Putting the ‘L’ back

Written by Karen Szydlik

Last week I was listening to Tim Flannery on the Science Show presented by Robyn Williams on ABC Radio National (Australia). It was the recording of Tim Flannery’s appearance at the Planet Talks, part of Womadelaide, April 2018. He was speaking about climate change and transitioning to renewable energy. Tim Flannery is renowned for his views on climate change and as I discovered listening to this program, his first degree was in literature and the Arts, his second science: Mammology


The program in itself was interesting and I took much away from it, even as I zoned in and out as I drove the children to parties and footy and the usual Saturday morning events. However, a question from the floor really grabbed my interest.

It was from an Early Childhood Educator, my field, so my ears pricked up, as navigated the traffic in my car

Question:Tim, I’m one of a couple of early childhood educators sitting here today, committed to actually breaking down these very difficult concepts to the understanding of four- and five-year-olds, … we strongly believe that if we actually educate these young people and they go on with this in their education for the future, that there is hope for us all. I guess my question is do we have time to wait for these four- and five-year-olds who then can have these ideals instilled in them from now through to the future, do we have time to wait for that?”


I was delighted  that there were Early Childhood Educators in the audience, waving the flag, so to speak, though I suspected that the content of the day had already given her, her answer as there was an urgency throughout his message.

Tim Flannery: No, no we don’t, we have to be the Colossuses that hold up the sky for those kids, to give them time to grow, and then fulfil their part of that process, because we are not going to solve the problem over our generation, but unless we perform superbly this next decade, they won’t have the opportunity to the full to do what they can to address the problem. Look, for me, four-year-olds and five-year olds are the most precious resource we have. To keep their imagination alive and give them a sense of optimism are the most important things, and a sense of confidence really at that age, because they are the ones who will go on and take full advantage of some of these opportunities like seaweed farming or carbon-negative technologies.

Our job now is to cut emissions I think and start creating those opportunities because they are not going to be mature for several decades at the scale we want. It’s like wind and solar, it took four decades to grow to where they are today. Well, these new carbon negative technologies are probably going to develop along similar timelines, just because it takes a long time to grow those industries. But it is, it’s all about for me imagination, possibility, confidence, love, all of those things, you know it better than I do.

This last piece was the piece that stayed with me “it’s all about (for me) imagination, possibility, confidence, love, all of those things, you know it better than I do.”

Tim Flannery’s words stayed in my head until later in the evening when I wrote on a Facebook post

“Tim Flannery on the ABC Science Show this morning on climate change and in response to an Early Childhood Teacher’s question: ‘can we wait for the next generation?’. (paraphrased) No! we must do the work now. I see 4 and 5 year olds as our greatest assets. Imagination, hope and confidence..are most important for them. They will need time to mature..we need to do the work we can do now and they will do it later …
This speaks so loudly to the reason why early childhood educators need to create the conditions for children’s imaginations to flourish…so that they are creative and that one day their capacity for imagination, creativity and thinking outside the square will result in unique and innovative solutions to the world’s problems.” (Szydlik , Facebook post)

I wanted to highlight imagination. The importance of imagination in a child’s life and the importance of educators planning for learning which supports a flourishing imagination. How often have we heard it said that we need new solutions to the worlds issues, it is no use repeating the old if the problems have not yet been resolved. A new approach is needed. And how often do we hear teachers and parents shutting down children’s imaginative responses to questions and wonderings with answers from an adult perspective which stunts this imaginative growth.

And yet there is something else here. In my blogpost, I chose to leave out Tim Flannery’s word LOVE.

Love is a word I am comfortable with. I use it frequently, I believe in the power of love and I feel it. Yet I deliberately left it out of mt Facebook post even though I was SO joyful when I heard Flannery use it. Why? Why did I deliberately, consciously leave it out?

My thought process went something like “If I leave the word love in, the readers will think it is wishy washy and won’t pay attention to the message. The importance of creating spaces for children’s imaginations to flourish.”  So I left it out, even though Tim Flannery had including it in his science based discussion on climate change and renewable energy.

Why would I think the word LOVE would not be received well by my colleagues in the field of education…