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U.S.A. Popcorn Adventure #6
April 18, 2007

It's Easy Being Green

Ice Age: The Meltdown + Ten Ways to Go Green

When Chicken Little warned that "the sky is falling," no one listened. When Manny, the woolly mammoth in Ice Age: The Meltdown, warns "the ice caps are melting," all the animals flee their tranquil valley to escape a devastating flood. During their flight, Manny falls in love, Diego the Saber-tooth tiger learns to swim and Sid the sloth is worshipped by a tribe of miniature sloths. The kids giggled their way through a movie that packs a powerful environmental punch. Afterwards, we were pelted with questions about whether ice caps could really melt. We wish our answer could have been "Don't worry, it's only a movie," but Manny's mammoth-sized message about our fragile environment is hard to ignore.

If the message is that each citizen of the Earth has to make lifestyle changes to turn the tide on global warming, the good news is that corporations and individuals around the globe are coming up with innovative ways to do just that. We immersed ourselves in several Earth Day magazine articles, and found a plethora of ideas for making our households greener. But getting each member of the household on board was going to be tricky so, we took a family hike in order to reconnect with the land we need to nurture. While taking in the beautiful views, the kids volunteered to help change light bulbs around the house, something they'd heard about at school. But, the news that our many electronic devices are eating up power while we sleep helped them realize that a commitment to green has to be part of every day life. Our daughter's reaction was typical tween: "I turn the faucet off when I brush." As we gently chided that her showers are way too long, we realized we could all do better. One cloth bag at a time.

 
Film Title: Ice Age: The Meltdown
Directed By: Carlos Saldanha
2006, Rated PG, 91 minutes


Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this film:
  • Why this Film is Worth It: If your family loved Ice Age, chances are they'll be charmed by the sequel which, as sequels go, is a pleasant surprise. One of the nice things about the film is that the emotions are very real - characters express fear as well as their fantasies, and the humor quotient is high. Great for kids over seven.
  • Red Flags: Global warming is front and center in this story and small children might be scared by several scenes: ice caps plunge into the valley, and flood waters rise up to reveal two terrifying, pre-historic sea monsters. Death and exinction are the villains of this story. Vultures follow the animals on their trek, clearly waiting for a carcass to be left behind.
  • The Inconvenient Truth: Al Gore's version of this story, which just won an Academy Award is surprisingly kid-friendly: kids can watch at least the first half-hour and get the message. Despite his reliance on charts and graphs, Gore tells a compelling tale. We went with grandparents and a few nine-year old boys, all of whom got the message loud and clear. Click here to read what we said about this film in our LA Edition, this week.

Our tips for talking to your kids about this film:
  • Cinema Savvy: Sequels are rarely as satisfying as the original. Some characters, like Harry Potter, can stand a repeat performance. Ask your kids which characters fared the best in the second go-round. Did they like Sid as much as they did in the first film? How about Scrat, or Diego?
  • Literature Savvy: Even the kids will notice the biblical symbolism. See if they can make the connection between the animals trying to reach "the boat" and Noah's Ark.
  • Scientific Savvy: The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just issued a sobering report, confirming that climate change is inevitable, and that resulting droughts will affect the world's poorest nations, and peoples. Click here to read more.


 

Take a Hike and Discuss how your Household can get Green

Click through to City Savvy for our family-friendly ideas.

Time Allotment: One hour
Age Recommendation: Five and up



Global warming is tough to comprehend but here is a fact that will make you sweat: The current pace of sea-level rise is three times the historical rate, and appears to be accelerating. Here are some things you can do to help:

