Climate Anxiety Is at an All-time High so I Wrote a Book to Help

Instead of telling kids all the ways we’re failing, I wanted to show them all the ways we can succeed.

Hands holding a colorful book titled This Class Can Save the Planet

Stacy Tornia

When my daughter was 8 years old, she came home from school and asked me if the sea turtles would still be around when she got to be older. They had been learning about ocean animals in class, and they also talked about pollution and all the plastic in our waters. I could see this twinge of fear trapped in her eyes, and in that moment, my heart sunk a bit. 

I wanted to calm her nerves and make her feel at ease, but I didn’t know what to say exactly. Truth be told, I’ve had the same worry and concern about our planet plenty of times before. The climate crisis we are living in is scary, and quite frankly, it’s overwhelming. It’s no wonder studies have long been showing that this is a threat to mental health. 

So how do we take really important issues like these and talk to kids without traumatizing them? This is exactly the issue I wanted to tackle when I decided to write my picture book, This Class Can Save the Planet

We Have to Stop the Shaming 

We’ve all seen those heartbreaking, yet completely accurate, images out there of starving polar bears, polluted beaches, and plastic-filled oceans. They are devastating and tragic – a real eye-opener for so many as to how bad things have become. 

Now I’m not going to say we need to sugarcoat these things or pretend that they don’t exist. These are realities we need to face. However, context matters. Instead of using these images to shame or belittle kids (or adults for that matter), we need to do more. 

Because the truth is, using a shaming approach alone makes many of us shut down. We feel powerless and afraid, which doesn’t lead to a lot of action. So we need to do better, especially when talking to young people. 

Let’s Empower Kids 

When I set out to write "This Class Can Save the Planet," I had one simple goal. Instead of telling kids all the ways we’re failing, I wanted to show them all the ways we can succeed. 

Specifically, I wanted the book to be centered around the classroom for a couple of reasons. First, teachers are just amazing people, and they are great advocates for doing the right thing in all walks of life, including recycling and sustainability. My mom just retired after 30 years of teaching, and she was practicing green habits in the classroom before they were labeled as such. Teachers are great advocates for the environment. 

Also, classrooms and schools have an incredible opportunity to make a real and positive impact on our planet. Can you imagine if all our schools incorporated composting, recycling programs, and upcycling practices? It would be huge! 

Throughout the book, I looked to find small, achievable things students could do in their own classrooms to make a difference. There are some simple suggestions like – use all of your supplies before getting new ones. Then there are more advanced ones like teaching kids to make their own classroom glue. Every idea is totally attainable and easy to incorporate on a daily basis without taking a lot of extra work from teachers. (I see you educators – I know we’re already asking you to do so much.) 

By giving students simple ideas to adopt, they can see how they can make a difference every single day through their own actions. Plus they can hold one another accountable in the classroom. Then this has the opportunity to inspire other students, schools, and even their own family members at home. It’s a domino effect at its best. 

Positive Reinforcement Works 

Once we equip kids with solutions and tell them how to have an impact on saving the planet, the next step is to encourage. We can’t underestimate the power of positive reinforcement.  

It works for dogs. It works for adults. And it certainly works for kids. 

Let’s face it – we have a long road ahead of us when it comes to improving our environment and making some real progress toward climate change. But we’re certainly not going to get there through guilt, shaming, or climate anxiety. We need to make kids believe in recycling, sustainability, and doing what’s right for the long-term, greater good. 

In the book I write, “The planet needs you. It needs all of us.” I believe this with all of my heart, and I think teaching this to our young people is a very important and powerful step forward in securing a bright future. 

View Article Sources
  1. Weir, Kirsten. "Climate change is threatening mental health." American Psychological Association, vol. 47, no. 7, 2016, pp. 28.