Bringing A Child Onto Our Dying Planet

My period was one week late when the 2018 UN Climate Report was published. Headlines like “We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe” and “Major Climate Report Describes a Strong Risk of Crisis as Early as 2040,” and “Climate Report Warns Of Extreme Weather, Displacement Of Millions Without Action” were circling my feeds.

I hadn’t taken a pregnancy test yet, but I knew what it would tell me if I did. That in 12 years, my baby would be 12 years-old. That in 2040, the cells morphing in my body would be a 21 year old human. That the pending “catastrophes” and “crises” and “extreme weather” and “displacements” were going to impact my child’s life while the people who did the damage were either dead or too old to care.

Smoke on Lake Alpine, California | by Leora Katz

My heart sunk deeper and my eyes grew wider as I read details of the report.

Fuck.

I already knew the Earth was warming because of human action, and that the effects were negative and significant. But this UN Climate Report was different. It showed the environmental situation was worse than even scientists had realized. So of course a useless person like me was left horrified.

Especially one who was simultaneously realizing she’d be bringing a child onto a planet with a very bleak future…

There are people who choose not to have children because of the health of our planet.

Besides the environmental impact of a new human, they’re educated enough on climate science to understand how urgent the issues are, how ambitious the solutions need to be, and how few people are paying attention. Perhaps most depressingly: they recognize the unlikelihood of governments and corporations mobilizing quickly enough to put the environment first.

But these people are rare, because most of us have a hard time imagining catastrophes on the horizon. Humans are bad at envisioning a future that’s different from the present, and some experts say the impact of climate change is literally too big, too complicated, and too multi-faceted for us to hold in our small minds at once.

Further, as Greg Harman writes, “human brains aren’t wired to respond easily to large, slow-moving threats,” and the psychological concept of “loss-aversion” means we’re more scared of what we’ll lose in the short-term than larger, future dangers.

Essentially: it’s not our fault we have a hard time dealing with the realities of climate change. But that does not bode well for our future.

Ontario Science Centre, Toronto | by Leora Katz

The scientific facts should have us terrified, motivated, and demanding change from governments and corporations.

We’re at the brink of an unprecedented severity in droughts, heat waves, hurricanes, wildfires, and flooding. The destruction of infrastructure and agriculture. The eradication of natural ecosystems.

We’re talking about tens of millions of people fleeing their homes in search of a safer place to live. Climate-driven refugees migrating across borders because their islands no longer exist, their homes are under water, their cities are so hot that people die when they go outside.

Millions of people will perish. Trillions of dollars will be spent. And all of this will happen in our lifetime.

This is the world I’m about to bring a child into?!

We are at a critical moment in time that, according to the UN Secretary-General, requires “unprecedented and collective climate action in all areas. There is no time to waste.”

So we’re not talking about small changes here. The sort of mobilization we need right now on a global level is akin to that which occurred during WWII, according to journalist and author David Wallace-Wells. We need entire countries and industries focused on curbing carbon emissions, and contributing to the greater cause.

Um… my actions feel petty in this context…

Sure, I’m moving away from single-use plastics. Shopping at markets. Eating less meat. Buying items second-hand. Questioning if I need to buy things at all.

But given the level of change required, I see that my actions alone aren’t even a drop in the bucket. (Psst, our collective actions are because our voices choose our governments, and our buying power changes companies!)

But the thing is: I am having a kid. And when he looks around at a planet in devastation and asks me how I could’ve been so stupid and so selfish to not even try or care, I’ll be able to tell him that I did.

Angeles National Forest, California | by Leora Katz

As our forests burn and our corals die and our cities flood and our countries war over refugees and resources, I’ll be able to tell my son that I did pay attention. That I did care. That I tried.

I’ll tell him that I spent the months before his birth stressing over every choice because I had a list of 75 items I supposedly “needed” in preparation for his arrival, and it made me sick to consider the environmental impact of the manufacturing, boxes, packaging, and transportation.

Not to mention the gut-wrenching recognition that any plastic toys or diapers or bottles I purchased would remain on our planet for longer than he’d even be alive. (Just like the 6,500–10,000 plastic diapers that were used on you which are still on this planet somewhere, and will be for hundreds more years.)

So I am deep in the land of second-hand shopping and researching the eco-friendliest versions of all these things I “need.” There’s no way I’m going to do this as well as I want to since our systems aren’t set up for that, but I am going to try. And this is only my beginning.

Because how can I bring a new human onto this planet and simultaneously ruin its very future?

That contradiction is too much for me to bear.

This is an excerpt from my monthly newsletter, Hi Let’s Life. You can sign up here if you’re curious ❤

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product @ buzzfeed. in love with music, adventures, trees, coffee, dancing, words, travel, phish + other stuff. creator of hi let’s life: smarturl.it/hiletslife

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Leora Katz

Leora Katz

product @ buzzfeed. in love with music, adventures, trees, coffee, dancing, words, travel, phish + other stuff. creator of hi let’s life: smarturl.it/hiletslife

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