Monday, 21 February 2011

Children's Toys and the Gulf Oil Spill - What's the Connection?

If you are between the ages of 4 and 14, or a parent of someone this age, you know what Silly Bandz are. In fact your children and their assorted friends probably have 10-50 of their very own. For those of you who aren't sure or don't know what these 'bands' are, where have you been these past six months?! Silly Bandz are plastic bracelets that come in a variety of shapes and colors. They are relatively inexpensive, so parents often say: "Why not!? " when there kids ask for them. Silly Bands are the Webkinz, kooky pens and pet rocks of the 2010 spring and summer seasons.
I always look at these fads and the people who invented them with awe, envy (sort of,) and despair. First of all, awe. Wow! How incredible to think up a "kooky pen," "pet rock" or "Webkinz" in the first place, let alone sell millions of them to your closest friends, their children and their closest friends too! (That's where the envy comes in, as the inventor now has "made it" and is rich for evermore.) This then gives rise to despair however, as in most cases these fad items are just that, fads. These toys mesmerize our children for a few days, weeks, and very occasionally for a few months, then the toy is relegated to the closet, and sooner than later, the trash can.
Most of the time, these items are made out of plastic, or some other synthetic material that is derived in large part from oil. Our addiction to fossil fuels continues to be fueled not only by our own insatiable demand and need for energy, but also our by children's demand for the latest "toy" or "product." The relationship between the toy and the oil currently polluting our oceans, air and beaches, is often "so removed" and seemingly "unrelated" to its source, that the connection between the two is rarely, if ever made.
What do you think you child would say to the "silly band" if she new that it was made from oil, the same oil that is killing pelicans and turtles in the Gulf of Mexico and causing dolphins and whales to get sick and in many cases, to die? Maybe she would "think twice" before she asked you to get her just "one more pack" so she can now wear plastic bracelets from her wrists to her elbow. So "important" are these at the moment, but my bet is they will be forgotten completely by the time school begins in the fall. Maybe she needs your help to understand these connections.
And maybe we need to demand packaging declarations on all our plastic products, like we do on cigarettes. These declarations would state that these products "kill" as in kill the air that we breathe as well as the delicate relationships that keep our planet in balance. We now see daily reports in the media how these demands for oil are killing our wildlife, our natural habitats, and our neighbors way of life. Maybe if we took time to make these connections, more children would hesitate to demand things they don't need or even really want, and maybe we would hesitate before we bought these things for our children. Maybe this summer, when you are at the beach, the shore, on a hike or just hanging out in your backyard with you children -watching fireflies light up the sky - there will be a moment for you to share with them how important it is that we take care of the natural world around us.
Climate Mama is an online climate change education, advocacy and information site. We want you to understand clearly what climate change and global warming mean, and what they mean to you, to your day to day life, and to the lives of the ones you love. We want to keep you updated on the latest developments around our planet, on what is happening now and what is important for you to know. We want you to be able to look your son, your daughter, your grandchild, nephew, niece or student in the eye and tell them you are doing what you can to take care of the earth for them. We want you to feel empowered, that you are doing what you can to ensure that the world they inherit is a world that is as precious, as vibrant, as healthy and as alive, as the one you grew up in.