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Canada's Nuclear Future

Look for the Helpers: Conversations with Climate-Anxious Kids

Author Phillip Craig, Director of the NII Explore program at the Nuclear Innovation Institute (NII), with his new book Passing Gas: How Clean Energy Makes the World Less Smelly. Photos courtesy of NII.
Phillip Craig hs

Phillip Craig

Director of NII Explore, Nuclear Innovation Institute (NII)

Phillip is the Director of the NII Explore program at the Nuclear Innovation Institute in Port Elgin, Ontario.

A hefty dose of fatalism sets in after a while in any conversation about climate change.

Whether it’s disagreements over technology types in the push to net zero, a lack of globally unified government leadership, or the sheer scale of transformation that needs to happen if we’re to prevent the worst effects of climate change — this can be a hard subject to stay positive about.

But how are we shielding our children from all that negativity?

In short, we’re not.

A global study in The Lancet found that nearly 60 per cent of young people feel very or extremely worried about climate change, reporting that respondents felt “betrayal” from governmental responses more than reassurance.

So, where do we go from here?

Clean energy, carbon emissions — and fluffy yellow ducks?

I often think about what kind of world my children will grow up in — and about how I can talk to them or any young person about the realities of climate change without making it too scary or overwhelming.

So, when an opportunity arose last year to collaborate with North American Young Generation in Nuclear (NAYGN) on a book about climate change geared toward younger children, I jumped at the chance.

Titled Passing Gas: How Clean Energy Makes the World Less Smelly, the book’s rhymes guide readers through the causes and effects of carbon emissions — seen through the eyes of fluffy yellow ducks who are simply trying to keep the world clean.

But greenhouse gases — which are “tooted” into the atmosphere from natural gas, coal, and oil power plants — are making this difficult, which prompts a choir of ducks to respond:

For the environment’s sake, we just shouldn’t risk it and let fossil fuels get away with these nasty air biscuits.

Complete with leveled questions for further discussion at home or in the classroom, the book is geared toward children from preschool to grade six.

Look for the helpers

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’

Fred Rogers

For this year’s Nuclear Science Week (October 17-21), we’re celebrating the positive benefits that nuclear energy brings to those in our communities, our neighbourhoods — and beyond.

I grew up on the closest dairy farm to the largest nuclear generating station in North America. Nuclear power has always been in my neighbourhood, and my hope — the reason I wrote this book — is that children will take Mr. Rogers’ advice and look for climate change helpers in their own community.

Here in Bruce County, those helpers are parents, friends and neighbours who work in the nuclear industry. Providing more than 60 percent of Ontario’s clean energy, nuclear power is a key tool as we work towards lowering our carbon emissions.

Combining factual information with funny rhymes and some mild bathroom humour, my goal with this book is to bring STEM education, environmental awareness and a bit of hope to the youngest climate anxious among us.

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