Environmental Awareness Must Start Early!

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Our callousness towards nature has started to show its consequences. The sinister smog has swathed our cities and its smutty grip is choking our children with lungfuls of polluted air. If the recent stats are anything to believe then air pollution has caused 9 million deaths so far, which is 16% more than the deaths caused by AIDS.

There is a very short movie running on TV these days in which two children with sunken eyes are sitting over a dining table with their parents who looks equally worn out. They have run out on their oxygen kits and they are being scolded by their mother for not using the oxygen kits frugally. When you watch something like this, a very enervated fear sinks inside. What kind of future are we leaving behind for our children?https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pj1eP7JP1KM

We are moving towards a future where oxygen would be bottled and sold! Something very similar to what happened in Lorax (film), greed of one man named Once-ler destroys every Truffula tree. Ted Wiggin is a little boy who lives in a plastic city where everything is artificial and oxygen is sold in sealed bottles. The story traipses around finding the ‘last seed’ to plant a real tree which can give oxygen free of cost.

I have watched this movie many a times with my little one. It trundles across a very serious message of utmost importance to small viewer i.e. to plant trees, love them and do not take them for granted lest they get guzzled down by greed. We would be left to buy bottled oxygen. Are we the only creatures surviving on oxygen?

There are a few other animated movies which I believe are worth watching with your kids if you want to nurture environmental awareness among them. Here, I give the list of 5 such movies!

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Over the Hedge

This will leave you and your little one rolling over with laughter, jokes are packed in every pixel. It’s a story of a mischievous raccoon and his friends. Ken Fox of TVGuide.com described the movie this way: “A sly satire of American ‘enough is never enough’ consumerism and blind progress at the expense of the environment.”

Upon waking up after hibernation, a group of forest animals discover that a tall hedge has appeared out of nowhere, half their forest is gone, they have little to no food left. They have one option: go over the hedge and get food from the humans!

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Wall.E

What will happen when Earth is nothing but a heap of garbage? WALL-E is the last robot left on Earth. He spends his days tidying up the planet, one piece of garbage at a time. WALL-E, with his habit of picking up everything he finds interesting, lives alone on the planet with a pet cockroach. He has quite a collection of things, from lighters to a working iPod and even a small ring box (without the ring). He even has the last living plant.

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Happy Feet

Happy Feet, the animated film about dancing penguins in the Antarctic. Man’s wasteful ways have endangered the Antarctic and its inhabitants. The movie is full of eye catching sequences and a delight to watch the singing-dancing penguins. This is a story of Mumble who has a terrible singing voice but has talent for something that none of the penguins had ever seen before: tap dancing

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Disney Nature’s Oceans

Though a bit subtler than some of the other films on this list, Oceans still makes an impact. The film explores the underwater world that covers three-quarters of our planet. While it spends much of its time depicting the weird, wonderful and beautiful life forms that the oceans have to offer, the documentary doesn’t miss its chance to show the negative effects human actions can have on wildlife and urges viewers to respect nature.

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Free Willy

The movie is laced with strong environmental messages. It features a young boy who befriends a recently captured orca whale in a local aquarium/amusement park. The boy, Jesse, and the whale, Willy, bond, but Willy is in danger because he doesn’t perform tricks well and therefore doesn’t earn much money for the park. The park owner threatens to kill Willy, so Jesse decides to release the whale into the wild.

A conversation on friendship with my 5 year old daughter

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It’s easier to talk to children above ten about complex things like relationships. (Maybe I am oversimplifying the problem). But when it comes to the audience whose understanding is limited to ‘sharing is the way of caring baba, baba black sheep’ it’s difficult to present something complex in a simple way.

Though Khalil Jibran has explicitly put everything that friendship is in these lines:

 Your friend is your needs answered.

He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.

And he is your board and your fireside.

For you come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace.

When your friend speaks his mind, you fear not the “nay” in your own mind, nor do you withhold the “ay.”

 The problem was how to talk about this to my little 5 year old. There were many helpful parenting sites that talked about the clinical aspects of making friends or being one. I was looking for something more. I was looking to touch the root of the concept, to talk a bit of philosophy with my bitsy baby.

Let me tell you the background of what prompted me to take up this topic with her. After we shifted to a new country, I had a daunting task at hand. There was a park nearby our apartment. I and my daughter would stroll down there in the evenings. The task was to find a friend to play. A few initial visits were stressful for me, she played swings and slides with her roving eyes looking for a pal amidst her unanswered smiles and waves. My little one was disappointed but not disheartened.

One day she took her new bicycle to the park and there was a girl of her age who came to play with her. They both rode the bicycle by turns. I was also relieved that she finally had a companion. The next day she went without her bicycle. She looked for her friend everywhere. Finally, she saw her playing with a group of children. She waved to her and went near them expecting that she would be invited to play. But nothing like that happened. The bicycle friend turned out to be an opportunist.

That day my little brave heart was heartbroken. She came running towards me and she plonked her head in my lap and cried. We returned home.

She was yet to start her new school. Her mom, dad and a few stuffed bunnies and bears were her only acquaintances in the new land. I wanted to talk to her about what had happened in the park but I kept it to myself. Though she was back to her normal self but it was evident that she was hurt. It was the next day at bed time when I groped a chance to begin the conversation on Friendship and making friends.

I chose to read ‘The Stinky Little Kitten’  — Jim Peterson, a story about a friendly kitten who is refused help by all the farm animals when she jumps over onions and starts stinking. A piglet, whom she had always avoided, is the only animal which comes to her help to clean herself. When the stinky little kitten is washed and cleaned, she runs up to her mother, nonplussed as to why none of the animals whom she thought were her friends, helped her. To this, the smart mommy cat says:

“It’s not always that you choose your friends. Sometimes the friends choose you.”

 The end of the story brought a smile on my kitten’s face. I smiled back.

Me: “What do you think of the story?”

She :“I liked it.”

Me: “What did you like in it?”

She: “The stinky little kitten found her friend at last.”

Me: “Ummm okay but what made her think that the piglet was her friend?”

She: “Because he helped her.”

Me: “Yes dear helping is friendship, but it’s not just helping that makes good friends.

She: “Aunty (maid) helps you too.”

Me: (laughing) “I pay her. Helping is in return of something.”

She: “I know mama friends share things.”

Me: “Hmm okay you shared your bicycle with that park friend.”

She: (frowning) “Hmmm I was friend, she was not friend.”

Me: “Yeah okay tell me which cartoon friends you like the most.”

(Thinks for a moment)

She: “Yes I like Bambi and Thumper”

Me: “They are my favourite too. Why are they your favourite?”

She: “Umm Thumper and Bambi have lots of fun together.”

Me: “Yes they do, indeed.”

She: “Why do you like them?”

Me: “I like them because they are different yet they understand each other, try to improve each other. Remember how Thumper teaches Bambi to ski on ice.”

She: (giggling) “Yes I remember.”

Me: “So a friend is someone who has all these traits. Somebody who shares toys but doesn’t help is not a friend. Somebody who helps but does not understand you is not a friend.”

She: “You are my best friend.”

Me: “Yes, I am dear and will always remain your friend. When you will start your new school, when you will attend your music or craft classes, when you will grow up, you will find such a friend who will be polite, helpful, understanding and who will like the things you like, who will not come to you because you have a special toy or a new bicycle. That friend will befriend you for who you are.”

 A bright, bright smile spread across her face that brightened my heart too. I switched off the side lamp. While sleep was slowly pulling my eye lashes down this quotation by Gloria Naylor was running through my mind, “We cannot tell the exact moment a friendship is formed; as in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses, there is at last one that makes the heart run over.