By Sarene Marshall, The Nature Conservancy
As if parenting weren’t difficult enough, our warming planet presents additional challenges for keeping kids safe and healthy – and parents sane. Why? Quite simply, it makes it harder to reliably get kids outside. As my fellow parents know well, keeping kids cooped up in the house is a recipe for disaster.
Toddlers only have two speeds – “running fast” or “fast asleep.” Maybe it’s just me, but I’d rather see them running in a park than around the kitchen table. School-aged kids also need plenty of fresh air and exercise to burn off energy. And studies have shown that contact with nature may improve kids’ ability to focus and concentrate, providing a good antidote for excessive screen time. When our daughters – 6 and 8 – get testy with each other after too much time around the house, I employ the tried-and-true technique of sending them outside.
But increasingly, getting kids away from electronics and out into nature can be stymied by weather disruptions. Summers are getting hotter, storms are getting wetter, and seasons are being thrown out of whack, with extreme events projected to occur more frequently in the future.
That’s because carbon pollution is not only warming the Earth, but also increasing erratic and weird weather. And we parents will feel the effects all year long.
While average temperature increases may seem small (the Earth has warmed 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit since the early 20th Century), the big fluctuations are difficult to manage around. Our lives – from school schedules to sports to crop cycles – are built around expected “normals,” and large shifts from those normals are incredibly disruptive, especially for kids who thrive on routines.
How might these changes impact us and our kids?
[Image: A casualty of summer heat. Credit: Flickr user Neil Fitzgerald, via a Creative Commons license.]
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