On Sunday, a NYT review of Mark Hertsgaard's new book on global warming began this way:
I haven't had the talk yet with my kids: my 11-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter. I mean the one about global warming, about what's coming. But then, we grown-ups haven't had the talk yet among ourselves. Not really. We don't seem to know how: the topic is apparently too big and scary. Or perhaps, for the uninformed (or misinformed), not scary enough.
There is no reason to have "the talk." My six year old came home from school yesterday and promptly informed me that he learned about global warming. (Fortunately, they didn't see fit to scare him senseless.) Several years before that, while still in preschool, he proclaimed one day that I had to stop driving our car because the teachers said that cars caused pollution, which killed animals. I also send him to a weekly after school science class (and science camp in the summers), where he sometimes learns about the environment and various threats to wildlife. I don't have a problem with any of the aforementioned teachings, since I'm of the mind that budding awareness (put in proper perspective at such a tender age) is preferred to ignorance. Of course, my wife and I balance all this gloomy stuff with celebratory nature walks and hikes, vacations in national parks, and so on. (We even had his 5th birthday party take place in an urban nature sanctuary.) A certifiable bug nut, the boy has a thing for worms and ladybugs. That's the way it should be. I want him to marvel at an ant colony without worrying unduly about what life may be like in 2025. My job as a parent (among the many!) is to keep stoking his curiosity and exposing him to nature's wild side, while placing all those larger concerns he brings home from school in a context that doesn't make him neurotic with fear for the future.