Dr. Seuss, my childhood and the environment


As a child born and brought up in Nairobi I was one of those who had the rare privilege of playing in the Nairobi River before it became over polluted. Our estate in Kilimani was beside the river so we used to play in the river, catching small fish with nets or hooks. We also used to catch lobsters and play with them. This was in the 1980’s. Now Nairobi River is too polluted to play in. This is very sad.

Is primary school we used to have science and agriculture as a subject. We had a club, the 4K club. We learnt a lot about the environment, and its conservation. We also learnt about plants and animals and taking care of them. I was one of the people very saddened to hear that now primary school children are not taught agriculture. This is a critical foundation in a way, for children to learn to interact and care for the environment and animals.

I was lucky that in addition to learning science and agriculture, my grandparents also lived in Nairobi and they had a farm where we went every Saturday. I learnt to plant, weed, and harvest food. I also learnt to milk cows, take care of chicken, pigs, rabbits, and goats. So I had a well rounded childhood. A born town who also knew farming.

Which brings me to my topic of conversation. Now that we have removed agriculture from the syllabus and are teaching a diluted science in the 8-4-4 primary school syllabus how do our children learn to conserve the environment?

The other day my nephew and I were watching Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax. It was based on a town where they had no trees and had to buy clean air in bottles like the ones we buy water. The main character a boy had a crush on a girl and she wanted to see a real tree. The boy being in love decided to do the impossible and look for a tree. The last time a tree had been sighted was when his grandmother was young. So he goes on a quest to find a tree. It’s an adventure with drama when the local billionaire (the guy who sells air) tries to stop him.  The boy finally finds out what happened to the trees. Brought down by another man’s greed. And finds a way to rectify the situation.

This movie is a great way to teach kids about the environment. It shows children and adults as well the dangers of cutting down trees. I think my nephew learnt a lesson or too about conserving the environment. This is a must watch movie for both children and adults.

I have potted plants on the side of our house. I consider those my babies. I use them to teach my nephew about plants and the environment. I usually cut up the skins of fruits and use them as manure for those plants. I have taught my nephew to do this and to water them. I have told him that plants are like people, they need to eat and drink. In this way I have taught him a couple of things. One is plants are alive. They need to be taken care of. Two is recycling. He now knows that vegetable and fruit waste do not have to be thrown as rubbish. They can be used to nurture other plants. In this way I am slowly teaching him the cycle of life. Thirdly, I am also teaching him to weed. Not everything beautiful is useful or beneficial. I am teaching him to separate the weeds from the plants. Hopefully there is a lesson there, maybe about people.

Anyway, watching Dr. Seuss made me think about environmental ambassadors. About the type of environmental models we have in Kenya. Prof. Wangari Maratha was a well loved symbol of the environment. But now that she is gone we need others to step up to create a fuss about the environment. In other countries they have environmental celebrities. Celebrities like George Clooney, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Bono, Richard Branson, Leonardo Dicaprio, Gwyneth Paltrow, & Cameron Diaz.

We need celebrities to champion the environment here in Kenya. In upcoming posts I will talk about some people or organizations which are doing a lot as environmental ambassadors including a Rotaract Club the Rotaract Club of Nairobi Central.

I leave you with the words of Dr. Seuss. I couldn’t put it better myself what he says.
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.” It’s not – Dr. Seuss (The Lorax)


PS. check out this link for more green American celebrities.

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  1. This has brought a tear to my eye because its so true, children today, especially in towns in cities do not know the simple joy of eating berries from a random bush, or playing in the river and watching tadpoles do their things… even the art of tree climbing is being locked up in our memories…

    • Tindi that’s why we need environmental ambassadors. To get people children and adults as well to care about the planet, and especially about our country. Where will our children learn about the environment if we don’t teach them and if they also don’t have other role models to emphasize the message.

      Please watch the movie as well. it is fantastic.