21 October 2020

I'm one of those millennials who thinks climate change is a reason to not have kids

| Zoya Patel
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Bushfire at Braidwood

Is it fair to raise a child in a world to face the challenges of climate change? Photo: Jarrah Knowles.

A few years ago, a couple in my social circle split up. They had been together for years, becoming a fixture at our catch-ups and events. Then all of a sudden, they were no longer together. The word on the street was that they broke up because he was adamant that he wouldn’t have children because of the impacts of climate change – the risk to their future safety and ability to live happy lives was too great, in his view, to justify it. She did want kids, so they parted ways.

Hearing this story, I could relate to fear that climate change sparked in this friend.

I, too, worried that bringing more children into the world when we know that the impacts of climate change are only going to worsen over time, would be irresponsible.

My partner disagreed. He could see the nuance of the issue.

Specifically, he pointed out that middle-class people like ourselves living in first-world countries could actually be part of the solution for climate change, and raising smart, ethically minded children wasn’t irresponsible at all.

Now I’m in my early 30s, and the question is becoming more urgent. I know that I want children, but I’m plagued by fears about their long-term prospects in this world. Is having children now, when experts increasingly warn that we’re unlikely to be able to avoid 1.5 degrees of global warming, a fair proposition to the child in question? Is it justifiable to consign a child to a life of natural disasters and extreme weather events and the resulting economic insecurity?

Or are these the questions that every generation grapples with when it comes to having children, and the world that they will live in? I know that a generation or two ago, similar fears were held about nuclear power, or war, or any number of other pressing world events. Is this just the issue that my generation has to grapple with in our time?

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It’s likely that for the most part, my child would have a fairly ordinary life for their childhood, and the worst effects of climate change wouldn’t emerge until I was dead and they were fully functioning adults. As some would say, it’s presumptuous and perhaps unfair to assume the worst and not allow their lives to unfold as my own has, with the same degree of uncertainty we all live with.

My parents had four children in Fiji, a country plagued by political unrest and violent coups, where both had been raised in poverty by their families. They didn’t question the validity of having children because they loved their lives despite the challenges, and wanted to experience them fully, which means raising a family.

Is it a marker of my privilege that I assume that any life less secure and easy than mine is too terrible to consign a child to?

There are plenty of valid reasons to choose not to have a child, including this one. Similarly, there are many, many excellent reasons to have a child, and I know from the experience of watching my nieces and nephews grow up what a joy it is, and also the uniqueness of each child which suggests that no one experience will be the same for all kids born from my generation.

But I still find myself flushed with anxiety when I think about living through a bushfire season like the one just past with the added fear of protecting my children; or watching the global economic downturn from the pandemic, and wondering whether our children will have to live with even worse job insecurity and economic uncertainty because of the changing climate.

Am I being too paranoid, or is there just cause to choose childlessness in the face of climate change?

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Queanbeyanite5:29 pm 29 Oct 20

Good for you luv, keep up the good work…

russianafroman3:34 pm 25 Oct 20

Very nihilist piece, lol. Having kids is your personal choice. It’s definitely a conundrum, nowadays people are so busy that it’s a huge derailment. But yeah the world in general is overpopulated, especially in developing countries. But having kids is a great thing, I have no negative thoughts towards people who have kids.

And your point is ?

Trees in Canberra survive temperature variations of over forty degrees between winter and summer and will not be affected by a slight increase or decrease in average temperatures. If people prone to irrational fears and faulty logic had less children that would raise Australia’s average IQ.

And your point is ?

A Nonny Mouse6:03 pm 22 Oct 20

The commentators who disregard and/or distain climate science are being especially grumpy today! Could it be they have not got over the recent election result in the ACT?

James Savoulidis1:52 pm 22 Oct 20

Don’t have kids, we have enough Greenies in this city, let us irresponsible Liberal voters outbreed you. 2040 is our year!

It’s a complex topic – having children or not is a deeply personal choice. Climate change is a real and serious issue, and there’s multiple lenses to look through.
1. I think there is a real ethical (?) conundrum of those opting out citing future doom, and raising an eyebrow at parents, whilst continuing to live a first world lifestyle into the future.
2. Child born now will hopefully be active in an innovative and productive society that may adapt to their circumstances, and are a necessary prerequisite to the retirement of those of child-bearing age now.
3. As the author touches on, throughout history many have been born into far more grim and immediate circumstances, including catastrophic levels of infant mortality. This is not to say “don’t worry about it”, but for general perspective on the human condition.

The fact that this is an article is testament to the fear mongering about climate change that has infected younger generations.

Climate change is real and it is a serious issue but the people that talk about it as an existential issue are just as bad as those who say it doesn’t exist.

We need to control and adapt to climate change as much as possible, but it’s not going to end human life on this planet and it’s an anti-science position to extrapolate the potential worst outcomes as if they are a given.

Wonder if they thought that way when the ice age ended? You know, everything was warming up so fast, the east coast of Australia retracted 50-100km in a generation with sea level rise, lots of animals went extinct…

Capital Retro5:01 pm 22 Oct 20

And when did that happen, switch?

The children of those parents that denied kids never protest, never change the world or do better.

This is all kinds of silly

Capital Retro7:46 am 22 Oct 20

Yes Zoya, you are being too paranoid. No matter what we do the climate will change as it has been for millions of years. Bushfires and weather events on the scale of the ones 9 months ago will happen every 50 years as they have in the past, pandemics will happen every 100 years as they have throughout history and economic upheaval with unemployment will cycle through our lives as it has before.

You have more to worry about from the influence of self-appointed experts who are manipulating young people through social media.

Zoya, let I, a male boomer, who won’t be around when this really starts to bite, tell you how shrill, silly and wrong you are.

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