Will Our Children Heal the World?

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Sitting on a child’s bed are rows of brightly coloured animals. A blue lizard. A golden lion alongside a purple monkey.  A brown teddy, cuddling a baby koala, a present from a grandparents’ travels. They are all individuals. They all have names. The favourite, a well-worn small cow named Milly, is stuffed into a nursery backpack.  On one side of the little bedroom, the wallpaper is a colourful mix of bees and butterflies and on the other, there’s a wall hanging of the African Big Five. It’s a child’s homage to a dizzying range of animal species. To dreams. And it’s beautiful. 

Credit: Richard Dunwoody/CIWF

This room belongs to a four-year-old girl whose love of animals extends beyond the bedroom to the garden, to her school and into the wider world. 

Through her eyes all animals are equal. They are all loved. Worms are returned to grassy verges. Spiders are soothed with a song. Ladybirds rescued. Garden birds are never without food. The family dog is her best friend. 

Not for the first time a child shows us the innocent wisdom of a harmonious existence.

Children Coming of Age

Bringing up a child is both a privilege and a responsibility. But do we educate the love of all life away for the pursuit of commercial gain?  

Of course, profit is important for survival but there is more to life than buying something for a pound and selling it for two. 

Our garden of Eden is being systematically destroyed and we, humankind, are the ones to blame. The animals depicted in the toys at the centre of our children’s play are fast becoming threatened with extinction. Soon many could be confined only to nursery bedrooms, children’s books, and zoos.

Protecting Ourselves Means Protecting Animals Too

Urgently reshaping our relationship with sentient animals is not just a moral and ethical question, it is imperative for the sake of our children’s future.

We are now experiencing the consequences of our failure in the form of climate change, soil depletion, pollution, and the loss of biodiversity. 

Our excessive appetite for food of animal origin and intensive agriculture must carry much of the blame. We cannot go on as we are. If we do, in the short term, the most disastrous consequences will be to other life forms as we progressively destroy them to promote our own interests. But ultimately, we will all suffer. 

How then can we stand by as the love of animals and the future dreams of young children are lost?

Kingfisher | Credit: Philip Lymbery

Children as our Saviours  

Perhaps the answer lies with children themselves. We already see the younger generation taking activism to a new level. Be it about climate change, wildlife, or wider environment causes. They know that time is of the essence. That solutions are at hand if we want them. It is in all our interests to empower the young and let their voice be heard. To protect all life in this beautiful world. And ensure that the subjects of that childhood love of animals, those toys, those dreams, are not confined to history books, but are alive and well. 

Note: This is a version of an article that first appeared in The Scotsman on Friday 14th June, 2024

Main Image Credit: RichardDunwoody/CIWF

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