Friday, June 27, 2008

A 4 year-old Take on Environmental Issues

LB (Little Builder): So, green building is like when they put grass on the roof and grass in the yard and paint the house green?

M (Mamma, me): Not exactly... green doesn't refer to a color here; it means being friendly to the earth and using the good things that friendly green plants give us.

LB: So, I could be a good green builder if I give the grass a big hug?

M: Well, not friendly like that. There are some things we do that hurt the earth, make it a less nice place to live for other people... like trash. Some things we need to throw away, but we recycle and compost other things because we don't want to cover the earth with big holes/landfills with unnecessary trash. That wouldn't be friendly to the earth or to other people on it.

LB: I'll build a machine that takes all that trash and - like the leaf mold that's good for a garden on This Old House - turns it into leaf mold for gardens or something like that!

And here's where I marvel... I go back and forth between shaking my head at his silliness and wondering if I'm witnessing a gift of God, placed in the mind of a future inventor. Imagine what Thomas Edison's mom might have thought of his musings about inventions? Somehow this fantastical conversation about imaginary machines seems sacred, maybe because each human is sacred, created in the image of God, and has sacred potential to create and do good for others.

on CO2...
LB: When I'm six, I'll just build a big machine that will suck up all the CO2 and give it to the plants in the middle of the machine, since plants like CO2!

on tailpipes...
LB: Tomorrow I'm going to rip that pipe off our van, so that it won't send anymore pollution into the air!
M: we can't do that, because after the engine uses the gasoline, the leftover waste has to go somewhere
LB: Well, when I'm five I can learn, you know, in kindergarten, how to build a machine that can take all that pollution from underneath the car and put it in a place that will turn it into corn seeds!

on deforestation...
LB: The Plant Company needs to tell those people to stop cutting down all the trees and plants!
M: There is no plant company, baby.
LB: Well, we have make one, and get everyone together, and tell everyone about how we need to not cut down all the plants! And when I'm five or six or something, I'll build a machine that takes big logs and puts them in the ground and covers them with bark and leaves and then they can help the earth! You can teach me how to build that machine.
M: I don't know how, baby.
LB: Probably my kindergarten teachers can. I'll learn lots of things in Kindergarten.
M: Yes, you will. You know, you'll need to learn how to read and do math, to help you build that machine. Usually you don't learn how to build machines until you're much older, but you might be different.

and so forth goes the conversation...

It doesn't matter that my son may never build inventions out of anything but Legos.

He is made in the image of One for whom nothing is impossible.

I'm more worried about changing my own life and living up to my own rhetoric, so as not to be a hypocrite in his eyes. Yes, we have a compost pile, but often the carrot shavings go in the trash because I'm in a hurry. Sure, we want to live a more sustainable lifestyle but I haven't switched to all-locally grown food yet. The list is endless...

Although the earth is not our eternal home, it would be nice to be, as Winnie-the-Pooh says, "neighborly" with it while we're here. And I am a babe of a convert (only 4 years) to the Orthodox Church, but my mind seems to recall something from Chatechum class about seeing everything god created as having sacremental qualities? The current issue of the Handmaiden has great reflections on this issue.

What about you? Please consider adding to the conversation.

What is your understanding of our attitude torward the earth as Orthodox Christians?

What do you do as a family to be good stewards of the earth God has given us? Any ideas for me to steal?

Looking forward to learning,


  1. Do you read Small Things, by "the other Monica"? I just came here from there. She had a similar post recently.

  2. It seems like your son has a great head on his shoulders. What a fantastic conversation with a four year old.

    I am going to post some answers to your questions on my blog some time soon. I've been sick all weekend, so I've been able to keep up with reading blogs and blogging right now- thanks to hubby for giving me a little break today.

  3. Your son's forward thinking reminds me of a line from a song from a Shirley Temple movie: "When I grow up, in a year or two or three ..."

    About the only steal-able idea I can think of is to put some empty gallon containers in the shower. While we're waiting for the water to heat up (and during the shower), we get about a gallon per shower. It makes a good shower timer and then we have water for our new trees. Never mind that my husband likes the weight-lifting aspect.

  4. Ooooh... I like the shower idea. Thanks. Keep those ideas coming ladies!

  5. There are so many CRAZY environmentalists out there, some people would rather keep trees from being chopped down and put their life on the line, rather than try to help a woman with an unwanted pregnancy. That's ridiculous. Politics. I love it. Anyhow, I consider myself a "crunchy conservative" and do all that I can to keep our earth green, as long as it doesn't bother anyone. For an example, my husband bought a rain barrel, so we don't waste water for our garden. I bring my own bags to the grocery store, too. Next, I want to start a compost...
    any suggestions?