Social media have amplified society’s cultural upheaval, increasing anxiety and depression in American children. Adults have foisted the entire globe’s problems on a small group of so-called youth activists. This unprecedented politicization of America’s children is causing irrevocable psychological damage.
Vermont is the Petri dish where progressive experiments are easily conducted on children, whether it is widespread displays of Black Lives Matter flags in schools, transgender surgeries for children, or third-trimester abortions. Youths are encouraged in Vermont to protest, by numerous organizations, teachers, and government officials. They protest race, sex, guns, nudity, marijuana, and border children. Currently, there is a week-long protest to rescue the planet from climate change.
But these young people are not being taught to change the world. They are being made anxious, barraged with dire warnings about the imminent end of the planet. Mobilizing them through fear is reckless endangerment of an entire generation, solely on left-wing ideological grounds.
Author Wendell Berry admonished such adults in his essay “Discipline and Hope”:
[T]hese older people have been remarkably uncritical of the young, and so have abdicated their major responsibility to them. Some appear to have joined the younger generation, buying their way in by conniving in the myth that idealistic youth can do no wrong — or that one may reasonably hope to live without difficulty or effort or tragedy[.] (A Continuous Harmony: Essays Cultural and Agricultural, Harvest/HBJ, San Diego, 1972, pp. 106-107).
Mr. Berry warned of another danger we see today:
[T]he illusion that this is a wholly new generation, a generation free from history. The proposition is dangerously silly[.] … Like every other young generation, this one bears the precious human burden of new possibility and new hope, the opportunity to put its inheritance to better use. And like every other, it also bears the germs of historical error and failure and weakness — which it rarely forgives in its predecessors, and seldom recognizes in itself.
Studies demonstrate that anxiety and depression undermine children’s abilities to learn and to function socially. The histrionics about “climate change emergency” in recent years are having a profound negative impact on young people. Whether or not anthropomorphic climate change will end the planet in a mere few years, the bombastic eco-litany of impending doom would make a fire-and-brimstone sermon refreshing.
One site counsels how to approach the subject with children:
Surveys indicate that not only is global warming on our children’s minds, it is scaring them. One report found that approximately half of the children surveyed, ages seven to 11, were anxious about climate change and often lost sleep over it. Another study showed that children ages 11 to 14 were more concerned about climate change than they were about their homework. Wow! … It is never a good idea to shelter our children from the world because when they do learn what is really going on, they will most likely struggle even more so. However, there are some ways to handle the climate change and natural disaster topics carefully so that our children do not form a major case of eco-anxiety before they graduate from elementary school.
At least partially to blame — for better or for worse — are the increasingly vocal activists rallying the public against climate change[.] … “Adults keep saying, we owe it to the young people to give them hope,” [Greta] Thunberg said during a speech at last year’s global school strike against climate change. “But I don’t want your hope, I don’t want you to be hopeful, I want you to panic.” … We don’t yet have exact numbers of how many people feel overwhelmed by eco-anxiety. The phenomenon has also not yet officially been classified as a mental illness, since its cause is “rational,” according to CPA members.
But rather than teach children to cope with the inevitable threats of the world, today’s adults are teaching them to “be afraid: be very afraid” and that the way to release these tensions is…to protest!
Children and teens are generally more likely to accept the scientific consensus — widespread agreement — about humanity’s role in climate change[.] … Many kids also worry about how the impacts of climate change are expected to only worsen[.] … “They look at the generation ahead of them that could have taken action and didn’t,” she says. This can trigger feelings of anger, grief, resentment, fear, frustration and being overwhelmed. Not every young person will feel these emotions. But for many, the feelings can get in the way of their general well-being. Young people “have to let those feelings out,” she says.
An ominous slogan has gained currency in this bizarre milieu: “Live Green or Die!” Children are attaching their futures entirely to the direst of predictions — at least the 1950s students had some hope with “Duck and Cover!” Yet the science of how long it will take for humans to destroy the planet Earth — if they are destroying it — is far from clear, as professor Jordan Peterson passionately explains.
Further clouding policy direction is the inherent inequity of all such efforts. While these teacher-herded students howl for a carbon tax, their adult handlers have not uttered a peep against the sprawling lawns that require some 2.2 billion gallons of gasoline annually; the fireworks displays that spew tons of toxified carbon from China for solely recreational purposes, while killing or injuring thousands of children; the 91.7 million acres of corn planted in the United States annually (to produce high-fructose corn syrup for the children to slurp up at protests); the exotic cars, swimming pools, and other luxury planet-destroyers that go unquestioned. Indeed, a large “Live Green or Die” banner in Randolph, Vermont was conspicuous this week for its backdrop — the golden arches of McDonald’s.
As Wendell Berry observed of the 1960s, “the youth culture still supports its own forms of consumerism[.]” The Hippies went on to populate suburbia and Silicon Valley, to design new medications for their heart disease and sexual impotency, to become the old people who today command the young to stir up — and then clean up — the mess. But today’s young have become exponentially greater consumers — they demand universal internet access, eco-destroying cell phones, high-calorie industrial foods that aggravate the obesity caused by anxiety. More, these children consume drugs for ADD, ADHD, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, hormone therapy — and they are now charged to solve the carbon problem and all other challenges.
The key to reducing the destruction of the planet is personal responsibility. Lowering personal consumption, by personal conscience and choice, is the only effective means to constructively alter human behavior — government mandate rarely works. Instead, those who recklessly thrust terrified children into a manufactured climate “crisis” embrace government as the arbiter of responsibility. This is the difference between “Live Free or Die” and “Live Green or Die”: the first is a call to personal responsibility, the second a threat of totalitarian domination by robotized children.
John Klar is an attorney and farmer residing in Brookfield, and pastor of the First Congregational Church of Westfield. Originally published at American Thinker.