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Dialogue - Issue #8

Children of the Climate Crisis

Illustration by Līga Kitchen

Bringing a child into climate chaos can feel daunting, but we can see the world anew through their eyes.

My son has discovered insects. Running through our garden on the south coast of England, his eyes dazzle as an emperor dragonfly zips above his head. It could be the jewel-bright colours that grab his attention, or the awe at something so bulky carrying itself through the air. He is amazed at everything new. Fat slugs on the pavement, dandelions creeping through cracks, the sound of a buzzard circling the field behind our house. His wide-eyed wonder has reminded me that I am amazed by these things too. His newest word is: “Wow.”

Before having a child, I wondered whether it was the right thing to do in a time of climate crisis. Should I bring a new life onto a planet that we are destroying? What might the world look like by the time they’re old? Would I be contributing to overpopulation?

Ultimately, my desire to have a child won out over my fears, which I pushed aside for a little longer. I consoled myself with the promise that I would raise them as compassionate and conscientious, and hoped that their impact would be a positive one. But these fears could not stay buried for long. Perhaps I can’t predict the state of our planet in 70 years, but I do know that the climate crisis is happening now. We’re going to have to talk about it.

A small tree in our garden died in this summer’s heat, and as we cut it down, the brittle twigs toppling to the ground, my son furrowed his brow. “Uh oh,” he said. He pointed at all the other trees in turn, relieved that they could stay put. I told him the tree had died. He’s too young to offer follow up questions, or to have any idea what I’m talking about in the first place. “Why did the tree die?” he might ask. “Why was it so hot?” he might continue. “Why is it getting hotter?”

At some point, I will have to talk to him about the climate crisis. I will have to tell him why the moths are declining in numbers, why the migratory birds are arriving earlier than ever, and why, according to a 2019 report by the National Biodiversity Network, 13% of species in England are threatened with extinction. I will have to explain that it’s the fault of humans. We have built miles of new roads, turned forests into farmland, and drilled the ground for oil. Indigenous communities, who have acted as guardians of our planet for so many years, are brutally harmed by those who take advantage of it.

How do I tell my son all this without frightening him? First, I think, I must show him how to love nature. I must help him connect with and respect everything on the planet - human, animal, or plant. He’s already getting there, all by himself.

And while he’ll learn from me, I too will learn from him. I’m in awe of today's young people. They are active and they care about the climate crisis. Governments, businesses, and individuals are beginning to listen. We’re learning the impact that young voices have when they come together, and now I wonder what we’ll learn from my son’s generation as they grow up. I have a feeling they too will surprise us. For now, I’m learning to see the world through his eyes, where everything is amazing.

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