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Writing about the Environment and Climate for Children by Carol Ann Treacy

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Carol Ann Treacy

Carol Ann Treacy

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The Call of the Wild: Carol Ann Treacy on writing about the environment and climate for children.

Sometimes I think we forget how much there is to gain from spending time in nature and paying attention to what is happening to the environment around us. I think now, with children spending so much time online, encouraging them to take an interest in the environment and the natural world through writing and illustrating has never been more important. From the patterns and cycles of the tiniest creatures, to the soaring heights of the flight paths of migratory birds around the world, to the strange creatures lurking in the darkest depths of the ocean floor, we truly do live on an awesome and inspiring planet. With so much scope for discovery and fuel for the imagination, I think reading about the environment and about the natural world can give children something more than knowledge; it can also give them perspective.

Since the pandemic hit there has been a major shift in thinking about our human condition. Despite all of its tragic impact, “Covid-19” has also given the world a much-needed jolt – a greater respect for this wondrous planet which we inhabit (and a not so gentle reminder that the world does not revolve around us humans but rather it is other way around). Many people say it is as if we were all living in a bubble before, either blindsided or choosing to ignore all the environmental problems that our consumer-led way of life is creating.  I believe nature is our greatest teacher and this is the main reason why I like to write children’s fiction that focuses on the environment. I am very passionate about nature. I really feel when you are writing about something it has to be something you are passionate about – kids get that, and it is wonderfully infectious. It is easy to be passionate about the environment and our climate; after all, it affects us all. In saying that, the environment and climate issues can also be scary topics for children (and adults) and I feel as a writer it is necessary to be careful not to frighten children with apocalyptic scenarios – the last thing any (tired) parent wants at bed time or any time, is to cause their child worry. While on the one hand it is important to educate children on the dangers of the wild, on climate problems and environmental matters that will impact future generations, it is even more important not to overwhelm them. You need to know what information your little reader will want to know, and you want to give them an honest account without boring them to tears or frightening the be-jaysus out of them. Rapid climate and environmental changes that are happening now are indeed worrying. When writing children’s fiction about such issues, I think it is vital that the story empowers the child and makes them think that if we all focus on what we can do to help we can overcome whatever changes occur.

When I was writing Barney Goose – A Wild Atlantic Way Adventure (O’Brien Press 2020), I found out a huge amount about barnacle geese and the environments they live in. Barnacle geese are cute little black and white geese that fly from Greenland every year to our western shores in winter. These geese make an incredible journey every year and learning about this journey was a huge motivator for me to stay working at it even when I didn’t feel like it. Barney is a solitary adopted goose who goes on a journey along the Wild Atlantic Way, through a storm and then on to meet a tribe he didn’t know he had. They all fly off through the Northern lights to Greenland together where the life cycle of the next generation will start. Barney Goose is a picture book for very young children (3-6). It is a simple book about instinct and determination with a little Irish geography thrown in. My hope for Barney Goose is that the simple story sparks an interest for young children in the life cycle of geese and an understanding of and a respect for the environments they live in.

At the moment, I am working on a new book about a child and their parent joining forces to help an endangered species. Here, I am again trying to focus young children on why it is good to respect the environment and what we can do to help protect it. I believe a lot of the damage to the environment has been done for human profit and people need to call that out as severely short sighted – short-term gains for a few and long-term losses for the majority. My hope for the future would be that increasing awareness and concern for the environment will lead to better protection of all kinds of vulnerable species in the wild world. I would encourage anyone passionate about the environment to write about it.  Taking positive action for protecting the environment is something worth writing about. It is the responsibility of every human being to protect the environment for generations to come so that they too can enjoy the gifts of nature that we enjoy today.

(c) Carol Ann Treacy

About Barney Goose – A Wild Atlantic Way Adventure:

Tom the lighthouse keeper finds an egg washed up on the beach in West Cork. When it hatches, young Barney Goose lives happily with Tom, until he feels a need to fly! What will Barney find as as he travels the Wild Atlantic Way from West Cork all the way to Donegal? And why does he feel a need to fly there?

A beautiful picture book showing the sights of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic way.

Order your copy online here.

Barney Goose – A Wild Atlantic Way Adventure was one of the featured books as a part of The Reading Agency’s Summer Reading Challenge 2021. It is available to purchase from your local bookshop or at obrien.ie. Visit summerreadingchallenge.org.uk/ or your local library on how to get your child involved in next year’s Challenge.

About the author

Carol Ann Treacy is an Irish children’s author, illustrator and graphic designer. She lives in Kilkenny in a very messy house with her husband, two children and a bunch of wild cats; She loves to travel and sometimes wishes she could fly. She thinks geese are great. Honk!

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