Saturday, March 26, 2011

Passing on a Love of Nature to our Kids - National Catholic Reporter

Passing on a Love of Nature to our Kids’ by Carol Meyer (published in the National Catholic Reporter) is a great article about helping our children to appreciate and enjoy nature. It points out that kids usually do enjoy nature. It’s us parents that are ‘gradually stifling it out of them’. Instead of trying to get kids away from nature, we should be modelling a love of it ourselves. One of the four reasons given for why we should encourage an appreciation of enjoyment of nature in our children is that we want them to know God through nature. Also, when kids learn to love nature at an early age, they will do more to protect it.

It’s funny to read this now because my son got a new tent for his birthday (last week). He’s been desperate to set it up on the backyard, but there’s always been some reason why he can’t. After reading this article, I’m wondering whether I should just say, ‘Yes, set it up now’ and forget about all the reasons I’ve given him that maybe aren’t that important after all.

Here are some extracts from the article:

A recent article in USA Today reported that the average American child spends 53 hours a week with electronic media. This alarming statistic means children aren’t getting anywhere near a comparable time outside. But we can be intentional about changing this for the children we influence. I encourage you to make this effort for several reasons: 1) Children need nature to be balanced and whole and we want what is good for them 2) If children know and love nature, they will be more zealous in protecting it 3) Kids have a natural affinity for nature and it brings out their joy and wonder and 4) We want them to know God revealed in creation.

It’s a bit ironic that this article is about us passing on a love of nature to children. It seems to me that they are the ones who naturally love it, and we’re the ones gradually stifling it out of them. They can spend hours on the beach examining shells, while we’re the ones who’ve lost that patience and awe. We hurry them on and shuttle them from one activity to another, hardly giving them time to be creative in nature.

Sometimes we parents are so protective and worried about accidents, getting dirty, germs, or predators that we think we are doing our kids a favor by constantly keeping them inside. My siblings and I had some mishaps now and then, but it was a small price to pay for the countless hours of joy in nature. We grew strong, resilient, self-reliant and confident as a result. And if safety is truly a concern where you live, there’s always the back yard, public parks, and outdoor activities that include your participation and watchful eye.

And remember that kids will come to know and love God more by sensory, hands-on experiences of God’s creation than all the theory in the world.

  Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder  I Love Dirt!: 52 Activities to Help You and Your Kids Discover the Wonders of Nature


Friday, March 25, 2011

“This Is The Day…” | Seeing Creation

“This Is The Day…” Seeing Creation

This is a great post that reminds us that every day the Lord is doing something different with creation. The world we wake up to today is unique.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dreamworld and White Water World: where the waves are our servants

I just spent five days in Brisbane, which included a visit to Dreamworld and White Water World. I’m glad I went. My boys definitely enjoyed the experience. And theme parks are kind of fun.
            But the reason why they’re such fun is because they’re so different to real life. My kids don’t use this word, but when I was their age when something was fun, it was unreal. Well Dreamworld was unreal - both in the sense of being fun, but also in the sense of being unrealistic. There's a variety of different experiences, but none of them bear any resemblance to reality. They’re the safe, sanitised, plastic version instead.
            In real life, when you open a door made from old wood, it feels rough, not smooth and it may give you splinters.
            In real life, pirates’ swords were made of sharp metal, not feathers, and they didn’t come with a corresponding plush toy.
            In real life, when you pull a tiger’s tail, he’s likely to turn around and kill you not do a trick for the crowd.
            In real life, if you float down the river on a log, you will very likely end up uncomfortable and possibly end up drowned.
            And I pity anyone who visits Dreamworld’s Australian Wildlife Experience and thinks they’ve actually experienced Australia. In real Australia, the animals do not live in small, isolated enclosures behind glass screens. Real Australia is wide, unstructured and free, not cramped, planned and controlled.
            In White Water World, I heard a little girl, who was waiting for the perfectly timed, perfectly uniform, perfectly controlled waves to arrive, say, ‘The waves are my servant.’ Maybe in White Water World they are. But in the real world waves are never our servant. They’re just as likely to dump us as they are to bring us to shore. Plus, they come with sandy beaches, sharp rocks and jellyfish.
            And that’s what makes theme parks so fake - yet so enjoyable to visit. They remove all the bits we don’t like about real life. Real life is unpredictable and untameable. It is sometimes dirty, sometimes unpleasant and sometimes dangerous. People often don’t want that - or they don’t want to pay money for it anyway. They want the experience with all the downsides sucked out. So they make do with their no-risk, cleaned-up, highly structured versions of those experiences - never minding (in fact preferring) that they’re nothing like the real experience at all.
            We like risk-taking. But we prefer to do it without putting ourselves in too much danger. We like to see animals, but we want them to come to us in a safe, controlled way, where they are easy to find, easy to identify and easy to watch without getting hurt. We’d like to visit the past, but the actual past would be too smelly, too dusty, too dirty, too dangerous - and too much hard work. We want to see everything and experience everything - but we want to do it on our terms.
            For many years, humans thought they could tame nature, that we were the ones in control. The recent Queensland floods, New Zealand earthquake and Japan earthquake and tsunami have shown us not only that nature can’t be controlled, but she often can’t even be predicted. For a society brought up on the familiarity and consistency of MacDonald’s and other brands, unpredictability and uncontrollability is a bit too hard to accept.  
            But in a MacDonaldised world, where everything is controlled, homogenised and sanitised, maybe we actually need a little dose of reality. So perhaps we should stop seeking unreal experiences and start seeking the real thing. The real thing can be dangerous. It can be unpleasant. It can be inconvenient. It can be unpredictable. It can also be downright heartbreaking at times. But there is also a definite beauty to this wildness, even when it does some ugly things. And maybe we might respect and appreciate this world more if we learned to appreciate its wildness, rather than trying to tame it or ‘recreate’ it on our own terms.          

