Two weeks ago, I brought my youngest son to work with me, in support of the Take Our Sons and Daughters to Work Day (TODS). This is a national event, but supported and encouraged by UC Davis, celebrating their 20th year by participating in this event this year. The idea behind this day is to expose children, ages 6 to 12, to seeing parents and mentors at work, and to see how they contribute to society. I feel pretty lucky to work where I do and to do what I do, because it is pretty cool from a 7 year old’s perspective. In my experience, most kids love animals, and most kids have that sky-is-the-limit mentality of wanting to make the world a better place. I guess it is in the process of growing up that we lose a lot of that naivety, so when I am around kids, it gives me new eyes and new energy, which I find very refreshing. I think that adults could use more kid-like sense at times.
I wish I had recorded the conversation that my son and I had on our way to work that morning. We somehow got into the topic of dispersants, probably because I followed the Deepwater Horizon spill so closely, and in the process, exposed my sons to it. I also (finally) just finished the book I was reading last time I blogged “A Sea in Flames” (Carl Safina). In any case, we got into the topic of why dispersants were used to clean up the oil in the Gulf. He asked how they were going to clean up the dispersants. He couldn’t quite grasp the concept of dumping bad stuff into the ocean to get rid of other bad stuff. While at work, he watched me answer a bunch of emails, take a couple of phone calls, and helped me sort and staple some forms that needed to go to his school for an outreach that we did a few weeks back. That was the boring stuff. We then went to lunch at one of the cafeterias on campus that had excellent food (that was the exciting part of the day), before going to a few places on campus that had special events scheduled for that day.
We had a fun day, overall, although I think my son was a bit disappointed he didn’t get to wash oil off any birds or sea otters (actually, he knows that my typical day involves sitting in meetings or in front of my computer!). But I do think that exposing children to what we do and what we believe in has lasting effects on the people they become, and that is all we can hope for. I would like to end this blog with some food for thought from “A Sea in Flames”, which I believe puts the Deepwater Horizon spill, and any other spill, in perspective. (I know I quoted this book in my last blog too, and I promise not to quote it again).
“Various people, from the president on out, have called this blowout ‘ the worst environmental catastrophe in American history’…” “…The oil that is getting into the ocean has everyone’s attention. It was supposed to be refined to help power civilization, not spew waste and devastation. But Plan A, burning the oil – and coal, and gas – in our engines is continually adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere at the inconceivable rate of a thousand tons a second, billions of tons a year. That spill is invisible. Rather than washing up on one coast and scaring tourists, this spill, spread in time and space, is slowly coating the whole world. There is no single company at which to point fingers. In this, we are all involved.” “…The worst environmental disaster in history isn’t the oil that got away. The real catastrophe is the oil we don’t spill. It’s the oils we run through our engines as intended. It’s the oil we burn, the coal we burn, the gas we burn. The worst spill – the real catastrophe – is the carbon dioxide we spill out of our tailpipes and smokestacks every second of every day, year upon decade.”
May is Bike Month, and my sons and I have tried to bike to school and work every day. This effort will have little overall effect on the amount of carbon dioxide that we save from going into the air by riding our bikes, but in the grand scheme of things and looking at the larger picture, I am hoping that this simple act will have a lasting effect on my children. I hope that before they get into a car they will be aware of more environmentally friendly options, and I hope that they understand that each decision they make can have consequences. Most of all, I hope that their wish to make the world a better place never leaves them.