Recently, treehugger.com published an article by mother Meaghan O’Neill called “How I Forced My 5 Year Old to Become an Environmentalist, or, an Interview with Philippe Cousteau.”

This article is worth reading for a few reasons. First, we can all probably understand Meaghan’s guilt towards being her family’s own environmental role model– ordering take out, driving daily, and buying too many toys. But more importantly, Meaghan’s active role in the environmental community has created some amazing opportunities for her family to meet leading environmental authors, scientists, and speakers. Not only does Meaghan work with her son at home to instill environmental values– telling him to protect “his island” where they live, pick up trash on the beach and learn about the many species sharing their habitat– she continues to grow herself by attending attending national environmental conferences and staying engaged in the forefront of the movement.
Meaghan was lucky enough to arrange for her son to talk to Philippe Cousteau, founder of Earth Echo International, a non-profit dedicated to empowering youth on water issues. Cousteau’s newest book, Make a Splash, a children’s guide to helping oceans, rivers, and wetlands by taking action– going outside, exploring, researching, and being “political” by reminding their parents, teachers, and friends about water issues. It focuses on execution of these ideals by helping them keep a log of their project plan and activities.

We agree with Meaghan that hiding children from the world’s harsh truths is not beneficial; rather, parents should focus on explaining these issues early on in terms their children can understand. Make a Splash examines oil spills, climate change, and extinction without being cutesy or too “gloom and doom.” If you like the book, you can also check out the video game, “Rescue Reef,” Philippe developed.

Being an environmentalist is a dynamic, changing role. Learning is an environmentalist’s chief responsibility– then teaching. As parents, we should check our own instinct to teach teach teach, making sure that the information is new and improved by the ever-changing scope of scientific research.

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