Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A 'Climate Hawk' Wonders How to Educate His Toddler

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A 'Climate Hawk' Wonders How to Educate His Toddler

Article excerpt

An environmentalist watches his son play with a garden hose and cringes about water conservation.

Being a "climate hawk" tends to keep me from being the life of the party. Lately, however, I have discovered that my ardent environmentalism has begun to have a chilling effect on my 3-year- old son's play dates.

Take, for instance, a game he invented called Lights On, Lights Off. You can guess how that one works. Or take Simon's devilish talent for propping open the refrigerator door without my knowing it. In such moments, I am liable to point out the window to the white, billowing stack of the coal plant two miles away. "That's where our power comes from," I preach. "We have to breathe that smoke." I resist the urge to bring up related topics such as ozone- action days. I will save that until he's older, say, 5.

Like most toddlers, my son loves to play with water. Whenever he has a friend over, I invariably find them at the bathroom sink, chubby hands twirling the tap handles, happily filling and emptying cups as the faucet gushes full-bore.

Where some dads might offer a bucket or squirt gun, I prefer to contribute a brief sermon on the moral imperative of water conservation. I usually begin with an articulate phrase like, "Stop! Simon, what are you doing?" I follow that with a helpful explanation. "Our water comes out of the lake, right? So does the water of our neighbors. What would happen if everyone filled and emptied sinks over and over?" I am reaching for a point about water scarcity, but Simon and his buddy stare back, dazzled by the possibility that everyone in Chicago may be flooding their bathrooms, too. Not exactly what I had intended.

I am no anthropologist, but I would wager that children in drought-ridden Africa or the Middle East learn early on not to waste water. Moreover, I know that my grandparents - galvanized by the Great Depression - learned not to waste anything, be it water or food, fuel or clothing. Between their generation and mine, the script for those important lessons has been lost and I find myself reinventing them in my own hysterical fashion, a la, "Simon, if we can walk to the store instead of driving, it will help save a glacier and the polar bears that live on them. …

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