Editorial: The Environment

Questions for Child Care

We are entering a new era in human history when the survival of our species may be at risk because of human activity.  Asteroids may have threatened us in the past, but the pollution we have poured out over the last three centuries has now built up to a critical level which could threaten the lives of millions during this century.

It is also a first in that this has been acknowledged across the world as requiring action by every nation. The Kyoto and Copenhagen summits may not yet have achieved what activists want but they mark a new phase in international co-operation. The League of Nations and the United Nations aimed to bring about peace. The European Union was triggered by the desire for economic co-operation. Now we are trying to make sense of the environment we all live in, and the threat of dire consequences to planet earth if we fail to act has been a real stimulus.

Those who need to prepare for and adapt most of all are our children and their children.  So we should begin to expand our focus to take account of this.  What line should we be taking to create a world environment fit for children? What life skills should we be encouraging them to develop to make life-styles sustainable?  What new ways of living can we pioneer and model? As growing numbers of people in India, China and Brazil achieve wealth, is a consumer-led jet-set materialist throw-away life-style going to be feasible? What are children and young people wanting to say to us about ecology, climate and lifestyles?

This questioning applies not only at the macro world level, but also to the local environments in which children are brought up. How can they be safe for children, without denying them the chance to learn about risk-taking? How can we give children who are growing up in their millions in large cities contact with the natural world? Do we need to revert to growing our own in allotments and cooking our own, instead of flying food half way round the world or reliance on factory-prepared fast food? Should we review our pattern of holidays?

And then there is the question of the micro environments which we create to help children and young people deal with the problems which they face – the nurseries, children’s homes, therapeutic units and secure care. What does the child care profession have to say to the wider community about the way we shape the world? And how does professional training prepare us for this new era?

This issue contains a variety of articles which throw light on environmental issues from many angles, and at this stage in the development of our thinking, they probably raise more questions than answers. If so, the history of our species is promising in that mankind has a track record of questioning, experimenting, devising tools and ideas, and adapting to changing circumstances. We are equally a competitive, argumentative, aggressive and sometimes cruel species. This may have helped us to survive and dominate the world, but these qualities will need to be controlled if we are to face the question of planning a good environment and collaborate world-wide.

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