Have you noticed how children delight in the realm of creatures great and small? Have you ever wondered why? Perhaps you remember what it was like for you as a child – that intense feeling of wonder and communication with the animal world! There is a love and fascination for all the critters, from the cute and cuddly to the mighty and magnificent. This passion is so alive in children because their natural planetary instincts and sensitivities are still intact! It is only later that we grown-ups get conditioned away from these natural instincts especially in a culture that has become fundamentally disconnected from the earth.
So how do we as parents and educators foster continuation of those beautiful planetary instincts in children through adolescence into being adult human beings? That’s a big question!
Perhaps it begins with not causing children to doubt their core instincts. Kids know in their heart of hearts that certain human actions and practices on our precious planet are simply – wrong! Acts of violence against our planet, its flora and fauna, its topography and living ecology cause deep contradiction in children. From the standpoint of those natural planetary instincts, there is absolutely no justification whatsoever for things like strip mining, mountain top removal, oil and gas drilling, industrial agriculture, polluting the waters, the atmosphere and the soil. So how do you explain it to children?
We cannot simply explain it away. We need to be able to hold the contradictions on their behalf whilst we engender compassion and understanding.
Closer to the world of children are the animals. When I was a kid this is where the line was drawn. I could go along with the adults only so far. The deep trust and safety that I wanted to feel was violated when I witnessed cruelty towards animals by some adults. I could not understand it. And it caused me to want to defend the animals, the trees, the mountains and the seas against these actions. That feeling has been with me ever since.
So… what do we teach? If we don’t teach the remedial ways then we endorse the status quo by default. Action is needed in the classroom, in our homes, in our communities.
What kind of action then? What do we teach? What children witness in the world is that exploitation, subjugation and violation of the natural worlds is OK. Well, first they need to know that their feelings and instincts are correct. These acts are NOT OK! Next, we foster those instincts in every possible way we can. We encourage stewardship and responsibility for the planet. We teach the updated integrative sciences to do with ecosphere and biosphere. We demonstrate partnership and mutuality. We show in a million ways how the planet is ALIVE and intelligent and responsive to our efforts. We show how we are connected in so many extraordinary ways! We demonstrate reciprocal maintenance and mutual support.
Finally, all the critters on this great blue ship are affected by what we as humans do. To think otherwise, again, is to ignore the planetary instincts we were born with. Children feel and know this. It is not just an idea for them. It’s in their whole being. To care for the earth is to care for ourselves. It is to advocate on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves. If the animals could send us a message, perhaps this is what they would say:
- HEAR O HUMANITY
- HEAR NOW OUR CALL
- CARE FOR OUR MOTHER EARTH
- AS OUR MOTHER CARES FOR ALL …
- (excerpt from the song Animal Pow Wow)