Our daughter is only seven, but it appears that she's being indoctrinated about global warming at school.
Every day when she gets home she's got some new scare story and is always insisting we turn off the lights or turn the heating down. She's also got very picky about food and where it comes from. We wouldn't mind, but it seems to be making not just our lives a misery, but hers, too. What can we do?
Yours sincerely, Monica
Before you start writing angry letters to the school governors, first find out what, exactly, is going on at school. It may be that your daughter's just going through a fearful stage in her life for some reason, and pinning all her anxieties on global warming. In which case, it would be a good idea to have a chat with her teacher to ask if she could perhaps play down the scare stories, or at least put both sides of the question if, indeed, she has to go into the subject at all.
It might be worth, too, contacting other parents and finding out what their children are feeling. If you can get some other families on your side, you'll carry far more weight.
If it turns out, of course, that your daughter's got some crazed global warming evangelist in charge of her class, who's constantly inspiring terror by warning of the dire consequences of putting used tissues or Sellotape into the recycling bin, you'd certainly be justified in going to the head and demanding that he or she has a word with the teacher and tells him or her to tone it down. Or at least make clear that it is only one view, and that not everyone shares it.
Because that's the truth. Global warming is like God. Some people believe in it fervently. Other people don't. Indeed, people are believing it less and less – only 57 per cent of Americans believe it – and surely most intelligent people must admit that they just don't know. And even if it is true, there may be ways we can adapt to it successfully.
You must sit your daughter down and tell her that there certainly isn't a consensus of global warming. Tell her there've always been scare stories, most of which have come to nothing. If you yourself do believe in it, but aren't too bothered, then find a friend who can argue the case against it fluently and get him or her to put the case forcefully.
Obviously it's a good thing that your daughter should be encouraged to live sparingly. That seems sensible by any standards (though I'm sure there's a good argument even for squandering the world's natural resources). It's certainly sensible for your budget. But she's old enough for you to argue the case against only buying local food (what will the poor people in Africa do if we don't buy their produce?) to realise that it's not the one-sided argument she's apparently being fed at school.
Tell your daughter that it's great she points out areas where you can make savings, but remember that basically it's your house and you set the rules. When she's big she can live in as ecological a house as she wishes. Until then, you're not going to have your lives ruled by a little green tyrant.
She's in the right
The problem is that your daughter is in the right. Why are you not turning off surplus lightbulbs? As well as cutting back on damaging energy overuse it is actually saving you money, unlike many "good" things we should do, which tend to cost.
As for food, do you really want to feed your daughter on, say, chicken that never sees the outdoors, that drags its oversize breast along on legs damaged by the weight and burned by the urine-soaked litter it lives on?
However, children can become really frightened by these serious issues; perhaps we should be frightened by climate change but it does no good for her to be terror-struck at this young age. If you feel she really is scared, then talk to her teachers about emphasising the positive actions that can be taken. You, too, should be positive: join some wildlife or environmental group with a children's section, such as the BBC Watch groups, so she can enjoy the environment she wishes to help and do useful things like planting trees. You could rescue a couple of battery chickens, let her befriend them and be partly responsible for their care. They will eat all your leftovers and provide lovely free range eggs – the possibilities are almost endless.
Make it her decision
As a mother of three children, two of whom are in their late teens, I can say that children very often come back from school with preposterous ideas planted either by enthusiastic classmates or by teachers who have to follow a strict curriculum set by the Government. I would not get too worried by your young daughter's demands. The next time you visit a toy shop and she asks for the latest toy, you just have to mention the words "Made in China". It may sound cruel, but as your daughter is intelligent enough to consider global warming, she is intelligent enough to know that sometimes it is not worth being too pedantic about where her baby sweetcorn and mange tout have come from. Alternatively, a diet of cabbage and beetroot for the next 14 days will achieve the desired result..
Mei Ling Routley
The question that needs answering here is: should the school be so strong on global warming at such an early age? I suppose that is up to the school. I trust that they have thought long and hard about whether the subject might or might not be frightening to young children.
I believe that you should take note of what she is telling you and try to be reassuring. It will certainly do no harm to turn off lights and electrical equipment when not in use; this can save money. Also, when out shopping, try to purchase local produce or, if not available, then British. After all, why buy beans from Kenya when British beans are available?
I don't know whether you are climate change deniers or not. I, however, am still sitting on the fence but take all the above measures..
Be glad that she cares
Your daughter sounds great – I like her attitude. My daughter, who is getting the same information at school (and all available forms of media) as yours, still leaves all the lights on and only wants to eat mass-produced junk. Maybe they were swapped at birth. Or maybe both our daughters are just doing the inevitable and developing their own interests, with a particular focus on making choices opposite to those of their parents. Curses. Perhaps you might consider a counter-indoctrination programme? Watch out, though, she still might not see things the way you do.
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