  • #1. Put your family on a low carbon diet: Home energy counts for 21% of the global warming pollution in our country. Print out these simple, child-friendly suggestions for cutting back your house's emissions, and let the kids get to work. Many ideas are easy to implement (don't use a big oven when a toaster oven works). Leaving electronic devices plugged into the wall when you're not using them still drains energy. We found a smart-power strip that knows to go to sleep when you don't need power. Calculate your families' CO2 emissions (this simple on-line calculator does the work for you). You can purchase a carbon offset credit in projects which reduces or recycles greenhouse gasses.
  • #2. Save a tree: We found a printable letter to help eliminate that pesky junk mail that goes straight into the garbage.
  • #3. Inflate your tires: It really makes a difference in your car's mileage.
  • #4. Change a lightbulb: A compact flourescent lightbulb, or CFL, reduces strain on your home's power grid. Click here to learn why "if every household replaced just three 60-watt incandescent light bulbs with CFLs, we would reduce as much pollution as if we took 3.5 million cars off the roads."
  • #5. Use cloth bags: Do you wonder what to reply when asked "Paper or plastic?" The answer is that a cloth bag is the best solution... you just have to remember to bring it with you when you shop. If you forget, go with paper and follow these simple suggestions: don't double bag, use as few bags as possible and be sure to recycle the bags when you get home. And, save a bag by carrying large items right to the car.
  • #6. Computers Compost: According to Guide Wires Services 40 percent of heavy metals found in landfills today come from discarded electronic equipment. Kids can help by donating old electronics here: cristina.org (refurishes for disabled or financially underprivileged), www.dell.com, wwwlapple.com, www.hp.com/recycle all have programs to take back old ones for a fee or for free if buying a new computer from them.
  • #7. Let your Voice be Heard: Email or write your senator to express your views on what measures should be taken to protect our environment. Or, let your voice be heard through this online march against global warming. It's a simple way to teach kids that every voice counts!
  • #8. Go hybrid: If you can take this big step, congratulations. The latest models have a third row of seats.
  • #9. Think about eating sustainably: The current environmental buzz word is sustainable, meaning consumers should be as resourceful as possible about our limited resources. Fish are a case in point: we should eat only the fish whose populations can be replenished. Here is a printable list for when you shop, or eat out: Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch guide.
  • #10: Keep Reading, and Stay Tuned: The media is covering the green movement with increasing interest. Newspapers and magazines have great ideas to help both households and businesses. We loved the April 9 issue of Time, with 51 ways to go green, as well as the April issue of Town and Country. The Sundance Channel has a new weekly show called The Green (Tuesdays at 9 p.m.) which will address both the global issues and local solutions.

Our City Editors' tips for enjoying this Popcorn Adventure all around the USA:

  • Anywhere: Just find your favorite place to take a picnic, but... don't leave any trash behind! Here are some good links for local hikes: National Park Service - www.nps.gov. Sierra Club - www.sierraclub.org. Also, www.localhikes.com.
  • Boston: Blue Hills' Skyline Trail in nearby Milton is a 5.7 mile well-maintained, moderately difficult loop with beautiful views of Boston.  Local hikers, dogs and hiking-loving families visit the Trailhead year-round at its convenient location just south of Boston (Exit 5 off I-93 S).  There are lots of natural resting areas, viewing towers and a helpful Reservation Headquarters for maps, if needed.  

  • Houston: Enjoy Memorial Park's more than 1,400 acres of biking and jogging trails and then join the Houston Zoo to celebrate Earth Day April 21 & 22, from 10:00 a.m - 3:00 p.m. Fun for the whole family with a variety of activities, arts and crafts, entertainment and music.

  • New York: With 28 acres of park lands over looking the Hudson River, Wave Hill is one of the city's more spectacular spots for a picnic and a hike Check out their Earth Day weekend programing, including several plant based art workshops.

  • San Francisco: Get caught "green-handed" at the SF Zoo's Earth Day celebration, April 21st & 22nd; Check for activity schedule, parking info & days to drop off e-waste (computer, cell phone, etc), batteries and household donations. Donate an old computer and get a free ticket! Go early to avoid long lines. Pack layers - it can get really chilly at the Zoo! 

  • Washington, DC:  Celebrate Earth Day at the National Zoo. On April 22, in the morning, come help plant 1,000 trees along Rock Creek Park which is, coincidentally, a great place to take a family hike. Come with a good idea about how to Stomp Out Carbon and your kids might win a prize.


Click here for instructions on conducting a cool science experiment called Greenhouse Effect in a Jar.

 
Want more? Here are KOTC's picks of films, books, music, and websites that connect your family to more culture.



Want to catch a few more films on the environment? Click here to visit the Kids Off the Couch store at Amazon.com.

Want to read up on the environment? Click here to visit the Kids Off the Couch store at Amazon.com.