• Paul Thornycroft

Children need the truth about climate change


Children have enquiring minds and insatiable curiosity; it is my experience that children seek the truth and are quick to doubt when fobbed off with anything less. Adults tend to say things that will not be upsetting, when responding to a difficult question. It can be hard for adults to speak the truth.


My grandson wants to know about my parents, his great grandparents. 'Where are they, Grampa?'; 'Why aren’t you with them?'; 'How old are they?'. This enquiry into family gives substance to one’s sense of time; deep time, not just clock time.


How old are you Grampa?

We count slowly: 1...2...3...4... speaking together, clearly, chanting; feeling the sound, the pause, the number, the lengthening time; we stop to mark each birthday – his cousins; his friends; his mummy and daddy; his grampa, grandma – and we continue on until we reach the magic number, one hundred. Any minute now he will ask a question that is difficult to answer such as the one mentioned above: ‘where are your mummy and daddy, Grampa?’.


The words that I choose in answering my grandson must be sensitive to his present age, his temperament, and his insistence upon truth (all of these might be quite different to my own). I will have to say, at some point, that my parents are dead. Should I dissemble, use euphemism and say that they have passed on, or they are in heaven? ... I don’t believe dissembling is what a child wants or needs. A child needs the truth. To dissemble means: ’to conceal, or disguise one’s true feelings or beliefs’. The opposite of this is ‘to admit; allow; disclose; divulge’. The hurt truth may bring allows insight; misinformation darkens the heart.


We adults respond according to our individual sense of what’s ok, what’s age appropriate, and what, indeed, we are personally willing to face up to honestly, and can be bothered to meet.


Coming back to the title of this blog post: ‘Children need the truth about climate change’. This could also be written as 'Teaching children the truth about climate change'.

Answering questions that children may ask -- about climate change, nature, extinction etc. – will cause most adults to dissemble. Who wants to tell our children that climate change is actually an ecological catastrophe? But we can, and I am suggesting that we should, teach our children the truth about what is happening to planet Earth as a result of human activity; only by knowing the truth will children be able to respond, to learn, to care for the natural world in a way that is proportional to what is unfolding. It is a shame that the expression ‘Climate Change’ has taken root in our minds when, in fact, other terms would be more accurate: Climate Breakdown; Global Heating; Ecological Collapse; Mass Extinction – and so on. Children do not need or want to be sheltered from truths that will impact their lives.


Climate change is a term that some more fortunate people accept as good news: their lives will be warmer and more comfortable in some cases; or some may find economic opportunities occurring due to the changes. However, for the majority of species on Earth – including Homo sapiens (human beings), – are experiencing the collapse of the natural ecosystems that surround them, ecosystems that have supported them, fed them, watered them, provided shelter, beauty, meaning, reassurance and continuity. No longer is there such continuity. No longer is there the ecological stability that has characterised the last ten thousand years. All humans and all species are, or soon will, be affected by the changes happening.


How do we talk to children about climate change? It is happening in a myriad of different ways by passionate people who teach and guide and instruct children in diverse ways. It is a Big Teaching Project.


My own, small, contribution to this Teaching Project is to write children’s books about the harm happening to the natural world and to our own hearts. The stories develop in the form of fairy-tale; by this I do not mean that the truth is dumbed down or hidden in euphemism; the realities are met head on within the context of imagination, discovery and adventure leading to insight and action. The stories are to encourage expansion of feeling, development of empathy, discernment and inclusivity.


The Adventures of Horatio Mowzl books are illustrated children’s books that teach children about climate change. The series is a children's book project because I believe that these illustrated children's books help children to understand the beauty of Earth’s wild ecosystems, how fragile they are, and how important it is that we humans cherish all of Nature if we are to have a thriving planet that we can truly call home.


Thank you for reading this blog.

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Paul Thornycroft

10th March 2022

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