Two teachers, both experienced in environmental science, became concerned about how their children were being bombarded at school with exaggerated and gloomy predictions about the state of the environment. They also found that the children of other parents that they talked to were becoming depressed and apprehensive about whether they were going to grow up to live healthy and happy lives. Knowing that the information being given to their children was exaggerated, alarmist and downright misleading, Michael Sanera and Jane Shaw wrote an excellent little book called Facts Not Fear: A Parent’s Guide to Teaching Children About the Environment. Each of their book’s 20 chapters were peer-reviewed by a panel of respected environmental scientists to assure the reader that the data presented was as factual and as up-to-date as possible.
“Childhood was once supposed to be idyllic and carefree,” they said. “Children were allowed to be children. But today many schools are plunging our children into serious environmental activism.” These authors reviewed more than 130 textbooks and 170 environmental books for children. They found that most of them seriously over-stated environmental problems and were often needlessly alarmist. They found that impressionable young minds were being saddened and in some cases traumatised by
their exposure to constant claims about an imminent ecological disaster.
Facts Not Fear is not an attempt to see the world through rose-coloured glasses, but it is a book that is balanced by environmental realism. For sure there are problems to be addressed in the world, but the message of the book is that the state of the world in respect to things like acid rain, global warming, ozone layer depletion, the loss of forests and over-population is not as bad as the exaggerated reports would have us believe. More importantly, the book points out how the problems can be successfully addressed as in the case of enormous improvements being made to the air and water quality throughout the developed world.
It is important that our youth be inspired by hope and optimism about their own future and the future of the world. The alternative to the attitude of hope is despair, and this is the greatest disease that can infect our youth. It would not be possible to quantify how young people become school or career drop-outs because they succumb to this miasma of pessimism that is wholly self-induced by a culture hell-bent on seeing doom and gloom behind every rosebush.
Far more dangerous than any prospect of a small climate change is a climate of needless despair over the state of the world, especially when it is at a time when mankind that has never enjoyed such longevity and a high standard of living. Despair and meaningless in the face of a fading future exacerbates depression, and who know how much this could contribute to drug-taking and youth suicide? Psychologists, psychiatrists and mental health practitioners readily concede that a positive outlook and a passion for living play an enormous role in mental well-being. How is this kind of optimism possible if young people are constantly exposed to the dirge that the world is going to hell in a hand basket? Or to change the figure of speech, who wants to polish the brass on a sinking ship?