My oldest child is three. Three and a half, I suppose, although he’s not even to the age where he insists on “and a half!” I know we’ll get there soon, but for now, he’s a young preschooler, blissfully ignorant about war and global warming and all the dangers out there that we adults are charged with managing until it’s his turn, and that of his classmates, to take the reins of this great big world.
But because I know that it’s not good for a child to grow up ignorant of danger, I’ve begun introducing the concept to him slowly. Of course he knows to be wary of strangers, and to hold Mommy’s hand when crossing the street, but I’m now starting to introduce him to the bigger worries in life.
Like climate change.
Somewhere along the way, we began reading the Little Critter books by Mercer Meyer. We happily read through stories about bedtime, about cleaning one’s room, about growing up. Then came It’s Earth Day! I don’t know who consulted and contributed scientific expertise for this book, but it starts on a worrisome note about the ice disappearing and the polar bears having nowhere to live. Little Critter gets really worried, and leads his friends on an all-out recycling binge. Then he undertakes a plan to save the Earth.
My kind of little critter!
Only, of course, it doesn’t work, and he gets frustrated, and then the book ends a little preachily about all the things that he and his family DID do to save the earth. Which is well and good, until he mentions the polar bears again.
As my three-year-old would say, “Oh, brother.”
The polar bears are a symbol that has been bandied about by groups on both sides, and there is plenty of educated discourse about that other places on the internet. I don’t intend to reproduce that here, but I will say that when I read this book to my child, I edit it a bit. We talk about “helping the Earth,” not saving it. We talk about “saving energy,” instead of global warming. We talk about how important it is to “reduce, reuse, recycle” in our every day lives. We are careful not to litter, and to talk about how sad we are when we see someone carelessly toss trash on the interstate. I am raising him to be aware of environmental issues, and to take action when we can do so safely.
And so, when our playgroup celebrated Earth Day at the local park with a playdate and games, we celebrated. Far from being outdated, Earth Day is alive and well.