As a new parent, ensuring my child grows up as an ecowarrior and not a consumer has become a primary goal with every choice I make for my son—from what I feed him (breast milk) to how I dress him (used clothes and used cloth diapers) to what I teach him (is there a kid’s version of A People’s History of the United States?). So it was a wonderful opportunity to write the introduction to Worldwatch Europe’s new report, From Consumer Kids to Sustainable Childhood. The report is a valuable mix of:
- current trends, like how kids in Europe spend 41.5 hours a week with media (TV, Internet, video games, radio)—more than the average European works;
- case studies about parents grappling with consumerism;
- a vision for what a childhood would look like if kids were raised not as consumers but as “guardians of sustainable living;”
- and some concrete policies to get us to that vision.
While I won’t go into too much detail, I did want to point out a few exciting trends and examples.
1) Did you know that half of Europeans families are choosing to have one child? That alone is a big step in making childhood more sustainable (considering how much ecological impact a child in a high-income country has) and gives me additional confidence in my choice of having “just one” child.
2) There are 39,500 schools in Europe that have been awarded a “Green Flag,” meaning they’ve made a commitment to integrate environmental teachings into the curriculum and empower students to act to make their schools and communities better.
3) According to the report, a ban on fast food advertising in Quebec led to a reduction of the number of fast food meals eaten by 22 million/year. Now we just need the rest of the world to follow suit.
So take a look at the report and watch the presentations from its launch, and if you’re a parent, guard your future ecowarriors from the henchmen of the consumer interests—at least until they’re old enough to defend themselves.