Dr. David Orr’s New Parenting Rules

Dr. David Orr, professor of environmental studies, Oberlin College, author of The Nature of Design: Ecology, Culture and Human Intention:

What will our children’s children’s children likely think about present child-raising practices? If they have the inclination and wherewithal, they will likely wonder about the depth of our affection for our children and our competence as parents. They will find it remarkable that we:

  • risked the future of all children with both nuclear weapons and climate change.
  • exposed our children to poisons that undermined their physical, mental, and reproductive health.
  • immersed our children in the artificial world of television, entertainment, and virtual reality, apparently without much thought to the toll that counterfeit reality would exact on their humanity.
  • removed our children from direct contact with animals, farms, forests, and wild places causing a kind of “nature deficit disorder,” an incalculable loss of both spirit and competence.

What can we do to improve parenting? Most important, we must protect children and childhood, which means changing our priorities. As a society, that means such things as fewer shopping malls and more parks; less television and more family time; fewer roads and more trails. It means no child left behind…in every way. It means we must understand how to prepare them to live and flourish in the post-fossil fuel world.

They need to know about solar energy, growing food, shelter, community building, and health. We must prepare them not only to survive in that new world but also to repair it. We should aim to foster and encourage physical stamina, clarity of mind, and commitment to each other and to preserve their common humanity.

That goal requires that we, parents and teachers, foster a sense of hope along with the competence to act faithfully. Hope and competence include old and durable standards of decency, compassion, and foresight but now extended to all life for as far out as we can imagine. But hope grows out of the practical necessities to:

  1. love our children thoughtfully and consistently.
  2. slow the velocity of life by eating together, playing together, reading together, working together.
  3. eat well, which means mostly local, organic, and unprocessed foods.
  4. engage the natural world – more accurately, to enjoy a love affair with it. The natural world is not an abstration…yet.

What parenting rules would you add?

Act now to create a better world for our children and theirs! Please watch and share our new video, ‘Sound the Alarm.’

Taken from Healthy Child Healthy World: Creating a Cleaner, Greener, Safer Home. Reprinted by arrangement with Plume, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Copyright (c) 2009 by Healthy Child Healthy World. To read more from Dr. Orr and many others, pick up your copy of our book, today.