Climate change affects us in many ways. From changing weather patterns to impacts on human and wildlife health, the impacts of the climate crisis are all-encompassing. But there is one sector that many of us neglect in understanding climate change: childcare and education.
In this week’s episode Good Together, CEO and founder of Brightly Laura Wittig chatted with Sara Mauskopf, CEO and co-founder of Winnie, a marketplace for daycare services and providers. Together, they discuss the intersection between climate and parenting—and how young people are directly impacted.
In a latest Twitter thread posted on Earth Day 2022, Mauskopf explains to his followers how climate change is not the problem of the future. This is a problem right? nowand it changed the education system and the childcare system as we know it.
And this topic is personal to Mauskopf. Not only is she one of the founders of a company that prioritizes childcare services, she is also a mother of three. Her family lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and she says they have experienced the effects of climate change firsthand.
“I think there’s so much, as a parent, that I’m really worried about. Not only from existential, ‘How will my children in the future and their children?’” he said. “But actually, day by day, the impact of our climate change on how I can be a parent and acceptable parenting. It ended up being a huge variable that I think had an impact on a lot of families, especially in California, but now across the United States.”
Mauskopf details climate change issues for parents, guardians and young people in an article entitled “Climate Change Not Only Harms Our Children In The Future, It Hurts Them Today” on Winnie’s blog. And he tells us exactly why this issue is important.
How Climate Change Is Impacting Child Care
We know climate change can cause bad weather—from violent storms to wildfires to poor air quality. And when this happens, society has to adapt. Or perhaps, society should be shut down. For the meantime.
That means schools are often closed. So far, about 1.1 million students in California, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and other states have been affected by school closures and climate change.
School Closures and Child Care
While many students love snowy days and sleep in them, many parents struggle to find daycare for their children on those days. In other words, childcare is a privilege, and holidays are a greater privilege that not every parent or guardian has.
“A few years ago, my daughter’s preschool issued a policy on air quality. When air quality is at unsafe levels, they actually close schools for the day. So I didn’t have daycare that day,” Mauskopf said. “It’s not ‘maybe one day the world will be uninhabitable.’ This is, literally, ‘I can’t work when the air quality is bad.’ And the last few years, the air quality was poor for a few days.”
Closing schools and daycares and poor air quality go hand in hand. And together, they present new problems for parents, guardians, and children.
“You have to be inside when this happens, and you have to have a filter,” he added. “And this is very expensive for the family. I mean, a lot of families don’t have this option of just keeping their kids at home, because they have to go to work, or they don’t have access to high-quality air filtration.”
Physical and Mental Health
In addition, poor air quality and natural disasters can have a greater impact—affecting the health and well-being of our children.
According to a Harvard report, warming temperatures and poor air quality can increase asthma and allergy attacks in children. These factors can also worsen pregnancy outcomes, create food insecurity, and increase mental health problems.
In particular, natural disasters cause trauma to children of all ages (as well as adults). So this disaster does not only have an impact on the education system. They destroy homes, schools and the environment. And according to Harvard, these events are associated with higher levels of stress, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress.
Mauskopf also said there were problems with the infrastructure of most of the school buildings. He says some buildings have poor air conditioning—and some are even “uninhabitable” during the hot summer months. Because of this, children cannot concentrate or study. And it is not safe for their health.
“Most of these buildings are not equipped to deal with climate change, and it has the most impact on low-income areas because they are least able to respond by upgrading their buildings, or installing air conditioning or having air filters for bad air, Mauskopf added. “That’s actually something I looked at when choosing preschool and elementary school for my oldest child. Do they have an air filter system? Because it really matters now. And if your child spends most of their day in a building where they breathe bad air, it could actually harm them for the rest of their lives.”
So the question is: How do guardians deal with climate issues while also balancing childcare and education on their shoulders?
How Do Guardians Balance Child Care and Climate Change?
Parents and guardians are often synonymous with superheroes. Somehow, they always find a way to make things work, and their kids don’t know their secret. So how did Mauskopf do it?
He says he is incorporating more sustainable practices into his daily life. Balancing parenting and climate change is not easy. And change doesn’t happen overnight. Even so, his family puts sustainability at the forefront whenever they can.
For example, the Mauskopfs changed their minds about always needing new toys—and throwing out old ones. Instead, she and her children embrace the used toy market. And they give their old toys to other kids who need them. They become more “thinking” about the objects they have.
In addition, she teaches her children about sustainability, especially when it comes to waste. That means teaching his kids about recycling and composting.
He says the environment is limited in the amount of waste it can produce—each family gets only one small trash can and a larger compost and recycling bin.
“We have a family of five and one of our kids is still in diapers, so there’s so much trash every week that we can’t get through unless we seriously think about how much waste we produce and what we can produce. into compost instead and what can be recycled instead,” he said. “And kids can’t mess with it either. Because we really won’t be able to dispose of our trash.”
Overall, parents and guardians are still figuring things out as well. But adopting more sustainable habits at home and setting a better example for the younger generation may be their secret superpower.
Climate change isn’t taboo—nor shouldn’t it be. Mauskopf said his eldest son even learned about sustainability at school. It’s part of the school curriculum!
She also said her younger children grew up immersed in a world where climate change was a reality. And they learn how to deal with it. For example, her youngest child knows that days with poor air quality have a direct impact on their lives.
However, Mauskopf was inspired by his children. He said his children grew up to be proactive leaders.
“It’s great for me that often my children know more than I do, and they will talk about this proactively,” says Mauskopf. “I think it’s just a big step forward from how I was raised, or even just, kids not too long ago, and I think it came out of necessity, but it’s a good thing that our kids are taking the lead in this. ”
So start a conversation—whether it’s with friends, family, or your child. However, climate change has an impact each person—even young people.
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