Regarding The Birds And The Bees
Our kids are receiving sex education as early as kindergarten. In British Columbia, that meant a notice folded into the papers which came home with the year’s curriculum regarding in-class discussion of appropriate and inappropriate touches and how to say "no" if the children felt frightened or uncomfortable. By grade 7 they are being taught how to put a condom on a banana.
While I struggle with the reasons behind the need for such discussions, especially at younger and younger ages, I am entirely comfortable with giving children, even very small ones, a vocabulary for making safe choices.
What I am having difficulty with is conversations regarding the birds and the bees. The real ones. The small creatures who do the critical dance of life with our fruits, vegetables, trees and flowers are dying. I am struggling with how to speak honestly about this.
Our bee colonies are collapsing. Our bird populations are suffering terribly. Currently, entire caves of bats are dying rapidly and mysteriously. The butterflies are falling down dead in the fields. These are our pollinators, this is about our food, our children's future.
Speaking about the state of our environment right now feels apocalyptic. How do you teach responsibility without creating despair? How do you turn to your bright eyed inquisitive toddler and say, we can’t eat / buy / drink that. That kills every pretty thing.
How do we talk about the birds and the bees, the canaries in our global coal mine, while at exactly the same time we continue to fill the mine with poison? We buy plastic stuff for our babies (stuff that feels responsible and necessary like car seats, strollers, drinking cups and toys), we provide our kids with burgers and shoes, we consume genetically modified foods even while trying to help our school aged kids make healthy food choices. We do all this while drinking coffee from well-intentioned environmentally "friendly" tote mugs. Meanwhile growing the coffee is killing bird populations, the caffeine and the plastics are showing up in the bloodstreams of fish.
Here is where I should be providing links to new water management projects, downloadable urban beekeeping workshops, websites for how to nurture the next generation of innovators, exciting solutions like this, or the ones in this documentary about dealing with the consequences of the plastics we use every day. Here is where I want Al Gore and David Suzuki to tell us that it is all going to be OK, that there are solutions, it has not gone too far.
I know that running around shouting “the sky is falling!” will not help save the pollinators, nor our food systems, nor stop the intricate web that is our environment from unraveling, just as screaming "STIs! genital warts! abstinence!" does not ultimately help teenagers make safe sexual decisions. In both cases it is our responsibility as parents to have the conversations with our kids which will help them become informed, confident, articulate people capable of making good life-long choices.
It is just that I am having a hard time looking any of this in the eye without flinching, without feeling complicit and desperate and a little hopeless that my small efforts - like biking to the market to buy locally grown unsprayed produce, like creating a butterfly garden and bee habitat - may nurture a handful of insects this summer, may indeed be the change I want to see in the world, but it won’t stop the polar bears from slipping into the sea nor slow the rate at which bird species are vanishing from the rainforest.
Any small daily change I try to live feels prophylactic at best. Kind of like putting a condom on a banana.
I want with all my heart to help our children find a path forward, but I am having a hard time seeing the forest for the falling trees.
This is an original post for CanadaMomsBlog by EarnestGirl who also writes and angsts about life and motherhood at The West Coast Chronicles.