I ask myself the same questions many others in my generation ask: Should I have kids, given the world we live in today? What will my future child’s life look like if climate projections come to fruition? How will my child’s existence affect the earth’s ecosystems, plants and animals? Will it be better to be alive, despite these challenges, than never to have been born at all?
I planned to write a short and sweet article weighing these questions, considering the pros and cons and ending on a clichéd message of hope: “Having children in today’s world is like planting a seed in the dead of winter. Things may feel dismal now, but the world is awash with color in spring.”
I will be able to teach them how to navigate inevitable change while treading as lightly on earth as possible.
I was kidding myself. I wanted to write that piece because my husband and I recently decided to have children. I hoped to develop a positive spin to feel entirely at peace with this choice.
But there is no feeling “entirely at peace” with any choice, much less one this significant — much less in today’s world. Like so many things in life, we must make the decision that feels right in our gut, then hope for the best.
Our future children will live through climate catastrophes worse than anything we’ve experienced. They’ll experience increased heat waves, stronger storms and larger wildfires. They’ll wonder why we didn’t take action sooner.
But they’ll also experience the burst of a home-grown cherry tomato, fresh off the vine. They’ll feel the relief of sunshine on their faces on a rare cloudless winter day. They’ll learn to value the plants and animals around them for their intrinsic beauty — not just for what they can provide humans.
Most importantly, they’ll know the love of their parents and the grandparents, aunts and uncles that surround them.
All these small pleasures amongst so much pain. They’ll know life.
No matter how many hours I spend navel-gazing about the question of children and climate change, I can’t predict the future. Nor can I counteract the natural, biological desire to watch time unfold through new life — as much as my rational mind might question the decision.
In this regard, it is impossible to separate what makes me human from what makes me animal. I cannot separate myself from nature because I am a part of nature.
Our kids will face challenges I can’t begin to envision. I won’t be able to protect them, nor will I be able to magically wave away the existential threat of climate change. But I will be able to teach them how to navigate inevitable change while treading as lightly on earth as possible. And, ultimately, I believe it will have been better to have been alive than not at all.
I can only hope I’m not wrong.
Lindsey Bineau lives in Olympia with her husband, dog and cat — and a rapidly expanding garden.