A Letter to Parents and Teachers: Ten Ways To Make Earth A Child Safe Zone

By Denny Taylor

Dear Parents and Teachers,

I hope this letter is helpful. There is so much conflicting information about climate change and the ecological impact of people on the planet it is incredibly difficult for us to move forward in positive and constructive ways to support our children and help them prepare for a very uncertain future.

The ten things listed below that we can do to ensure Earth becomes a child safe zone are based on my forty years of research with families who come from diverse racial, ethnic, religious and national backgrounds, who live in urban and rural poverty, in regions of armed conflict, and in locations where catastrophic events have taken place including destructive weather events and mass killings.

If our children are to survive and thrive in this century, it is imperative that we prepare them with new forms of “worldliness”. In their backpacks and tool-kits the “worldliness” they will need is a perspective on life which values imagination, creativity, originality, and innovation, one that is deeply rooted in Earth-human history, is grounded in the present time of human dissonance with the planet, and does not flinch from addressing human conflicts that we experience with each other. In tackling climate change and other ecological and sociological perils for our children it is imperative that we are vigilant and sensitive to the limited time that they will have to find new ways to sustain human life on the planet and to live more closely with Earth

My enduring message is that children need their families, schools, and communities to be safe joyful places before disasters occur if they are going to have the opportunity to recover when disasters occur.

In the years to come, as anthropogenic change intensifies and catastrophic events occur more frequently, as they undoubtedly will, it is parents who will rise to the challenge to protect their children, and teachers who will invariably be first responders when disasters do occur.

We might not have faith in governments, but we do have faith in people, in the ability for parents and teachers to quickly morph from the ordinary to the extraordinary, to take a leadership role and to act, when our “leaders” are bogged down in the increased polarization of the political process and are too burdened by their privilege and money to act themselves.

There is so much we can learn from parents and teachers who are first responders about what we can do in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, but we can also learn from them what we can do before catastrophic events take place. One of the most powerful ideas that parents and teachers have shared with me in the aftermath of disaster is that what happens before events take place should be a high priority both at home and at school. Here are ten things we can do: 

  1. Think big live small. If we want to make Earth a child safe zone we have to change the way we live on the planet.
  2. Don’t frighten the kids. Make sure kids are aware but do not scare them. It will have a negative impact on their health and wellbeing, and on their capacity to solve the problems we are bequeathing to them.
  3. Reconnect kids with the planet. We have unearthed our children. From baby play through childhood, kids need to experience how awesome it is to live with the planet.
  4. Make sure all kids have joyful experiences so they can use their imaginations, be creative, and become the great problem solvers they will need to be to tackle the damage to the planet, which will be our legacy to them.
  5. Live simply for kids. Children should not have to live in the future in ways you are not prepared to live today.
  6. Help kids live simply to simply live. Practice a new kind of worldliness together.
  7. Ask yourself the carbon dioxide question: “If I can walk why do I need a car? Why two cars? Three?” In 25 years we will reach our CO2 limit for human life as we know it on Earth. Get rid of the car unless it is absolutely essential. “Do I need a car?” This is one of many essential questions.
  8. Become activists to make Earth a child safe zone. Insist on sustainable communities that include public transportation.
  9. Build strong, equitable, diverse, social communities for kids. Inequality is bad for kids and bad for the planet.
  10. Kids in more equal societies thrive. Kids in more unequal societies struggle to survive, and so does the planet. Narrow the gap to reduce existential risks.
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