Adults are not alone in their concern for the health of the environment. Children, who will inherit what their forebears leave behind, are also showing an increasing awareness of the world and what sustains it. There are many easy ways for kids to get involved with environmentalism.
For parents looking to facilitate environmental awareness, it might be helpful to seek out a school or religious group that teaches about the environment and has activities. Going to nature-based camps is an excellent opportunity to connect with like-minded children and teens, in addition to learning about the environment, animals, and how to be active as an environmentalist.
My parents sent me to camps at a nature preserve (Fontanelle Forest in Nebraska) and later to a Jewish camp in Colorado that had a strong emphasis on nature-based activities (Shwayder Camp). While I always struggled getting adjusted at first, these places helped me grow and understand how I wanted to relate to the world around me.
Go to your local farmers’ market together and learn about vegetables and fruits. Talk with the farmers to get a better understanding of where the food comes from. Depending on the farmers’ market and time of year, there might be samples, cheese, eggs, frozen sea food, and even meat.
While many parents put it off, I encourage them to explain the connection between meat and animals rather early, especially those living in a meat-eating household. I know parents may try to shield sensitive children from the fact that they are eating their furry and feathered friends, but that just did not work out for my parents. When I learned to read, I unfortunately came upon a PETA site while searching my interests in environmentalism and animal rights, and POOF!!! – I became a vegetarian for six years and developed nutritional deficiencies because my household could not support my dietary choices, and I didn’t know how to manage it.
For younger children, learning the three R’s of “Reduce, reuse, and recycle” can be particularly fun with going to a thrift store and making costumes for a holiday or even making crafts out of what normally would be trash. There are some very clever ideas out there like making caterpillars out of empty egg cartons (see http://www.dltk-kids.com/crafts/insects/mcaterpillar.htm). Keep in mind that the plastic googly-eyes can easily be replaced with spare odds and ends around the house like a leftover button or a button from a holey shirt! The importance of recycling cans and excess papers is one that children can easily pick up on.
Especially for kids who live in the city, or really any kid, it is essential to foster an appreciation of nature through experiencing it. Children can easily grasp and attach to this appreciation for nature’s intrinsic beauty, connecting to a long line of conservationists, like John Muir. It doesn’t have to be a three night canoe trip or hitting up a famous national park half-way across the country. Getting a plot in a city garden and working on it with your child or children a few times a week can create a huge appreciation for nature and plants.
Alternatively, going to a zoo that has enclosures replicating animals’ natural habitats with enough space may be particularly enjoyable for children. Going for a walk in a nature reserve for a few hours or on a canoe ride is often amazing. Such endeavors need not become routine, and a trip into the wilderness or nature once and a while can create a great impact.
When going on excursions, explain the basics of conservation. While I recall my dad having a particularly interesting perspective given that he was actually a developer and had worked to preserve certain creeks and wooded areas, and once even turned down a large lumber deal due to an endangered owl, there are basic elements that help a child learn how humans and the environment interact. Bringing a bag on walks and hikes together to pick up litter and properly dispose of it teaches a sense of stewardship. Be sure to clearly express to children that they should not touch or pick up syringes or sharp objects, especially when in parks where they are more likely to accumulate.
If you are involved with activism or philanthropy around environmentalism, get your child involved. It is an ideal way to teach your child how organizations and governments work, in addition to giving a sense of contributing to society.
Many Audubon Societies host student bird drawing competitions that encourage kids to connect to birds and learn about their habitats and diets. I participated in these for nine years, and my sister won several awards.
By Emily F.
It’s time to start wading through that wardrobe, gathering up your once-loved fashion items, donating them to an organization who gives to those who need it. 2010 is the year of compassionate fashion.
As Christmas day nears, I’ve been thinking about jolly ol’ Santa and his love for milk and cookies … how his turning vegan could be the biggest gift to vegan activists everywhere.
At Al Gore’s book signing in Beverly Hills, it wasn’t the former VP who drew the most attention from onlookers-it was Peta’s sexy Mother Earth who turned heads. The crowd showed Mother Earth all the love she’s not getting from Gore, whose refusal to stop eating meat is getting in the way of his call to go green.
Gore has admitted that going vegan helps save the environment. And the official handbook for Live Earth-the concert series that Gore himself helped organize-states that not eating meat is the “single most effective thing you can do” to curb climate change. So why hasn’t he taken Peta’s effortless Pledge to Be Veg yet? Apparently, the simple, delicious truth is just too inconvenient.
What is “nanotechnology?” Ive heard that nanoparticles are already in consumer products, yet we haven’t really studied their potential health impacts. — Dan Zeff, San Francisco, CA
Nanotechnology makes use of minuscule objects-whose width can be 10,000 times narrower than a human hair-known as nanoparticles. Upwards of 600 products on store shelves today contain them, including transparent sunscreen, lipsticks, anti-aging creams and even food products.
