Monday, April 16, 2007
The boy has drawn, in his third-grade class, a global warming timeline that is his equivalent of the mushroom cloud.
“That’s the Earth now,” the 9-year-old says, pointing to a dark shape at the bottom. “And then,” he says, tracing the progressively lighter stripes across the page, “it’s just starting to fade away.”
Alex Hendel of Arlington County is talking about the end of life on our beleaguered planet.
What sort of parent would decline to intervene at this point? Alex’s, apparently:
Looking up to make sure his mother is following along, he taps the final stripe, which is so sparsely dotted it is almost invisible. “In 20 years,” he pronounces, “there’s no oxygen.” Then, to dramatize the point, he collapses, “dead,” to the floor.
Alex would be in therapy if he’d drawn a graph illustrating the increase in Islamic terrorism and staged a similar “death”.
For many children and young adults, global warming is the atomic bomb of today. Fears of an environmental crisis are defining their generation in ways that the Depression, World War II, Vietnam and the Cold War’s lingering “War Games” etched souls in the 20th century.
At least they’re not bothered by 9/11. Maybe they’ve never been taught about it.
Parents say they’re searching for “productive” outlets for their 8-year-olds’ obsessions with dying polar bears.
Why not productively explain that the ursine hulks aren’t dying?
Teachers say enrollment in high school and college environmental studies classes is doubling year after year.
I’d have enrolled myself, if I’d had the chance, back in the day. Easiest courses ever.
And psychologists say they’re seeing an increasing number of young patients preoccupied by a climactic Armageddon.
Great. We’re raising a generation of jittery little Gore muppets. Stock tip: invest in bed-wetting medication and rubber sleepwear.
“For, like, the whole history of the environmental movement,” begins David Bronstein, 19, a freshman at St. John’s College in Annapolis, “we’ve been saying: ‘Do it for your children. We have to protect the Earth for them.’ But that argument has shifted. I’m fighting for my future.”
The destruction of Annapolis is imminent!
[Child psychologist Mark] Goldstein adds: “In my practice, they bring this up. Some of the kids are scared, and it’s interesting, because I’ve seen an evolution ... Kids used to have fears of war and nuclear annihilation. That’s dissipated and been replaced by global warming.”
Thanks to the Washington Post, among others. Can an entire generation file a class-action suit?
It’s not just a U.S. phenomenon: A United Kingdom survey, by the Somerfield supermarket chain, of 1,150 youngsters age 7 to 11 found that half felt anxious about global warming—and many were losing sleep over it, convinced that animal species will soon die out and that they, themselves, will be victims of global warming.
Yeah. They’ll possibly develop a slight tan and resistance to rickets.
After 8-year-old Mollie Passacantando, daughter of Greenpeace USA’s executive director, read a story about polar bears in class this year, the Fairfax County youngster and her friends spent recess marching around the playground with signs reading, “Stop global warming. Save the polar bears.”
Seems the natural market for global warming hysteria is in the sub-teen demographic. Well, not all of it:
A classmate taunted, “You can march all you want, but you’re not going to save a single polar bear.”
And then, hopefully, he stole her lunch.
That riled Mollie up. With her father, John Passacantando, she started a blog to get the polar bear put on the endangered species list.
“I have heard from friends and work colleagues around the country,” says Mollie’s mother, Lisa Guide, “that global warming is a subject that can be stressful to children. Mollie was so concerned ... we really felt it was important to help her do something constructive.”
It might have been constructive to point her towards a creature that actually is endangered - sane children, for example. Over at Sherwood High School, the environmental club is booming:
Just under 10 teenagers were active last year; 90 have signed up this year, an increase helped by an aggressive marketing campaign and Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.” Gore is this generation’s Bob Dylan; “Truth” is its “Blowin’ in the Wind.”
How many bears must the arctic support, before we know they’re alive? (By the way ... just under 10? Is that some WashPost fancy-talk for “nine”? Speaking of which ... )
Nine-year-old Alyssa Luz-Ricca’s mother returned from a business trip to Costa Rica with a T-shirt of a colorful frog and the words “Extinction is forever.” Alyssa looked at the T-shirt and, she says, “I cried.”
She did? Really?
“She cried very hard,” clarifies her mother, Karen Luz of Arlington.
That explains the rising seas, then.
“I don’t like global warming,” Alyssa continues, her eyes huge and serious behind her glasses, a stardust of freckles across her nose, “because it kills animals, and I like animals.”
So do I, little one. That’s why I own a barbecue.
She dreams of solar-powered cars and has put a recycling basket for mail, office and school paper in the corner of her family’s dining room. She made another recycling box for her third-grade English teacher’s classroom at Key Elementary School and has persuaded her mother to start composting.
That’s some powerful persuading. What sections of her mother were composted first?
Marvel at any of her efforts, though, and she looks confused: Everyone should be doing all this—and more—to save the environment.
“I worry about it,” says this girl who has yet to lose all her baby teeth, “because I don’t want to die.”
Let’s hope Alyssa never learns about the size of the Washington Post’s print run, and the environment-gulping efforts involved in the paper’s distribution. Meanwhile, we should look forward to the Post turning over its 2008 election coverage to frightened nine-year-olds.