Happy Earth Day!
Some people say that every day is (or should be) Earth Day. For me, that’s true. My full-time job is environmental consulting. This means that every day I’m writing about protecting the Earth for a variety of audiences. A lot of the time, this is in the form of regulatory guidance for water protection (think manuals for EPA or state agencies). But there is a very significant public outreach and education component to what I do. Like developing fact sheets that remind pet owners to scoop the poop or educational campaigns to prevent people from using the storm drains on their street as garbage dumps because it all drains directly to the local river or streams. (But you already knew that, right?)
I never really thought there were many similarities between what I do as an environmental consultant and what I do as a kidlit writer. Until now.
And I have the Once-ler to thank for that. (You know, that greedy, green gruvvolous gloved guy from Dr. Seuss’s THE LORAX.)
At the end of THE LORAX, the Once-ler finally gets why the griping Lorax lifted himself away by the seat of his pants, leaving a pile of rocks with only one word: UNLESS. He says, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
And that’s the point of my outreach work as an environmental scientist, as well as a kidlit writer. To make people care a whole awful lot.
When I write about a watershed—the land that drains rain and snowmelt to a specific river, lake, or stream—my goal is to make people care about that place and feel a connection to the problems facing the watershed. Maybe it’s too much bacteria from pet waste or leaky septic systems. Or maybe it’s too many nutrients from people over-fertilizing their lawns. If I don’t succeed in this goal, people won’t feel compelled to take action…that is, getting involved and changing their behavior.
When I write picture books or middle grade, my goal is really quite similar. I need to make the reader care about and feel a connection to my characters and the problems that they face. If I don’t succeed in this goal, readers won’t feel compelled to take action…that is, turning the page and continue reading.
So, here’s to using our words to make our readers care a whole awful lot. And here’s to our words making the world a better place, today and every day.
My question to you…is there a story besides THE LORAX that you read or share in honor of Earth Day? My two picks are Peter Brown’s THE CURIOUS GARDEN and I.C. Springman’s MORE with illustrations by Brian Lies.