Does having multiple children harm or heal the planet? I've been mulling over this since reading a recent article in which some express anxiety about bringing kids into a climate-changed world, and worry that it's an unethical strain on resources.
I'm an academic historian and mum to two daughters. We live in Ocean Grove in regional Victoria, and I confess to feeling terrified at times about the kind of ecologically-degraded future my kids' faces. I have wondered if I was irresponsible to bring new life onto this planet. I have even asked myself whether I would still have children, were I making that decision today.
Ultimately, the answer is yes.
There are benefits to the environment if we raise children thoughtfully. My curious daughters, so fascinated by the workings of the tides, the patterns of the stars and the sprouting of a seed, may yet grow up to create brave new climate solutions.
They're being raised to love the planet, to be intimately connected to nature through ocean swimming, bushwalking and watching the cycles of the birds and plants. My husband and I are raising them to observe how time in nature makes them feel peaceful and grounded. And we want them to understand that you need to take care of, and fight for, the things you love.
I do think some of this is easier living in regional Australia. To be constantly close to nature is a privilege. A place where the air is clean, where you can see stars at night and where we feel connected to the seasons and cycles of the Wadawurrung land on which we live. When you live amidst trees and animals, in a town bordered by the Southern Ocean and the Barwon River, it's easy to observe how human lives are intertwined with the natural world. When you live in a town where everyone is connected, you can feel the reciprocity and dependence that unites us all.
Deciding to have children in 2021 is a hard decision for many. Naively in 2012, when we started, I couldn't fathom that our governments would not act on climate change. I thought we had more time to fix things. I never imagined our leaders would so spectacularly fail.
However, I think the decision to have kids shouldn't be based on an abstract principle, albeit a well-intentioned one. People need to think carefully because it is the most challenging responsibility someone can take on. But it's also the single most meaningful and miraculous experience of my life. It inspires me to fight for this future with an intensity I couldn't otherwise muster.