Mothers of Intention: From Cartoons to Carbon Reduction, by Krystal Ball

I’m pleased to have as today’s Mother of Intention Krystal Ball, who ran for Congress in the First Congressional District in Virginia in 2010.  Unfortunately, Krystal lost her race, but that hasn’t put an end to her political activism.  As a mother of a two-year-old daughter, Krystal is keeping the pressure on policymakers, especially when it comes to issues that are important to her, including the environment.

My husband (who is 40) likes to say that from his generation to my generation (I’m 29) to the young people in college now, a lot has changed in terms of environmentalism. His generation drove an SUV and was proud of it. My generation still drove the SUV but felt guilty about it. And today’s co-eds actually forgo the SUV.

A lot has already been written about the commitment of millennials to the environment. A recent poll confirms that it is indeed a much more important issue to today’s young people with 9 out of 10 millennials professing a belief that previous generations had damaged our environment and that they would have to clean it up.  Statistics like these give me hope and optimism for our future. As the mother of a toddler though, I find myself wondering what passions and commitments will drive my daughter’s generation.

Today’s millennials may argue with the older generation about environmentalism or global warming, and for a time the forces of industrial-realism may seem to be ascendant (see the 2010 midterms). But there is no doubt about where the next generation is going. For example, I’ve been taking in my fair share of toddler TV programming. I can’t help but notice that a lot of these shows have a plot line of “Save the X.” Save the Puppies (Wonder Pets), Save the Mermaids (Dora), and in my daughter Ella’s current favorite, Diego saves a different animal every single episode. Clearly some marketer has done the focus tests and recognized that the toddler set likes to save things but I’ve also noticed that a lot of times, we’re saving the X from some environmental disaster.

Specifically, as I watched Diego this week with Ella, he saved a baby ring seal from melting ice caves (presumably caused by global warming). The episode ends with Diego instructing the toddlers to remember to turn the lights off so they can help cool the planet. Similarly Dora saves the Mermaids from garbage in the ocean. I have no idea what happens with the puppies. I can’t stand the Wonder Pets.

Just as open racism has gone from socially acceptable to taboo in less than thirty years, so too will an industrial realism that doesn’t place our environmental obligations at center stage. The older generation sneers with contempt that a spotted owl might displace a factory or prevent an economically important logging operation. It’s as if the spotted owl became the Cadillac driving welfare queen of environmentalism. However, Ella’s generation is being socialized to “Save the Spotted Owl” from infancy and they will not accept that you put away your environmentalism when you put away your dolls or your Tonka trucks.

Ella sees a color- blind world, filled with animals that need our help. She is raised around the company of gay people and conservative Christians. Her generation will start from the deep sense of environmental obligation that their millennial parents have and take that obligation one step forward. In thirty years, the people who are in power now who grew up under the cloak of an industrial realism that saw jobs and the environment in perpetual tension will be retired and a new generation of leader who sees environmentalism as a moral and economic imperative will be ascendant. And we will have, in part, Diego to thank.

Krystal Marie Ball is a 29-year-old former Congressional candidate and current Democratic Strategist in addition to being a Certified Public Accountant, software engineer, small business owner and mother. You can learn more about Krystal at www.krystalonline.com

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