Global nanotechnology sales have grown substantially in recent years, to $50 billion in 2007, according to Lux Research, author of the annual Nanotech Report. And the final tally isnt in yet, but analysts had predicted 2008 sales to be $150 billion. The National Science Foundation says the industry could be worth $1 trillion by 2015, when it would employ two million workers directly.
What makes nanoparticles so useful is their tiny size, which allows for manipulation of color, solubility, strength, magnetic behavior and electrical conductivity. Nanoparticles do exist in nature, and theyre also created inadvertently through some industrial processes. Whats new-and potentially hazardous-is the widespread engineering of these particles for commercial purposes.
While there is no conclusive evidence that nanomaterials are either unsafe or not, health advocates worry that were already putting them on our bodies and ingesting them as if theyd been thoroughly tested and proven safe. Animal studies, including one with rats at the University of Rochester, have shown that some nanoparticles can cross the blood-brain barrier, which protects the brain from toxins in the bloodstream. And inhaled nanoparticles have also harmed the lungs of animal test subjects.
Despite these and other studies, nanomaterials are virtually unregulated in the U.S. And of $1.3 billion budgeted for research in 2006, only $38 million went to examining risks to health and to the environment.
“While the benefits of nanotechnology are widely publicized, the discussion of the potential effects of their widespread use in consumer and industrial products is just beginning to emerge,” reports the Journal of Nanobiotechnology. “Both pioneers of nanotechnology and its opponents are finding it extremely hard to argue their case as there is limited information available to support one side or the other.”
Europes regulators are far more wary about nanotechnology than their American counterparts. Britains Royal Society recommended in 2004 that nanoparticles be viewed as brand new substances, and the European Commission is examining them on a case-by-case basis. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is loosely charged with regulating nanotechnology here, but has barely dipped its toe in the water.
Taken together, the evidence suggests considerable uncertainty about the use of nano-ingredients in consumer products. Its just not known if theyre safe, which begs the question: Why have we gone ahead and approved them for commercial use? Indeed, we may look back at our current decade and see it, for better or worse, as a time when tiny things caused big and momentous changes in our lives.
How is the fur industry doing these days? Has it been impacted by activism from PETA and similar groups? — Clara Andrews, Edmonds, WA
An accurate source of up-to-date numbers is hard to come by, but its safe to say that the fur industry has been hurt by the ongoing and very visible anti-fur campaign-sometimes featuring top supermodels-by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and other animal rights groups.
Whether or not activist efforts are the cause, the governments of the United Kingdom and Austria have banned fur farming in their countries altogether, while The Netherlands has phased out fox and chinchilla farming. The U.S. has not taken any action against the industry, but the number of mink farms in the U.S. has plummeted from 1,027 in 1988 to less than 300 today, according to Weekly International Fur News.
But while the fur industrys sales numbers may have trailed off through the 1990s, resurgence in the popularity of fur-especially among newly affluent high-fliers in Russia and China-has meant that business is booming for those furriers serving such far-flung markets.
By 2004 the industry was reporting banner sales-some $11.7 billion worldwide-despite the slumping post-9/11 economy.
“Fur remains big with international designers and is set to continue as an integral part of fashion,” International Fur Trade Federation (IFTF) chairman, Andreas Lenhart, told reporters.
According to IFTF data, the vast majority of the fur industry’s pelts-upwards of 85 percent-now come from farm-raised animals. (This does mean, though, that 15 percent are still caught in the wild, often by trapping methods that are painful as well as indiscriminate, catching unintended quarry, including endangered species and domestic pets.)
The most farmed such animal is the mink, followed by the fox. Chinchilla, lynx, muskrats and coyotes are also farmed for their fur. PETA reports that 73 percent of the worlds remaining fur farms are in Europe, while about 12 percent are in North America.
IFTF argues that fur farming has environmental benefits, such as providing good use for 647,000 tons of animal by-products each year from Europes fish and meat industries alone (they are fed to the captive animals), and generating a lot of manure, sold as organic fertilizer. Mink farming also provides fat for soaps and hair products, says IFTF.
Of course, anti-fur activists dont see it this way. “The amount of energy needed to produce a real fur coat from ranch-raised animal skins is approximately 15 times that needed to produce a fake fur garment,” says PETA. “Nor is fur biodegradable, thanks to the chemical treatment applied to stop the fur from rotting.” PETA adds that these same chemicals contaminate groundwater near fur farms if not handled responsibly.
Activists are also concerned, of course, about the conditions animals endure on fur farms. “The animals-who are housed in unbearably small cages-live with fear, stress, disease, parasites and other physical and psychological hardships…” reports PETA. The group adds that the animals are killed in very inhumane ways-such as by electrocution, gassing or poisoning-to preserve the quality of the pelts above all else.
From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine
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