Let’s dive right in, because I’m going to discuss a potentially uncomfortable topic this week: whether to have children. It’s a question essentially every woman faces at some point in her life, but for women in 2019, it can have entirely different implications than ever before.
For Laura Paddison, the editor of HuffPost’s This New World project, it means looking at the idea of parenthood through the lens of climate change. Is having a child environmentally irresponsible? Is having a child who may grow up in a world that is burning morally irresponsible? Does the decision to not have a child mean the loss of hope?
Like I said — uncomfortable.
Laura believes the issue can’t help but be ever-present in the minds of women, given current debates about their bodies and their rights. “For many women, agency over our reproductive rights is a really important, present concern and I think that has made this topic of having children in the climate crisis one that more women are talking about than men,” she said. “For the moment, at least.”
The biggest surprise for her, however, came from the number of emails from older people who say they saw an environmental crisis approaching back in the ’70s and ’80s and decided not to have children, or to stop at one. And no, they told Laura, they don’t regret it.
Tangled up in so much of this important discussion — which activists emphasize is about awareness and responsibility, not judgment — are all the potential choices that seem impossible to decide upon.
“Women who choose not to have children often face accusations of selfishness,” Laura said. “Women who have children too young or too old are irresponsible. Women who have one kid are depriving their child of a sibling, women who have more than one kid are adding to overpopulation. You genuinely can’t win.”
For her, a mom of two girls ages 2 and 4, it’s about looking at her own contributions and what she can do to ease the pressure she exerts on resources, like not eating meat and carrying a reusable coffee cup at all times. “And one of my biggest worries is that I simply don’t do enough,” she admits.
She’s taken her girls to Extinction Rebellion family events to start to teach them about climate change and the environment in age-appropriate ways, whether that’s talking about bugs, birds and butterflies, or answering questions about what climate change is and why it matters.
I have two kids, too, and I’ll cop to feeling a mixture of defensiveness, grief and fear reading this article. But Laura’s conclusion (which is more than worth reading the whole piece for, even though I’m spoiling it here) is that for her, hope in humanity won out. The same goes for me.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please, reach out on Twitter or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next week,
For more from Laura, who’s currently working on a feature about how to make prisons more humane, follow her at @LauraPaddison. For more from This New World, a project that looks at the new movements and projects striving to create a fairer world, check out the page here.
In what feels like a French “League of Their Own,” the Women’s World Cup in France this year is bringing out the stories of women who played football (or soccer, depending on where you’re reading this) in their younger days, against society’s — and even their parents’ — wishes. For Aline Meyer and Gigi Soeuf (above), the World Cup was an opportunity to celebrate what the sport has given them, decades after they first stepped onto a pitch.
When 18-year-old Bollywood actress Zaira Wasim put out an extensive statement this week announcing she was quitting the industry because it didn’t align with her faith, there were plenty of opinions. They turned her very personal choice into treatises on oppression and indoctrination — and they almost entirely eliminated her from the conversation.
In case you missed it…