Do people think about climate change when they think about whether or not to have kids? I m genuinely curious.
As might have been expected, this sparked an interesting set of responses. I thought of tweeting a reply, but then decided that I’d rather think about it and write a more considered response.
The short answer to Bady’s question is: Yes. I did think about it. The longer answer is, well, longer.
Our decision to have a child was a complicated one, as many such decisions are. The factors that went into our decision calculus were varied, as most people’s are: the economics of child rearing, the impact on our professional careers, the paucity of childcare options–especially as neither of us have family living in New York City that could serve as babysitters–and so on. These are almost identical to the issues that press most heavily on would-be parents in our socioeconomic class and circumstances. We are, of course, also a very privileged couple in many ways: for instance, we both have jobs that afford us some flexibility in working hours and offered us reasonably good deals for parental leave. (We both work in unionized workplaces, you see. Don’t hate us; just unionize your own.)
The factors I have mentioned above were supplemented by, in my case, a host of genuine worries that made me quite reluctant to have a child. It seemed to me that I would be bringing a child into a world that besides facing an uncertain future–precisely because of the climate change that Bady asked about–would be one infected by sexism, violence, rampant economic inequality, diminishing financial opportunity, religious fundamentalism, a crass consumer culture, and most prominently, a growing political-corporate nexus worldwide that aims to aggregate its power and entrench itself firmly in a position to control the world’s intellectual, cultural and material resources to the detriment of the ‘rest.’ This world didn’t seem like a great one to grow up in; it didn’t seem like a great world to function as a parent.
I don’t intend–in this highly public space–to ruminate about the excruciating, highly personal details of the discussions that finally prompted my wife and I to press on regardless and have a child. Suffice to say our decision was just a little irrational, precisely because it felt compelling even in the face of so many perfectly rational arguments made against it. Parents who will read this line of mine might nod their heads in agreement; others’ mileage will vary.
Still, the natural, if man-made, disasters of climate change were, in the Great Procreation Decision balance sheet of ‘For’ and ‘Against’, less significant than the disasters–listed above–that are visible everyday. Perhaps that’s because the effects of climate change, manifested quite regularly and uncomfortably, are acute reminders that it is a man-made catastrophe, one requiring for its redressal, a kind of political change that would also address the weekday worries we entertained.
Now that I am the father of a girl, I worry far more about this world’s vicious sexism, its continued violent oppression of women, its day-in, day-out, active subjugation of women, the limited opportunities it offers them.
To sum up: we did think about climate change, even as other political, economic, and cultural factors seemed more pressing; we did go ahead and have a child anyway. I hope she finds our decision agreeable.