Thursday, April 29, 2010

The oil spill - the tipping point

One cannot be deeply responsive to the world without being saddened very often.
~ Erich Fromm

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.
~ Talmud (attributed)

There have been horrific images of the BP Gulf oil spill on TV and in the papers.
And yet I have not looked at them.
I just can't.
I cannot bring myself to be informed on this issue, to figure out how to talk to my kids about it, to find a way to do something meaningful in the face of this crisis.
I am sure that the damage is astounding, the figures staggering, the prognosis bleak.  And yet I doubt I would be surprised by it.

I am not one to stick my head in the sand. Usually.
But this time I just can't. I know the images will paralyze me. It will be my tipping point.
We created this spill with our demand for more and more oil. We are responsible.
I have decided that instead of facing this one head on, I will redouble my efforts to do what I can here. To drive less and bike or walk more. To reduce our use of plastics and eliminate disposables as much as we possibly can. To buy less, and to choose local and used over new and well travelled. To continue our efforts to make our home more energy efficient.  To spend, save and give ethically.

The work I can do. The images, details, and powerlessness....I just can't.

Talking with children about the Oil Spill

Monday, April 26, 2010

Planting trees

One of our family traditions is planting trees during earth week. It's something we have done every year for the last number of years and each year we plant more. This year we planted about 30 trees in the farmer's field not too far from our nature centre. The kids love to think about how their trees will look when they have their own kids. It provides a starting place to talk to them about not only curbing our use of paper, but also how long it takes for the trees to grow to the point that they can function as the lungs of our earth.

We've also been inspired by the story of Wangari Maathai about how tree planting is not only an environmental action. It can also be one of peace and hope.

Planting the trees of Kenya: the story of Wangari Maathai by Claire Nivola,
Wangari's trees of peace : a true story from Africa by Jeanette Winter,
We planted a tree by Diane Muldrow,
Grandpa and me on Tu B'Shevat by Marki Gold-Vukson,
The man who planted trees by Jean Giono, (also check out the National Film Board film production of this story).

Ecokids tree planting tips

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Family Friendly Earth Week Activities

This week we gathered with a group of friends to do a park clean up. The older kids immersed themselves (literally) in cleaning up the creek. Younger kids helped in the park and along the trail. The park had been cleaned recently - we were the second sweep and we still ended up with 12 bags of garbage.

Our city makes it easy for us to participate in this program during Earth Week, providing bags, gloves and garbage pick up services - as well as a gift of reusable mugs for participants. However it would be relatively simple to do this on a smaller scale.

Last week a nearby neighbourhood group had organized their own clean up event at a beautiful creek not too far from our house. In addition to the clean up activities, the group had organized a pot luck snack, a barbeque and some kids' activities.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Youth Can

As I dig deeper for opportunities for my children to expand their understanding of world issues, I am frankly blown away by the heroes that are all around us.

Last month I took Ryan to a program at a nearby high school. Michel Chikwanine, from Me to We, was speaking to the entire student population on their Youth Activism Day.  Students in the school, had organized a full day of programming which included not only the key speaker, but also workshops about volunteering, activism, youth engagement and world issues. The organizations involved ran the gamut from Amnesty International and Oxfam to Right to Play and to  Kiva loans and Katimavik and included workshops on song writing, journalism and social media to African drumming.

The initiative was student led and the school seemed to be a hotbed of social activism and youth engagement. Nishin Nathwani, another young man we've seen speak recently and his contemporaries were the organizing team and they had been congratulated by numerous adult activists, politicians and organizations for their efforts to make activism accessible and integrated into their school culture.

Michel's presentation was both funny and sad.  A former child soldier from the Democratic Republic of Congo he talked about his journey to Canada and his life here, his father and his activism. 

I sat in this school auditorium thinking back to my high school days and how unaware I was compared to the young people around me and how fascinating this group of kids are.

Me to We

Please note Michel's video is for older children. Please preview before deciding whether to share with your children.