The future of the world’s natural environment is under threat and how to raise a child amidst a climate crisis is something young parents are increasingly taking into consideration.
And for some, that bleak-looking future is reason enough for putting off having a family.
Aussie mum Stacey Lynch says she waited until later in life to consider having kids.
“I was super conscious that actually the worst thing you can do for the planet is bringing a child into the world,” she says.
After getting married, she chose to have just one child and raise her to be as eco-friendly as possible.
I know that many super climate advocates have made the decision to go childless … and I really admire that.
Before her baby arrived, she consciously sourced all ‘big-ticket items’ such as a pram and cot from friends or got it second-hand from Gumtree.
“There was no guilt involved because I [was] using something that is already in existence,” she says.
“I know that many super climate advocates have made the decision to go childless for that reason and I really admire that. For you to put the climate above your own yearning to have a child, is really noble.”
Equally, young adults have begun sharing their concerns about the consequences of climate change on their child’s future – speaking of a genuine fear of mass extinction, natural disasters and living in what one mum describes as a ‘concrete jungle’.
In 2018, British activist and musician Blyth Pepino began the BirthStrike movement, declaring she would not have a child in response to the coming climate breakdown. The idea wasn’t to discourage people from having children, but to spread awareness of the issue.
Sally Kennedy, a Bachelor of biodiversity and conservation student at Macquarie University, says: “We aren’t in a position where we are sustainable. When we become sustainable – having kids will be less scary.”
For Stacey and another Australian mum, Bridget Sneesby, who are both passionate about sustainability and climate awareness – it isn’t about fear.
Strangers, but equally yoked, these mums believe the focus should be on turning around the damage humans have already done to the environment and make sustainable, practical changes that they’re children can model and implement every day.
Bridget is a mum of three boys, Harrison, five, Hugo, three, and August, four months, so she certainly has her hands full.
She has become more aware of the impact of climate change and has noticed weather patterns changing rapidly over the years.
“When I was young, we’d go up to the beach every day and then in the afternoon a big summer storm would come and then you’d leave,” she says.
“It’s just not the same anymore. Floods in Germany, a volcano last week, today it’s 26 tomorrow it’s going to be 16. It is the unknown that is scary.”
So in their home in Tighes Hill, a suburb of Newcastle, it’s about taking steps that are realistic, because to Bridget, it often feels like being eco-friendly is inconvenient more than expensive.
“I use disposable nappies for example, and I know that isn’t an environmentally friendly thing to do. But at the same time when I have three kids, that’s just one extra thing I can’t do,” she adds.
“That is why you have to choose something you can do.”
The meat industry has an absolutely devastating impact on the environment and so [going vegetarian] is something we actually feel really proud of.
For her and her husband Jude, that meant going vegetarian and raising their boys the same way.
What started as an ethical step from an animal cruelty perspective, soon turned into an environmental choice.
“The meat industry has an absolutely devastating impact on the environment and so that is something we actually feel really proud of,” Bridget says.
She also believes doing little things such as recycling, using both sides of the paper for drawing and taking reusable coffee cups to the local café are important habits to instil in her boys.
Stacey, on the other hand is a teacher and married mum to a nearly two-year-old daughter, Ellie.
Her household’s current environmental priority is having a plastic-free bathroom before attempting the same in the kitchen.
Stacey didn’t grow up with greenie parents and her deep interest in environmental issues only began in her 20s. Teaching geography was the catalyst for her ‘burning awareness’ of climate change.
Now at 36, she is undoubtedly worried about global warming predictions. Living in Australia, she feels lucky, but fears the notion of ‘climate change refugees’ will increase in the coming years as residents of islands such as Tuvalu begin to face the impact of natural disasters and rising sea levels.
With a slight quiver in tone, she says “often in life it is the richest people that are causing the most harm but they’re not feeling the effects of it.”
That is what upsets her most.
But equally, this mother is hopeful small policy changes, particularly in supermarkets and a future full of children like Greta Thunberg leading climate strikes, with an innate global awareness, does allow for an optimistic outlook on the crisis being turned around.
In fact, she fears the impact of social media on Ellie, more than climate change. The trendiness of being eco-friendly has sparked joy in modern mums with a hope that by the time their children are adults, living plastic-free and going green won’t feel like ‘an uphill battle’.
Something Bridget and Stacey have in common is remaining realistic.
“Mums have impossible expectations placed upon them to be it all and achieve it all,” says Stacey.
“For me, the idea of going completely plastic-free or zero waste is unachievable and unbalanced and I don’t think I could live life to its fullest.”
With trial and error, this mother has however, worked out four main tips that have worked to reduce waste and can help other busy parents too.
Impressed with little changes, she says: “We went hard using reusable nappies and the compost bin as we went into lockdown last year and that is when I noticed less rubbish in the bin.
“There is so much more you can put in your compost bin that people don’t realise.”
And when it comes to nappies “we made the switch to reusable nappies and it’s not gross and it’s not messy and not super time consuming”
Additionally, buying baby clothes from op-shops not only saves money but is eco-friendly.
“It feels stupid to buy brand new clothes for a baby when they will ruin them or grow out of them, particularly from the easiest places to buy from… which aren’t ethical or sustainable,” she says.
Stacey’s final tip for reducing waste and avoiding plastic is borrowing toys from the local Toy Library. “By the end of the week they’re sick of the toy anyway,” she says.
The Aussie Childcare Network points out plastic toys are cheap, have a short lifespan and are pretty much impossible to recycle.
If purchasing toys, it’s always best to buy wooden toys.
If we really try, we can pull it back. We just need to think about our own footprint more.
Stacey and Bridget are both certain that generations before should have woken up 40 years ago or even 10 years ago.
Bridget believes: “If we really try, we can pull it back. We just need to think about our own footprint more.”
Both mums expressed their disappointment in the damage caused by older generations, who in a day of youth climate strikes where kids are literally leading the activism, seem to care a lot less about reversing the damage they have done.
“I don’t even really remember talking about [the environment] when I was a child. I feel like my parent’s generation has a part to play… I don’t think they thought it was something that was very serious,” says Bridget.
Main image of Bridget’s three boys, Harrison, five, Hugo, three and August, four months. Photo: supplied.