Everything I know about Earth Hour, I learned from my kindergartener
Earth Hour and my oldest son, Loki, are birthday twins. On March 23rd, they both turn six. It’s a birthday for me, too, in a way. The anniversary of the day I became a mother. And also the dawning of another part of my identity, as an environmentalist.
It wasn’t that I didn’t care before. The environment, I thought, was a great cause. It just wasn’t mine. There were other issues closer to my heart. Something about motherhood changed that. Maybe it was all the decisions I suddenly had to make: what kind of diapers to use, what kind of food to buy, the cleaning products, the soap, the lawn care. Everything became imbued with this new and overwhelming responsibility. Convenience, that old driver, wasn’t good enough anymore. Every choice was weighted against what it would mean for my kid, for his health and safety. I was, in the most tangible sense, shaping his surroundings. As that fully seeped into my sleep-deprived brain, I realized that I was also—in a much broader way—shaping his world.
My son, Loki. © Jessie Sitnick, WWF-Canada
I tell you this not to be smug about “the magic of motherhood.” To be honest, I’m embarrassed that it took something as life altering as parenthood for me to understand this fundamental truth: that we are all complicit in the deal that gets handed to the next generation. And that “next generation” isn’t some abstraction. It’s your nieces and nephews, your best friend’s new baby, the gangly 10-year olds who play hockey on your street. All of them.
They can’t vote yet, or run for office. They don’t make business or household decisions. But in a blink of an eye, they will. In that same blink, those decisions will be shaped by environmental imperatives that we are just on the cusp of understanding. Unlike me, these kids won’t have the luxury of thinking about the environment as a cause. Like touch screens and texting, climate change is already a part of their reality. How it will play out in their lifetime, and whether they have a fair and decent shot at tackling those challenges successfully…well, that’s up to us. That’s about the choices we make right now.
© Jessie Sitnick, WWF-Canada
Next week, for Loki’s birthday, I’m bringing in cupcakes to his kindergarten class. And of course I’ll be talking about Earth Hour. It strikes me, as I write this, that it’s preaching to the converted. Today’s six-year olds are more aware of and concerned about the environmental issues facing their world than any generation before them. So Earth Hour, for them, isn’t a lesson. What it is, I think, is a promise. From us, the grown ups, to them—our kids. A promise that we’ll hand them a fair bargain. That we’ll demand it on their behalf.
I can’t think of a more meaningful way to celebrate my son’s birthday then making that pledge together with my family and my community and people all across the globe. The cool thing is, he thinks so too (although a new box of Lego might sweeten the deal).