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Is a Child’s Ecological Enthusiasm Ever Too Much?

Is a Child’s Ecological Enthusiasm Ever Too Much?

When my parents grew up in the fifties, they were met with the frightening opportunity to serve their country by turning in their parents for being communist or, in the least, socialist sympathizers. When I grew up in the seventies and eighties, the patriotic bait was to turn your parents in because they were recreational drug users and refused to say “no” to drugs. Today’s equivalent (although not nearly as punitive) would have to be what the New York Times deemed as the “eco-kids” chastising (not jailing) their parents for not being ecologically conscientious and environmentally accountable.

From an article published last week titled “Pint-Size Eco-Police, Making Parents Proud and Sometimes Crazy” author Lisa W. Foderaro investigates the recent trend of children taking up the environmental cause and urging (sometimes with significant condemnation) parents to be responsible for something more than just being parents. Children, in an apparent about-face from the conventional paradigm, have become the conscience of the household. This is undoubtedly encouraging parents to set an example, or at least curb their wasteful habits, and to earn the respect, as well as buffer the disrespect, of their own children. It only makes sense that children, who are just beginning to establish relationships to the ideas of consumption and preservation, are much more flexible and less entrenched in bad habits than their parents, who are still nursing consumption hangovers from the 80s and 90s.

But of course, once children become the effective conscience of the household, problems, as well as tensions, arise. As sited in the article, New Jersey parent Doug Distefano contends, “For us, Earth Day is a reason to go outside…but for them it’s a religious holiday.” In addition, many parents complain that their children, whose demands have become greater and more costly over time, hold them under tremendous scrutiny.

Now, I cannot say from experience that this is a significant issue, but maybe some readers out there would like to chime in on the pervasiveness, and difficulty, of this phenomenon? Are children well suited to promote environmental causes at home (seeing as the future, what is left of it, is rightfully theirs to inherit) or is their limited grasp of economics and pragmatic concerns clouding their judgment and making them into a formidable and sanctimonious nuisance?

Read more: Blogs, Caregiving, Children, Family, Green, Parenting at the Crossroads, Reduce, Recycle & Reuse, Teens

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.


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1:42PM PDT on Apr 24, 2013

Thank you!

1:36PM PDT on Apr 23, 2013


11:31AM PDT on Sep 10, 2012


9:15AM PDT on May 21, 2012

Thanks for the very interesting article Eric.

7:24PM PDT on May 16, 2012

Those children will inherit the mess our generation is making of this poor planet. I say it is their right, perhaps even their duty, to speak out.

2:17AM PST on Jan 25, 2012

Thanks for the article

12:53AM PST on Jan 21, 2012


2:06PM PST on Jan 11, 2012

Well, I say this is good since it shows that the next generation is very concerned about the state of our planet.

1:35PM PST on Jan 7, 2012

you can never have "too much" desire to do the right thing.

1:30PM PST on Jan 7, 2012

Talk to your kids. If you JUST can't afford a more fuel efficient car at the moment, explain to them why, but you can still make small changes. Old habits die hard, obviously, but there are much MUCH better alternatives. Listen to the kiddos, when we are gone, they are the ones left with this planet... And I think it's safe to say, we should try to minimize our carbon footprint as much as possible. There isn't much to leave as it is.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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