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History doesn’t repeat itself but it rhymes

~ Attributed to Mark Twain

One of the highlights on Election Night 2012 was when Obama alluded to Hurricane Sandy in his victory speech, saying that we all want our children to live in an America that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.

As the audience applauded, a few of us here at Pacha’s Pajamas mused “It’s about time.” This prominent mention gave us HOPE that Obama will become a potential partner in addressing climate change for the next four years and beyond in service to our youngest and future generations. As the moment slipped away, one may have wondered if Obama had not purposefully waited until after the votes had been counted, believing that he could not beat Romney on climate. Clearly, Obama hadn’t anticipated the dramatic emergence of the climate as an issue in the waning days of the campaign.

Three weeks earlier, had lamented in an email to supporters that despite a historic summer heat wave punctuated by failed crops and forest fires, neither Obama, Romney, Biden nor Ryan mentioned climate change in the presidential debates.

The warning signs can’t be ignored, but our politicians have gone silent. The reason couldn’t be more obvious: the fossil fuel industry has spent over $150 million dollars on this election already, with more on the way. Corporate polluters have bought the silence of our elected leaders, so it's time for us to take the lead. On November 7th we're beginning a national tour to jumpstart the movement we need to fix this crisis.

The day after the election, launched the Do the Math tour, urging Obama and our leaders to acknowledge that we must not burn all the carbon in the ground if we hope to stay below 2°C of warming.

Sandy To Obama’s Rescue

Two weeks before election night, mainstream media seemed to have convinced itself that the presidential race was dead even.  But Hurricane Sandy changed everything.  Soon after after the superstorm hit the eastern seaboard, the previously-silent-on-the-issue media and Democrats were quick to point out that Romney had, in fact, ridiculed Obama’s climate stance at the RNC, saying


President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans... {LAUGHTER and APPLAUSE] And to heal the planet... My promise is to help you and your family... [APPLAUSE]

Ultimately, the climate by way of Hurricane Sandy, afforded Obama the opportunity to step into his role as the Commander in Chief, while Romney was relegated to photo ops on relief buses.  Obama rose to the occasion, notably receiving accolades from New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie for his guidance of federal support during and after the devastating storm.  Obama saw a post-storm 4-6% uptick in his approval rating.  In a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll of likely voters, about 70 percent said they approved of how Obama dealt with the storm.  In Sandy’s aftermath, Republicans lamented that Hurricane Sandy had put the brakes on Romney's campaign.

Lessons From a Living Universe

Lately, we’ve been seeing more currency in the perspective that we are living in an intelligent, living universe that evolves to give us exactly what we need. With all due concern and respect to the victims of Hurricane Sandy, what might Sandy be telling us about our relationship to the air we breathe?

What if Sandy and Irene and other destructive storms are nature’s way of signalling that we need to stop polluting our air?  Might Sandy be just the latest example of our carbon emission “chickens” coming home to roost?

When you look at Hurricanes from space, you see a spiral pattern called the golden ratio.  This same pattern is seen at every level of the natural world from Hubble’s photos of distant galaxies, nautilus shells, and even the way that water flows down the sink.

There’s no doubt that nature has an evolving plan with dynamic patterns more powerful and complex than can be seen at first glance. We like to think it wasn’t a coincidence that Hurricane Irene prevented Mos Def (aka Yasiin Bey) from returning to New York after an August 2011 show in San Francisco, thereby providing the opportunity for us to record him narrating the Pacha’s Pajamas album.

Our elders teach us that growth in our lives is usually accompanied by discomfort if not pain.  Many of us have experienced this in our own lives.  What if growth works the same way on the societal level?  How many more superstorms do we need to convince and/or inspire us to change our collective behavior, and thereby “grow up” as a society?

Coming full circle, I often wonder when will we have an elected representatives who campaign on the basis of evidence-based policies that heal the earth and win because of it. Or because she says and acts as if we are all connected. Or because he says that clean air is a civil right in the United States.  It can’t be too soon...

Making Kids Fall in Love With Nature


People change when they awaken to what is already inside them

~ Paul Hawken

A survey of award-winning children’s picture books suggests that our estrangement from the natural environment is increasing. Based on a Sociological Inquiry Review of the images of the 238 Caldecott award winning pictures books from 1938 to 2008, children's books have significantly fewer depictions of natural environments and animals since the 1970s, and the frequency of these depictions have been decreasing.


These findings suggest that today’s generation of children are not being socialized, at least through this source, toward an understanding and appreciation of the natural world and the place of humans within it.

Our Children’s Pop Musical, Pacha’s Pajamas, bucks the trend. It is the story of a little girl who falls in love with Nature, realizes that she is part of nature and that she has everything she needs within herself to have positive impact on the world.

We figure if kids are in love with nature, they will demand clean air and ultimately become supporters of clean legislation. Today’s kids are not only tomorrow’s parents, teachers and leaders but also hugely influential right now as children. Once one fully understands and acknowledges the connections between air, the environment and our health, clean air becomes of paramount concern.  The US EPA notes:


You could go days without food and hours without water, but you would last only a few minutes without air. On average, each of us breathes over 3,000 gallons of air each day. You must have air to live. However, did you know that breathing polluted air can make you sick?

Air pollution can damage trees, crops, other plants, lakes, and animals. In addition to damaging the natural environment, air pollution also damages buildings, monuments, and statues. It not only reduces how far you can see in national parks and cities, it even interferes with aviation.

Yes, and it changes our climate.  Hopefully, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases will soon be recognized as air pollutants as well.

A Platform for Families to Talk about Clean Air

Pacha’s Pajamas is designed to be a platform for starting and furthering family conversations about clean air, as well as other other important issues that affect child development.  Pacha lives in a city and spends very little time in nature.  She has asthma. After an asthma attack, Pacha’s mom presents her brave little girl with a new pair of pajamas. That night as Pacha falls asleep, the animals and plants on her pajamas come alive in her dream.

Disguised as a small gorilla, Pacha discovers an unlikely group of creatures feeling sad about the state of their home. A jaguar exclaims that something in the air is making the weather act strange and that there is less rain to fill their water holes.  In response, the group decides to organize a nature festival to bring together the entire phylogenetic tree and save the planet.  Midway through the festival (and the end of Volume I), a superstorm hurricane hits, causing all species to come together to face a new shared challenge.

We encourage families to read and/or listen to Pacha’s Pajamas together and then to have conversations about how clean air shows up in the story.  Here are some questions to lead the conversations.


  • At what points does clean air factor into the story?
  • What do we learn about clean air from Pacha's Pajamas?
  • What does Pacha’s Pajamas inspire you to do with respect to nature or for the environment?

We also encourage groups of families to play a theatrical activity called “Pacha Jamma” with a focus on clean air.  Families recreate the Pacha Jamma festival in the story with family members performing from the perspective of animals and plants or themselves. Any type of performance is encouraged, e.g., singing, playing music, dancing, spoken word, speeches, etc.  Ideally the content will communicate a perspective or commentary on clean air.

For example, shared performances might communicate a perspective or commentary about the value of clean air. A child portraying a bee could imagine and express how changing the air quality plays a part in their day-to day life.

The extent to which families demand political action could determine whether our representatives have sufficient support to create the clean air future we all want.  Be it kids influencing parents or vice versa, family conversations about this issue are crucial to our collective health and well being.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of strongly encourages our readers to post comments in response to blog posts. We value diversity of opinions and perspectives. Our goals for this space are to be educational, thought-provoking, and respectful. So we actively moderate comments and we reserve the right to edit or remove comments that undermine these goals. Thanks!

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