Everyone has a role to play in protecting and preserving nature. A community of care is essential in the fight against climate change and ensures that every generation will inherit a safe, ecologically stable world.
Young people play a particularly important role in the stewardship of the natural world. The children and teens of today will be the decision-makers of tomorrow and must be taught to appreciate and respect the natural world.
However, convincing young folks to care about the natural world can be difficult. We live in increasingly urbanized spaces, where technology and infrastructure take precedence over green spaces and biodiversity.
You can help youth develop an authentic connection with nature by organizing environmental volunteer opportunities in your area and planning trips to parks or areas of outstanding natural beauty.
Spending Time in Nature
Most families spend little time together in natural spaces. Rather than picnicking in the park, parents routinely opt for evenings inside after a long day at work. However, as an adult, it’s your job to organize nature-bound trips and activities.
If you’re a parent, consider taking your kids for a hike after work or on the weekends. Hiking is great for children and can improve their bone density, muscle strength, coordination, and mental health. Before you head outdoors, plan your route and pick an age-appropriate trail. Pick out places to take a break and make sure everyone has enough snacks and fluids while walking.
If hiking isn’t your thing, plan a trip to a local nature reserve or public garden. Public gardens are perfect for children of all ages, as there are usually plenty of educational resources on hand to trigger their curiosity. If you’re planning a day trip, consider reaching out to the garden’s management team first to find out if they offer tours or child-friendly classes.
You can further develop young people’s appreciation of nature by giving them responsibilities in your own yard. If you have kids, create a miniature animal shelter together, complete with hide-y holes for bugs and slugs.
If you have the space, create a small pool in your garden so that birds, toads, and small mammals can cool off and rehydrate. Creating an animal shelter together will reaffirm the importance of environmental stewardship and inspire children to care about creatures great and small.
Ecological organizations are always looking for more hands to help with the fight against climate change. Volunteering is a great way to build skills, meet new people, and develop an authentic passion for ecological protection.
If you’re a parent, consider enrolling in ecological volunteer opportunities together. You can sign up to clean nature parks and greenbelts or can enlist with a local community garden. Volunteering together is a great way to show your children that caring for the environment requires a little elbow grease. Your presence will be reassuring for younger children, too, who may find it difficult at first.
You don’t have to get dirty to help the environment. If your child is tech-savvy, you may want to enroll them in citizen science projects instead. Children love learning about science projects and will help researchers gather important data about the natural world. Together, you can track bird populations, test water samples, and record observations about changes to your local environment.
Most young people love to travel. They’re receptive to new experiences and want to experience the world beyond their own town or city. As an adult, you can use this passion for travel to develop an appreciative relationship with nature.
Involve young people when planning your trip. Give older children the opportunity to plan sustainable travel routes using public transport. Subways, trains, and buses use less carbon than driving alone and can be a great way to cut down on energy use. Rent a bicycle to get between nearby stations and choose to walk rather than hail a cab.
If possible, consider choosing an eco-tourism destination. Eco-tourism sounds like an oxymoron, but some eco-tourism projects authentically aid environmental causes. Most eco-tourism destinations focus on improving biodiversity. This means you’ll likely spend time building habitats, protecting at-risk species, and learning about the local ecology.
Just be sure to research any prospective eco-tourist destinations to ensure their commitment to environmental preservation is sincere.
Education is a powerful tool in the fight against climate change. Improved climate awareness means that 71% of American adults now agree that climate change is real and happening today. However, the fight isn’t yet over as many have been duped into believing that human activity isn’t the root cause of global warming.
You can help youth better understand climate change by campaigning to increase public spending on education. Despite having the world’s largest economy, the U.S. ranks 24th in science literacy. This can derail young people’s understanding of ecology and nature, as climate change is currently an abstract concept that requires an understanding of trends, data, and research.
You can also volunteer with educational programs in your area. Museums and nature parks are always looking for qualified guides. After a short training program, you should feel well-qualified to help answer young people’s questions about the flora, fauna, and animals they find while exploring natural spaces.
Small changes to your lifestyle won’t stop climate change in its tracks. But, lifestyle changes can be a great way to reaffirm the importance of stewardship and ecological protection in your own home.
Start with small changes like recycling more often and reducing your water waste. This shows young children that their actions have consequences and will help them understand that their waste has to go somewhere.
If you have the budget, consider installing solar panels in your home. Solar panels can save you money in the long term and are a great way to reduce your use of fossil fuels. Solar panels can be a great opportunity to teach your child about how energy systems work, too, as they’ll have direct evidence of sustainable energy generation in their own home.
The next generation will play an integral role in the fight against climate change. You can help your children develop an appreciative relationship with nature by spending time together in nature and volunteering with ecological community groups. If you don’t have children, you can still support young people by campaigning for increased public spending on education and by volunteering at your local nature parks and wildlife reserves.