Inviting a Child to Become a Climate Hero
By Ken Sloane
Ask someone you know, “Whose job is it to save the world from destruction?” The variety of answers may surprise you: Congress, the president, big business, the United Nations, or maybe the Avengers (they’ve done it more than a few times). Rarely will you hear the answer that I think is closest to the truth: “It’s mine.” Unless you are talking to a child or youth.
Yes, when it comes to climate change, the job belongs to all of us, but young people often have the insight to see that many adults have dodged the hard work of this job for way too long. With more years in front of them, our children and teens have often been the ones to lead the way, showing us how we should be good stewards of the planet God entrusted to us.
I discovered a wonderful new book titled Climate Hero Handbook: How Kids Can Defend, Protect, and Restore the Planet by Jennifer Manley Rogers and Jessica Gamaché. It is a wonderful book for kids, beautifully illustrated by Sophie Ann Elliot and organized in a way that is fun, while equipping children and teens for the task of being a climate hero. I found it when I was attending a gathering of staff who work at our United Methodist camping and retreat centers across the U.S. (and Canada). These folks, whose ministry involves nurturing discipleship in places beyond the local church, have the unique opportunity of doing their work in beautiful, natural settings. They bring an appreciation for the beauty and fragility of nature that not only shapes their perspective but also gets passed on to the children, youth, and leaders with whom they work. Jennifer Gamaché, the book’s co-author is the Executive Director of United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries, which supports these leaders in their work.
One of the challenges today is discerning how we pass on to the next generation the values of stewardship, of caring for one another, and caring for the Earth. In addition to being full of exciting learning activities, the Climate Hero Handbook includes a section near the end that is a “Climate Hero Hall of Fame.” The stories there are inspiring. You’ll find Mari Copeny of Flint Michigan, who, at eight years old, wrote a letter to President Barack Obama to ask what was being done about the dirty river near her town that was full of toxins and making the water the people used to drink, cook, bathe, and brush their teeth dangerous and harmful. You’ll also learn about Lesein Mutunkei of Nairobi, Kenya, who saw the pollution and deforestation in his city and started a program called “Trees for Goals.” Every time he scores a goal in football, he plants a tree. His idea caught on with teammates and others, and now more than one thousand trees have been planted as part of the challenge!
Why not lift up the invitation to the young people in your church and your life? Lessening the effects of climate change is something that the Avengers are not going to handle. We need some “climate heroes”!
Climate Hero Handbook is brought to us by the publishing arm of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry! Cover Image by Sophie Ann Elliot.
Ken Sloane is the Director of Stewardship & Generosity for Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church.