One day, not long ago, the kiddos and I were driving to the grocery store. On our way there, we passed over a big hill where you can see the city around us. Maddie looked out the window and asked me, "What are those things?" She was pointing to the two "smoke stacks" of our city's electrical plant. I wondered how I could explain what those are to her? Billows of grayish smoke tainted the otherwise perfectly blue winter sky. I took a breath, ready for all the "why's" that were about to come, and started explaining:
"Well, those are called smoke stacks. That is smoke coming out of the top. That is where they make electricity by burning oil and coal."
"What is coal?"
"Coal is a little black hard thing, like a rock, that is easy to burn and when you burn it it makes energy to then make electricity. But, coal is not a good way to make electricity."
"Well, because when it burns it makes something called Carbon Dioxide and too much of that makes planet Earth too warm, and stuff that isn't good can happen when the Earth gets too hot."
"Too hot, like it burns?"
"Yes, kind of. It can make the ice in the North Pole melt too fast and then the Polar Bears won't have anywhere to live and that would be sad. So we have to make sure we do things every day to not make too much Carbon Dioxide. Like recycle, not drive too much, turn off the lights when we aren't using them and maybe we should call the electricity people and ask them if they could use something else, instead of coal. Sounds good?"
"Yeah. Can I touch Polar Bears?"
"Only pretend ones."