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How Could I Raise a Baby in the Climate Crisis?

FEATURE | OPINION

Written by Tashi Donnelly (she/her) | @tashi_rd | Feature Editor


Illustration by Gabbie De Baron (she/her) | @gabizzlesizzle | Graphic Designer


I’ve always wanted to be a mum. Whether it was because of an expert-level marketing campaign by The Patriarchy™, or because I grew up in a child-oriented family, I just knew that I was looking forward to becoming a mother. The idea of creating and nurturing a new human being with infinite possibilities and potential seemed magical. Babysitting taught me so much about myself, a hint of my future parenthood to come. Patience, joy, resilience, and the privilege of knowing someone while they’re still working it all out. I couldn’t wait to find the love of my life, finish studying, get a job, and start the journey myself. 


Growing up in the late 90s/early 2000s, I was aware of the looming climate crisis. The argument about its name, (“It can’t be Global Warming if we’re still having all these crazy cold snaps!”). The scientists who warned us of how many degrees would tip us over the edge, and the estimation of which year would be the year it was too late. I accompanied my dad to Green protests, wore Nuclear Free Aotearoa t-shirts, and went on school trips to pick up rubbish around waterways - I wasn’t clueless. Until the world news started looking overtly grim, my plans really hadn’t changed. Even after I’d gone through an angry feminist awakening in my late teens, I knew that if I was having kids I wouldn’t be putting up with any incompetent or sexist man as a co-parent. I’d focused on my studies, I got an abortion in my second year of uni because it wasn’t the right time yet. But then it all hit me. 


In 2020, the news of raging bushfires in Australia was palpable evidence of climate change at work. On the 4th of January, the sky outside my Grey Lynn flat went apocalyptically orange. Admittedly, I had just dropped a tab of acid and I truly thought I was about to die (until I remembered how to check the news), but this was a strange and new revelation for me. The effects of climate change were getting closer to my doorstep. The immense dread and fear I felt about it was increasing. Why would I want to create a child who would be made to grapple with that?


In early 2023, the country watched record-breaking rains hit Tāmaki Makaurau, causing catastrophically damaging and deadly floods. I watched as the creek in my yard burst at its seams, and a tree fall on my car. I packed emergency kits and cat carriers in case we needed to evacuate. As the storm moved down the country, my flatmates and I were frantically calling and texting our friends and families to check they were safe. Again, I thought, my god, how could I possibly make a child suffer this? 


As these catastrophes veer nearer and nearer to my lived reality, I’m forced to imagine the horror of escaping fires and floods with a baby strapped to my back. I’ve come face to face with the hypothetical future of those children, who I hope would outlive me, and what I’m leaving them to deal with. The anxieties and fears I’ve lived with for years, only bigger and scarier than ever? I hope I’d raise good protestors, good people with strong ethics and morals, for what? So they can spend days, weeks, or years of their life being outraged, and fighting what feels like a losing battle? I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.


There is plenty to be said about the morality of deciding to have children. Is it ethical to bring a child into the world without their permission? Is it fair to create a new life when there are already children who are in desperate need of care? What does it mean for me to burden a child with my faulty genes, disabilities, inter-generational traumas, and a predisposition to depression and anxiety? None of us chose to be born, and if I’d been given the option of tapping out, knowing everything I know, I wonder if I would have jumped ship. I may have chosen to reincarnate into a house cat and lived my life with a childless, double-income millennial couple.


To have children, or not to have children? That is the question. I’m decidedly pessimistic about the whole ordeal. With bad climate news being thrust at us through our phones and TVs non-stop, it’s easy to imagine many of our feelings about the future tilting towards panic. We can mourn together by validating each other's fears and lost dreams, and if we hold hands while we walk into the last, scorchingly hot, sunset, we’ll at least do it together. Hopefully, we can still turn this cursed ship around, and the weight of deciding will lighten just a little bit more.

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