I think you’d have to live under a rock if you didn’t hear news of climate change at least a number of times a year. There are frequently news publications with headlines that read along the lines of, “10 years until effects of climate change radically change our existence,” or “If the world heats up by one degree, catastrophic consequences await.”
As a North American woman, I often feel pangs of guilt, worry and fear. Then I get side-tracked and hear about something else, or I continue on with my day’s plans. As a parent, though, I am starting to wonder. I am starting to wonder about our culture, about our parenting styles, about cultural customs and traditions, about what it is that we do without even thinking about it.
I am starting to wonder what the world will look like when my kids get older. I’m starting to wonder if today’s kids will one day experience food scarcity (scientists are telling us they will, indeed). I’m starting to wonder if clean water is a luxury that right now we are taking for granted (scientists are telling us this is an issue now, and it will be then). Sometimes when I think about what we can do to change this reality, I often land on the same answer: the problem is so much greater than what I do. Sure I recycle. Sure I remind the kids about how important it is to care for the environment. Why, with all this information presented to us at large, are things still not changing?
Some social scientists in North America state that happiness is at an all time low. The reason for this? It is speculated that it’s because work days are longer than ever, and people are shopping using money they don’t even have (debt to income ratio in Canada is $1.75 of debt per $1.00 earned). They are in debt. Working to pay it off. What do they do to feel better? They shop. Then the debt deepens. Yes we need to shop and consume, but what are some of the reasons we do it and what are some alternatives?
5 Things for Parents to Think About in a Changing World
- Expressing love
We are naturally social beings, and historically we have been conditioned to believe that bringing gifts to others is a social gesture that will demonstrate gratitude, appreciation or love.
Maybe this isn’t the problem, but maybe it’s what we give. Are we giving people something they don’t need or want? That’s a start. But, perhaps, instead of gifting for every occasion multiple times a year for multiple people, try to express love with: time, kind words and gestures.
- Improving self-confidence
As women and men, we are both inclined to want to improve our images by adhering to new trends. WHOA could you imagine a world where we had to wear the same styles over and over again, year after year? The problem with this is EXCESS. Clothing from many big-box-stores often end up in the TRASH, even if you donate it to a secondhand store like Goodwill. Buy quality things with classic styles that LAST LONGER. Fast fashion = bad for environment. Not to mention, a lot of fast fashion items not only end up in the landfill, but the production of these types of clothing are made with chemicals that are bad for both the people making the garments and the planet.
Keeping up with the Joneses comes at a very high monetary and environmental cost. Green lawns, new trendy furniture, paints and solvents all contribute to pollution. Urban sprawl (new housing developments) in pretty new neighbourhoods outside of city centres. If you’re in the market for a home for you and your family, look for things like WALKABILITY (can you walk to the store?), GREEN SPACE and PARKS. If you’re thinking of renovating, try repurposing second-hand goods to give them a longer life and keep things out of the landfill!
Halloween, Christmas and Easter! It’s easy to get swept away in the aisles of holiday colours and things. In our culture, holidays are SYNONYMOUS with shopping and gifts. STAY FOCUSED! FOCUS on MEMORIES, not THINGS. Memories, and not things are LASTING!
- Asserting social position
Ok, when I say social status, I can’t help but think about what it must have been like in the olden days with aristocrats and peasants. The aristocrats with their tight breeches and the peasants with clothes that are falling away because of persistent wear and being malnourished. Nowadays, thanks to a stronger middle class, there is more to our society than just rich people and poor people. But, don’t kid yourself, social status is important to many people. Cultural capital and social status are still very important for allowing us to differentiate who we want in our circle of friends, and who we don’t. It’s a method of self-preservation. I’m not saying that talking about this is going to change this, but please be aware of surface matter “appearances” and try to focus on deeper relational meaning. Our planet belongs to us ALL. Not just the affluent. It’s not a race to the top.
There you have it. My thoughts on our culture, some things we do without even thinking about and perhaps some things we can do to change. It’s not revolutionary (although perhaps that’s what’s really necessary for environmental preservation?) Please comment if you have more suggestions or clever ideas or insights. Save pessimistic comments for yourself. I don’t want to hear them!