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ISO Advice to Connect a Set of New-Teen Dots

2009 October 27

She’s turning 13 and bright as can be, but I’m in need of advice on how to teach my daughter that there’s an easy-to-see connection between what she’s learning about the environment and simple, everyday choices she makes that affect the environment. And this being Children’s Health Month, it’s time for teenagers, including my brand new one, to consider as well how environmental health affects children and their health now and as adults.

She recently read the student version of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” which clearly explains and visualizes environmental trends, the influence of human-made carbon emissions, and ways government, industry and people can begin to reverse conditions which have likely alarming consequences. (Readers of Greenversations, I’d confidently guess, are well familiar with Gore’s evidence and argument.)

She gets it. So why, on the same day, can she cogently explain what the Keeling atmospheric CO2 curve tells us, and then leave lights on in empty rooms or ask for multiple car rides when one and a bike ride or two would do? Might some creative Children’s Health Month tips do the trick?

This very short Greenversations piece ends with one sincere request because I’m hoping you feel my pain and have the answer: Can you help me help her connect the global–personal–health dots?

There’s one other consideration to hone my request. My darling daughter can get a bit huffy if I say something critical.

About the author: Larry Teller joined EPA’s Philadelphia office in its early months and has worked in environmental assessment, state and congressional liaison, enforcement, and communications. His 28 years with the U.S. Air Force, most as a reservist, give him a different look at government service.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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2 Responses leave one →
  1. deb permalink
    October 28, 2009

    She needs to take such a huge conceptual leap between understanding the basic science of climate change and understanding how personal daily energy choices add up to affect that. After all even many adults aren’t conscious of how these concepts relate.

    We use a carbon footprint exercise with school kids to help them understand this connection. I’d be glad to share this with anyone interested in tools for teaching kids about how energy choices affect the environment but unfortunately don’t have it posted online yet. It’s a playful way to learn how to calculate your family’s carbon footprint by using a variety of characters’ energy profiles/scenarios and comparing their wide range of lifestyle differences. The characters include Sarah Summer, Walter Wastenot, Eddy McAverage, etc.

    Following that we try to engage kids in becoming aware of the kinds of choices they could make at home and encourage them to try to change their own and their acquaintenances behavior by some kind of community-based service learning educational campaign. If we can get school and/or community groups to work together on designing a project like this they come away with a newfound consciousness and awareness. At that point they are much more likely to incorporate such behaviors long term – once they see themselves as someone that is environmentally conscientious.

    All the parent reminder and lectures are otherwise ineffective. It has to be perceived as their own idea and they have to feel empowered to make a change in themselves and others.

  2. Larry Teller permalink
    October 28, 2009

    Deb, Thanks for your thoughtful and relieving note–relieving in that, as a parent, my expectation of having much effect on my daughter’s behavior shouldn’t be very high. I’m very interested in your carbon footprint exercise, which I’ll gladly share with my daughter’s science and social studies teachers. And, through EPA’s mid-Atlantic regional office–where I work–we can make it available to many schools, and our summer middle school program, who ask us for curriculum help. My e-mail is

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