Your kids are not doomed

Read the full opinion piece in the New York Times.

Over the past few years, I’ve been asked one question more than any other. It comes up at speeches, at dinners, in conversation. It’s the most popular query when I open my podcast to suggestions, time and again. It comes in two forms. The first: Should I have kids, given the climate crisis they will face? The second: Should I have kids, knowing they will contribute to the climate crisis the world faces?

Tech’s e-waste problems

Read the full story at Clean Technica.

Tech surrounds us and beckons us to the newest and best products that companies have to offer. What we don’t consider in our upgrades is the damage to people and the environment these devices involve. What’s the solution?

Nature-based education sounds nice, but let’s start by sending kids out to play

Read the full story at Treehugger.

Schools need to do a better job of teaching kids about nature. This is the message from a new report released by the Stockholm Environment Institute and the Council on Energy Environment and Water, ahead of a UN meeting set to take place in early June.

The report describes the world as being at a “boiling point”, with humanity desperately needing to revamp its relationship with nature if it hopes to survive. The report makes various recommendations for how to do so, but the one that caught my eye was a call for a global campaign on nature-based education. As a mother of three children, a forest school supporter, and author of an upcoming book on screen-free parenting, that’s not surprising. I dug deeper.

How Studio Ghibli films can help us rediscover the childlike wonder of our connection with nature

Studio Ghibli films are replete with artistry depicting different aspects of nature. Kyle Duhamel/Flickr, CC BY-SA

by Yuan Pan, University of Reading

Films with powerful environmentally centred narratives can transform our thinking and connect us with nature in ways that scientific papers cannot. For example, Studio Ghibli, a renowned Japanese film studio co-founded by animator Hayao Miyazaki, creates complex visual stories about human-nature relationships that transcend barriers of culture or age. A key message of Miyazaki’s work is that we must respect nature – or face our own destruction.

Miyazaki’s films offer viewers moments of escape into fantastical worlds that nonetheless echo problems of modernity, demonstrating that it’s possible to portray complex environmental issues through animation in a way that retains mainstream appeal.

As a conservation scientist and Studio Ghibli enthusiast, I’ve analysed the environmental themes in three of its most well-known films: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984), My Neighbour Totoro (1988) and Princess Mononoke (1997).

Nausicaä

Nausicaä, released with a special recommendation from the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, tells the story of an apocalyptic event that wreaks havoc on global ecosystems. Surviving humans must coexist alongside the Toxic Jungle, a dangerous landscape filled with poisonous fungal spores. Most humans fear the Toxic Jungle and seek to destroy it. But what they don’t understand is that it’s cleansing the environment for their benefit.

Miyazaki designed the film to mirror our society, where prioritising short-term materialistic growth over long-term environmental sustainability is predicted to lead to collapse. The film reminds us that being at war with nature ultimately ends in our demise. To create a sustainable future, we must work with nature rather than against it.

My Neighbour Totoro

In My Neighbour Totoro, a pair of young sisters move to a house in the countryside with their father as their mother recovers from illness. The girls explore their new house and the surrounding forest, forming a friendship with a large forest spirit named Totoro.

A drawing of a large fluffy creature with a small girl playing on its stomach
My illustration of Totoro (a forest spirit), as depicted in My Neighbour Totoro. Author provided

During UK lockdowns, local green spaces became a haven supporting my mental health and reminding me of my intrinsic connection to nature and to other humans. As I saw children spending more time playing on the grass or climbing trees, I realised the importance of unstructured playtime in nature. Indeed, a growing body of research suggests that children’s interactions with the natural world are invaluable for their wellbeing.

In Miyazaki’s film, the young sisters become friends with Totoro, explore their surroundings, and discover their affinity for their environment. Totoro is depicted as a warm and nurturing mother figure, representing and encouraging the healing effects of communing with nature: which have been well-documented in research and culture.

Princess Mononoke

Princess Mononoke is set in 14th-century Japan, a world where the constant battle between humans and forest kami (spirits) leads to casualties on both sides. In Shinto, a traditional Japanese religion, these kami are part of nature – but they’re not soft-natured entities. When humans refuse to respect their environment, they can seek revenge.

The film’s most powerful kami is the Forest Spirit (Shishigami), who is neither good nor evil but represents the pure power of nature. During the day, Shishigami appears as a deer. At night, it transforms into the eerie Night Walker. This transformation represents the duality of nature as a bringer of life and death, echoing how the natural world has the ability to both support and destroy humankind.

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My illustration of Shishigami and the Night Walker, two sides of the same coin. Author provided, Author provided

Similarly, the antagonist of the film, Lady Eboshi, isn’t in fact a clear-cut villain. Although she wants to cut down the forest to feed iron mines, she’s also the kind, generous leader of Iron Town, providing a haven for social outcasts and espousing gender equality. Yet despite her wish to build a better society, her actions – however well-intentioned – will destroy the forest and the homes of the kami.

This situation is a microcosm of ongoing environmental justice issues across the world, where poor and marginalised groups, including Indigenous people and women, suffer for the actions of the wealthy. In particular, although wealthy countries contribute the most to climate change, it’s poorer countries that must carry the greatest climate-related burdens.

As viewers of Princess Mononoke, we’re being encouraged to move beyond dichotomies of “us versus them”, thinking which allows groups with more power to distance themselves from those without: or even to dehumanise them altogether. Miyazaki’s work is a lesson in seeking intrinsic commonalities – what connects us rather than what divides – and using these to imagine fairer, more equal societies that live in harmony with nature.

Yuan Pan, Lecturer in Environmental Management, University of Reading

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Too many used books? Want to help literacy efforts? Here’s what to do.

Read the full story at Mashable.

For those with a pile of books to get rid of and a desire to make sure those books are having a positive social and environmental impact, here’s what to do.

Can I buy fast fashion and not feel guilty?

Read the full story in the New York Times.

I often hear about avoiding fast fashion because it’s better for the planet, in part because it is highly disposable and people cycle it through to the landfill too quickly. But can I feel just a little less guilty about my fast fashion if I hold on to my clothes until they wear out? I’m a budget-minded shopper, and though I can occasionally afford to buy a piece from an ethical brand, the truth is that fast fashion is what keeps me clothed.

SAWS reports drought sparks interest in water-saving yards in San Antonio

Read the full story at Texas Public Radio.

The San Antonio Water System reports the drought is sparking interest among customers about how to install a water-saving landscape.

The city-owned water utility offers education, water-saver coupons, and other rebates to make it easier to replace thirsty lawns with native or drought tolerant vegetation and do away with automatic sprinkler systems.

Commission launches EPREL database to help consumers on energy efficient products

Read the full story from the European Commission.

A new EU-wide public database enabling consumers to compare the energy efficiency class and other data about different household products has been launched by the European Commission this week. With detailed information on well over 1 million products, the European Product Registry for Energy Labelling (EPREL) breaks new ground in helping EU consumers become more energy efficient. Building on the highly successful EU energy label, this innovative tool provides unprecedented market transparency free of charge at a time when consumers are looking to make savings on their energy consumption, and when the Commission is trying to boost energy efficiency across the EU.

Grow tomatoes, not carrots and other tips for keeping lead out of your garden produce

Read the full story from WBEZ.

Chicago soil can contain high levels of lead and other heavy metals. Check out this guide to making gardening safer.

7 sustainable food trends that hint at how we’ll be eating in the future

Read the full story at Saveur.

Today is a day to be especially excited about the innovations and solutions helping us build more sustainable—and hopefully more delicious—food systems for the future. In honor of Earth Day, here are some of the trends shaping what and how we eat.