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Carbon Fast: 40 Days - Live Differently - TEAR Australia

Carbon Fast: 40 Days - Live Differently - TEAR Australia

This is another great resource for Lent. They include a study resource that has seven themes (creation, love, simplicity, community, conversion, justice and sacrifice) that can be explored throughout Lent. Each theme also has a number of practical things that people can do.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Unintentional Week of Unplugging

Just recently, I had no internet or home phone for a week. My internet disappeared on March 4, which just so happened to be the National Day of Unplugging (in the US). Ironically, I didn’t actually find out that it was the National Day of Unplugging until a week later, because the email that told me this wasn’t received until after my internet connection was gone. I had an Unintentional Week of Unplugging instead.

I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t annoying. For one, I work from home. And I need my internet to work. No internet means no work. No work means no pay. So there was a financial loss involved. Plus I just received my mobile phone bill and that’s way higher than usual because I had to ring lots of people to get the thing fixed and I couldn’t use my landline.

Also, I study through distance education. I had a big list of things I wanted to do for my studies that I couldn’t do because I needed the internet for them. I had to send a letter to my son’s teacher letting him know we had internet difficulties and that this could create problems in completing homework on time. And there was about three times a day when I would say, I’ll just check that on the internet - only to realise I had no internet. I didn’t know I’d become so reliant on Google for finding out stuff. Plus, I think I suffered Facebook withdrawals.

So that’s all the bad news. Now for the good news. I don’t think I’ve been that relaxed in ages. Even with the stress and the financial worries and the inconvenience, there was something very relaxing in NOT BEING ABLE to go online. I had to slow down because I had no choice. And that was a good thing. It brought with it a certain peace that I hadn’t felt in a very long time.

Considering how much I rely on the internet, I’m hardly about to advocate ‘unplugging’ completely. But I do wonder what effect this continuous ‘plugged-in’ state is having on us. Maybe we could all do with a little ‘unplugging’ from time to time.

I believe there are things that nourish our souls. These don’t have to be overtly religious things. They can be going for a bushwalk or cuddling a child or laughing with friends. I don’t think being on the internet nourishes our souls at all. Much as it is helpful and fun and convenient - and it can lead to things that do nourish the soul, it’s not really a soul-nourisher in and of itself. In fact, it can take us away from those things that do nourish the soul.

When my internet was off, I remember thinking to myself that when the internet was back on, I would have to set aside time for when I deliberately switch it off. I’ve tried, but I haven’t been particularly successful with it. When the internet is there, I want it on. I want to be able to check it whenever I want. I don’t want to wait to start my computer up or connect to the internet. I guess that makes me part of the ‘instant gratification’ generation. When I want the internet, I want it now.

But it’s that easy accessibility that makes me keep returning to my computer. It's that easy accessibility that takes away my peace. It’s that easy accessibility that stops me feeling completely relaxed. It’s that easy accessibility that keeps me away from those things that do nourish my soul.

The internet is a tool. And I’d be the first to say it’s a fabulous tool. It gives me information when I want it. keeps me up-to-date on the topics that interest me. It connects me to friends. It provides a way for me to study from home. It lets me earn money without having to leave my house. There is so much I like about the internet.

But in the end, it is just a tool. And is a tool really that useful when it’s no longer you that is controlling the tool but rather the tool that is controlling you?  

For more information about the National Day of Unplugging or the Sabbath Manifesto, go here.


Another great Lenten resource

Lenten Creation Stewardship 2011

This is another fabulous resource for Lent. It's a calender that has something you can do to consider or help Creaton for each day during Lent. I've printed it out and will go through it each day with my children. 

11 Ideas for Lent '11 — Restoring Eden

11 Ideas for Lent '11 — Restoring Eden

For some people, giving up something for Lent seems too old-fashioned, too Catholic or too religious. But I find the practice of giving up something for Lent particularly beneficial. It trains us in self-sacrifice, focuses our minds on God and prepares us for Easter. It's so easy for us to think of Easter as just another religious holiday and an excuse to do some shopping. When it follows Lent, we are reminded of how important and special it is.

It's kind of ironic that we have gotten out of the practice of self-sacrifice for Lent right when we need it most. In our time of over-consumption and wastefulness, perhaps what we all need is an exercise in doing without.

This article has some really good Lenten ideas from an environmental perspective, including refocusing your spending habits, considering where your food comes from, giving up coffee and avoiding buying plastic.

Sometimes the problem of environmental destruction seems too big. There is too much that we should be doing. We can't do it all, so we do nothing. But giving up at least something for Lent should be achievable for anyone. And it's at least a start.