"What Is Climate Change, Daddy?"

That's what my 3rd grade son asked me last week. I have a gut instinct that his grade school teachers are avoiding the climate subject, knowing full well it could set off an emotional and political upheaval in the same way that sex education does. But climate can't be ignored, nor can it be made illegal to teach. While the generation leaving high school may have asked Mom or Dad "did you smoke pot when you were in college," it's certain that graduates a decade or so from now will instead be asking "Mom, did you drive an SUV when you were younger?" So, how is a parent to respond now? Let's hold off on best way to teach the formal science to kids - an acceptable school curriculum must be developed for the young ones; and, TreeHugger's Kenny Luna is focusing on that. As a parent, I definitely would not say "turn off your bedroom light or the polar bears will die." (That'd be like the "Duck and Cover" propaganda film made in the 50's to teach kids how to shelter in a nuclear holocaust: even 3'rd graders then understood how illogical the idea was and knew that they, unlike their parents, would not be stupid enough to produce such drek when they are older. Plus, missing one flick of the switch could create a serious guilt freak-out.) The meta-topic, as our editor Graham pointed out, is that parents and teachers must decide which social mores need reinforcement, much as in the 70s when littering was frowned upon. Although its just a distraction from adult responsibilities that matter far more, which toys to buy as presents for children will no doubt get media attention (as pictured). Understanding which positive mores and values should most be reinforced is something society is only now beginning to coalesce around, as is discussed at length in this Washington Post article. What a parent can do is empower the child to do something positive, even if it is mostly symbolic: like letting he/she help install the new CFL's. TreeHugger's basic philosophy is that every individual positive action adds up. For children the context of learning about climate change can be like learning good manners or study habits. If everyone does it, like smiling or planting a flower, everyone around us is made happier and smarter and more valuable to society, and the future a better place. What did I say about the science? I'm still working on it. Ideas welcome. Image credit:- Growing Tree Toys