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If Children Made Climate Policy

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorJune 11, 2010 12:15 AM


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As a parent of two small children, one who gives me grief if I forget to turn out a light in our apartment, I can relate to the eco-guilt heaped on this Economist blogger:

The kids bug me when I drive to the neighbourhood store rather than walking, because it "poisons the atmosphere". They bug me about not recycling enough. They bug me about making sure our tuna fish doesn't contain bluefin.

My son started razzing me about our car when he was four. And we hardly drive! Our vehicle is valued more these days as a second storage locker, for little bikes, trikes and overflow books. (That green urban lifestyle I've been going on about does have some drawbacks.) Halfway through his post, the Economist blogger segues from his eco-conscious kids to a 1970s campaign that eliminated widespread littering in America. In other words, there's good evidence for societal-wide behavioral change. And then he pivots to the news of Senator Lindsay Graham bailing out on the climate bill that Graham had helped to write. It's all nicely connected, trust me. It turns out that the Economist blogger shares Kevin Drum's despair over the recent turn of events, which I discussed here yesterday. Like me, the Economist writer noted the salient findings from that Stanford poll. And he mines a great one liner from Drum's post, which I took a pass on:

We are, in this case, getting exactly the government we deserve. A government of children.

To which the Economist writer/parent of little greenie kids politely demurs:

As far as I can see, that's not the problem. The children seem to be obsessed with reducing CO2 emissions. If they were running the joint, we'd be doing fine. The problem is the grown-ups. We suck.

But that's not right, either. Because little children, who want what they want, when they want it, aren't yet faced with making the tradeoffs that adults have to routinely make. For example, if it was up to my son, he'd be lavished with a new toy every day. If he were running the joint (er, our household), he'd be eating poptarts every night for dinner, topped off with a daily ice cream cone. Back to the littering analogy: I'm zealous about that. To the point of confrontation with degenerate litterers. It just pushes my buttons. Especially when the garbage can is right in front of the litterer. One of these days, I'm going to get stabbed over a candy wrapper, so I've got to get back in shape. Anyway, learning to put trash and recyclables in their proper place isn't exactly a lifestyle sacrifice. Now back to the family's pollution spewing car, which my son has, on more than a few occasions, said is killing animals. He's right, but how do I explain that one, as I continue to drive him to little league every weekend, or to his grandparent's house in the suburbs? The problem is not the grown-ups. The problem is, life is complicated. Hat Tip: Andrew

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