few weeks, have demonstrated that belief in the possibility of change is powerful. He’s taught me, and many others, an important lesson.
By Sashi Nair