Usually I try to take an objective angle to my blog posts, supported by scientific evidence, rigour etc etc. But this time, it’s personal. So no facts, (well few facts) and more a reflection on a personal crisis I find myself in and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I have started to ask myself; “Have I selfishly reproduced?”
There was a handy little tool released through the guardian website a while back (coincidentally just before my first son was born) that shows how hot the world is likely to get in one’s lifetime. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/interactive/2013/sep/27/climate-change-how-hot-lifetime-interactive It was one of those links that went around and I clicked, looked, had a “hmmm” moment and then moved on to whatever I was doing that day. Essentially I was (selfishly) content that I would probably be okay, in my lifetime, albeit potentially living in a radically different world in my old age – should I be blessed to live out into old age.
Still in a state of cognitive dissonance, I then went on to give birth to a wonderful healthy little boy that year and was introduced to a kind of protective and loving instinct that I didn’t know existed. I read (from a person who is infinitely more eloquent at expressing his thoughts than me) that having a child is like opening a door to a room in your brain you didn’t know existed and finding stuff inside there that you didn’t know was part of you. I imagine big wording on the wall of that room that says “protect at all costs”. So, I am unquestioningly following those words and now I am faced with a horror that I had never considered. How can I protect my children (I now have 2) against the kind of impacts we are likely to see in the world. We are talking about losing vast tracks of land by mid-century (possibly the whole of Bangladesh), water wars, climate change driven migration, food crises etc etc. How can I possibly protect them against such things? By bringing them into the world, have I subjected them to a life of potential suffering?
I know people who have made the decision not to have children for this (and other) reasons but it certainly isn’t at the forefront on most people’s consciousness when they decide to reproduce. And ultimately, would the knowledge make any difference? It didn’t in my case and I argue that biological instinct will out-trump logic any day but given the instinctual urge to protect ones children at all costs, isn’t knowingly bringing a child into the world armed with this knowledge flying against the basic instinct to protect ones child?
To get myself through the doldrums I try to take the optimistic approach that it can’t get all that bad and surely something will happen between now and then that will protect the lives of my children….. but then I watched this keynote speech at the Adaptation Futures conference this morning https://youtu.be/LOvDeIpVM8w and realised that I am not doing enough personally to secure the future for my children. I can’t just hope things will get better; it takes all of us to make the small changes that amount to the whole. It is going to take a radical reduction in emissions to secure the future for our children and our children’s children. If we don’t do anything then we are complicit in what is to come and I don’t want to be someone who looks back with regret that I had the opportunity but I didn’t contribute to a better world for the next generation.
Its awkward to say, but I think that your worries is positive, especially if we can get society to be similarly worried. I would argue that a healthy measure of mild panic is warranted.