Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 1, 2003
Wistful childhood memories
Today's society robs our children of their right to be a safe child
By SUZANNE ELSTON
The thing that I remember most about growing up in Edmonton in the early 1960s was the freedom. From the time I could ride my two-wheeler without my dad holding on to the back of my seat, our neighbourhood was mine to explore.
On weekends and holidays I would get up early, pack up a lunch and meet my best friend at the curb. We'd ride like the wind until we reached the ravine, and then we'd drop our bikes under a tree and spend the day hiking, catching tadpoles and imagining all kinds of wild adventures. We'd stop long enough to eat a quick sandwich and then we'd be off again climbing, laughing, being kids.
We knew it was time to head home when the shadows of the day grew long. Our bikes would always be right where we had left them hours before. Nobody ever thought to steal or vandalize them. It just wasn't done.
Today's realityThis summer our daughter Sarah finally mastered her two-wheeler. Like me, she was a late bloomer, but once she finally felt secure riding her bike, she wanted to go off on her own adventures.
"Can I ride up to the store by myself, Mom?" she asked. My reaction was immediate.
"No, honey, not yet," I answered.
"When, Mom?" she replied.
I thought about my own adventures and how those magical bike rides had been a source of such joy. I thought about how things have changed how kids once safe on the street are now abducted out of their beds.
"Honey, I honestly don't know."
Cecilia Jang abductionAnd I don't. This world, once safe for children, has become a frightening place. Sarah is nine, the same age as Cecilia Zhang. When I see her grief stricken parents on television, I am overcome with compassion and fear. I can't imagine how I would ever cope with such a tragedy, and yet horrors such as these are becoming more commonplace.
The dangers are both real and hidden. Our environment poses a serious threat to our children, too. Invisible poisons in the air that they breathe, the food that they eat, and the parks where they play accumulate in their growing bodies. The result is a steady increase in childhood cancers, asthma and allergies.
According to Dr. Herbert Needleman, toxicologist and professor of child psychiatry and pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, "We are conducting a vast experiment on our children."
Needleman is just one of the experts featured in a new documentary currently in production. If You Love Our Children: Children's Health and the Environment is a project of the Toronto-based Women's Healthy Environments Network. The film will be a public education tool that will help to raise awareness and offer positive and creative strategies for making our world a cleaner and safer place for our children.
The film is produced by Dorothy Goldin-Rosenberg. Goldin-Rosenberg's earlier documentary, Exposure: Environmental Links to Breast Cancer was critically acclaimed and named best health documentary by the New York Independent Film Festival in 2001.
As Goldin-Rosenberg points out, our children are particular vulnerable to environmental contamination because their systems are still developing. Exposure starts even before they are born. Toxins pass through the placenta to the developing fetus and are also transferred to infants through breast milk.
As toddlers they crawl on the ground or the floor where they are exposed to contaminated dust and soil, pesticides, lead paint, household chemicals and other substances. As they grow they eat proportionately more food, drink more fluids, breathe more air and are outside more than adults, and as a result are exposed to even more contaminants.
As much as things have changed, the joy of being a child remains a constant. As parents and as members of the family of man, we owe it to our children to protect them as best we can from dangers both seen and unseen.
Recommended websites:For more information about the documentary, If You Love Our Children: Children's Health and the Environment or to make a tax-creditable donation, visit the Women's Healthy Environments Network (WHEN) at www.whenvironments.ca.
The Block Parent Program of Canada is a registered charity and Canada's largest volunteer-run child safety organization. Over 300,000 volunteers from coast to coast help to make communities safer for everyone. For more information visit www.blockparent.ca.
Neighbourhood Watch programs offer local communities passive crime prevention strategies. Community programs are organized through local police departments, volunteers or city outreach programs. The Edmonton Neighbourhood Watch Program Society operates under the auspices of the Edmonton Police Service and with the assistance of the community league movement. To find out more visit www.watch.edmonton.ab.ca.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.