It’s a funny (aka f*cking terrifying) thing, being a parent in 2019. While we wipe up triple regurgitated pasta and catch feels between poo grenades, we know we have 18 months for governments around the world to pull their grubby fingers out and start to cut emissions enough to keep global temperature rise to safe levels by 2030. What that actually means, is that in 18 months we find how soon we’re going to be extinct.
So we do our best to do the green thing, flipping untold textures out of reusable nappies and unleashing depressing plastic-free party bags. But equally, we have kids. That’s pretty much the worst thing you can do for the environment. And it’s also the scariest thing, when a safe future is so uncertain.
But, because we have kids, we’re invested in that future. So we also have hope. And not just because we have to. Because Greta Thunberg, David Attenborough and Extinction Rebellion have finally woken everyone else up. The “climate crisis” now makes as many headlines as a minor celeb. That’s big. We’re all recycling better, reusing more and eating less animals and dairy. Like Brexit and Trump empowered racists, mainstream climate awareness has empowered us enviroMentalists to shout louder.
But we can’t shout at our kids (too much). Talking to them about climate change is one of the trickiest conversations you will ever have. It’s not just about death. I can kinda handle that: besides goldfish going on holiday, worms do get eaten by birds. When people die, we cherish them, sharing memories and framing their photos. But this is mass human extinction, and there isn’t really anything to compare it to other than dinosaurs. And while we all have to figure out how to tell that story in our own way, for now, we’ve got to focus on hope: how our kids can do something to help, however small their hands.
Like all major life drama that I can’t find the words for myself*, there is always books (*like why we should not hit, potty training, getting a new sister, stopping breastfeeding, starting preschool… you name the drama, we’ve read it). Books ftw.
So here are 5 beautiful books about the impact of humans on our planet, that my toddler Iyra properly engages with – and my baby Zia properly drools on.
1. 10 Things I Can Do To Change My World, by Melanie Walsh
Bold illustrations with flaps and cut outs reveal simple solutions to help reduce waste and energy. Kind of a nice reminder for adults too. We liked the way it made doing good things seem easy. Even if it’s all long forgotten by my 3 year old as soon as the book closes.
2. Dinosaurs And All That Rubbish, by Michael Foreman
You would never know this was first published in 1972. It is hyper relevant… which is why it makes me cry every time. Basically, man fills earth with rubbish in his selfish quest to build a rocket and take over a new star, which wakes up the dormant dinosaurs who tidy up the rubbish, then when man comes back the dinosaurs teach him that earth is not just for him, but EVERYONE. They chant that in a beautiful chorus. You try not crying. Man is f*cking shit.
3. Alba The Hundred Year Old Fish, by Lara Hawthorne
Lush, colourful, busy pictures kept wide eyes engaged and asking annoying questions, but the characters seemed especially hypnotising for Iyra. She brings Alba and the girl up in conversation a lot. Older kids are the best way to get kids to do good stuff. Definitely helps if they’re pretty.
4. A Forest, by Marc Martin
Handsome watercolour trees and cities fill the pages as humans build and destroy everything, standard. Similar to Dinosaurs but without the characters, yet is still a nice, gentle (but terrifyingly beautiful for the adult who reads between the lines at our necessary extinction) bedtime story. Gulp.
5. V is for Vegan: The ABCs of being kind, by Ruby Roth
This was on my books for woke AF babies list but because my toddler constantly asks for it, am including it again. I have listened with pride while she recites: “I don’t eat animals, they’re my friends and they would find that quite rude!”, and hope that in a few years when she fully understands (I chose NOT to eat animals when I was 7), she will not choose TO eat her friends, animal or human.
But remember kids, climate education is important but it should not override cutting blind consumption. Borrow books from friends or the library first, then try charity shops and second-hand online stores like eBay (Amazon are evil etc but they always have pre-owned versions of every book from third party sellers), and then check out small independent shops irl or online. And then pass them on to your mates and spread the green stuff. (Not the bogeys that may have been wiped on the pages. Germs are good for your immune system, right?)
We must have hope that our kids – and we if we’re being honest – will have a long, comfortable, fair future. Because if we haven’t got hope, we have actually got nothing. And try explaining that one to them.
We can. Do this.
Have you read any climate change kids books that aren’t blood curdlingly terrifying? We would ❤ to hear from you. Contact us, comment below, or tag #WokeMamas.
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