My daughter is fond of reminding me that climate change can’t claim to be the #1 challenge facing the world today, and that it never will be. At the very most it can aspire only to be #2 – taking a back seat to the following worldwide imperative:
to ensure that all babies and toddlers have a strong start in life.
That’s the mission statement from the organization where she works, Zero to Three, which goes on to envision:
a society that has the knowledge and will to support all infants and toddlers in reaching their full potential.
(Full disclosure: increasingly over the years, my daughter has morphed from toddler herself into my adult supervision. An example, from another publication, dating back to 2015; you can also find more of her wisdom in LOTRW posts from 2010, 2012a, and 2012b.)
Hard to argue with those Zero-to-Three goals.
Especially with her.
But occasionally she throws her old man a bone. Take her most recent e-mail: “Thought you would be interested in this new resource.”
Clicking on the link took me to Flourishing Children, Healthy Communities, and a Stronger Nation: The U.S. Early Years Climate Action Plan.
The report opened this way: Caring for our children and caring for our planet are inextricably linked. However, connections between the two areas are rarely present in policy or practice.
What possibilities are we missing?Answering this question is both overdue and urgent. As a country, we are making progress in advancing climate solutions. Yet too often the needs of young children (0-8 years)-who have the most to lose-receive little attention.
What a great start! I had to read more. And the link encourages and facilitates this. Simple scrolling takes the reader through the entire narrative. It begins by discussing those linkages. It then focuses serially on what the federal government, state and local governments, early year (care) providers, the business community, philanthropy, and researchers (at the nexus between early years and climate change) can do. A wonderful flow, concrete illustrations, and compelling arguments inspire in-and-of their own, but also motivate reading of the full report.
The report is chock-a-block full of recommendations for the sectors. These are both broad and general, yet clear with respect to direction and goal. All merit thought. With respect to the private sector, for example, the report notes:
The business community plays an important supporting role in addressing the impacts of climate change on young children and families. Employers should provide material assistance and flexibility to employees with children. They should step fully into their role as members of the broader community.
Three recommendations follow:
Create climate-aware policies and programs for employees with young children.
Foster partnerships between businesses and early years facilities to fund essential upgrades.
Partner with local communities to build climate-resilient green space and community infrastructure.
The full report also provides a bit more background on its provenance: The Early Years Climate Action Task Force is a group of early years leaders, climate leaders, researchers, medical professionals, parents, philanthropists, and others who came together to learn about the intersection of early childhood and climate change.
We learn that the task Force was co-convened by three groups:
Capita, an independent, nonpartisan think tank with a global focus. Its purpose is to build a future in which all children and families flourish.
This Is Planet Ed, an initiative of the Aspen Institute Energy & Environment Program that intends to unlock the power of education as a force for climate action, climate solutions, and environmental justice to empower the rising generation to lead a sustainable, resilient, and equitable future. This Is Planet Ed works across early years, K-12, higher education, and children’s media to build our societal capacity to advance climate solutions.
The Aspen Institute, a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world.
Please check it out! I can make the following promise, especially to my tribe, comprising meteorologists and Earth scientists of related stripe (and even many of my social-science colleagues working in climate-change and weather risk-comm and related fields). Clicking and scrolling through this material will provide a refreshing, positive take that’ll motivate you in your current efforts and open your eyes to additional possibilities for place-based collaborations.
A concluding thought. This early-child generation needs nurturing now, but soon will be spending its entire adulthood closing out the climate-change work today’s grownups have merely started. Since we’re counting on these youngsters, let’s not only protect them but also equip them. That last piece could and should be fleshed out a bit.