A lot of people don’t come and ask me “Zach! Do you want kids?” And my answer to that nonexistent question that I think about every day is “Yes, absolutely.” And then the nonexistent follow up is always “Why?” And that’s a fair question: why do I want kids? In a world with a future very much in doubt due to climate change, economic crises all over, and growing animosity between numerous groups, why would I want to bring new life into the world? At this point, it doesn’t look like I’d ever even be able to afford to have kids, so having them would be pointless on so many fronts. So that’s the end of that conversation, right?
Of course not. Despite the apparent logic, I want kids. I really do. But… what about their future? Do they even have one? Would their lives even be ones worth living?
Think of the world like Little Red and that cool ram speeding down the exploding mine cart track in the hit 2005 animated film, Hoodwinked. We’re on a breakneck pace to kill ourselves while bringing the rest of the world down with us. Big oil, capitalism, and industrialization have been ruining the environment for centuries and we’ve known about this since the 1860s (see, Eunice Foote and John Tyndall). We’re already seeing the harmful effects of climate change through the rising global temperatures and sea levels, increased number of hurricanes and other severe storms, extreme flooding, larger and more frequent wildfires, overfishing, decrease in biodiversity, and so so SO much more. Earth is in rough shape and it’s our fault. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t seem like much is being done to properly handle the climate crisis in the timeframe it needs to. Biden does have a solid environmental plan and has done some decent work so far, but there’s still a ton that needs to be done. The common figure thrown around is that we need to “protect 30% of our lands, rivers, lakes, and wetlands by 2030,” (that comes directly from the NRDC website) in order to prevent the worst of what climate change could bring. Have the world’s government taken any huge leaps to reach this goal? Besides the Paris Agreement (which hasn’t brought about much high-level change yet, but remains an important step), there hasn’t been much of an upheaval in how the world operates. Because of this lack of big-headline change, most people feel that the fight is worthless, the world is going to burn, and there’s no point in even trying. To me, that is so stupid. Giving up is the absolute last thing we should be doing and the fight is nowhere near being over. Yes, I won’t deny that the planet is permanently changed due to our actions, but it’s not a lost cause by any means. There is still plenty of opportunities for us to halt the worst of the worst and even potentially be part of the rebuild, but we all have to change—even on the smallest level.
There’s no denying that big corporations are uber powerful and the reason behind the majority of environmental problems, which has many people feeling like they hold no power in the fight, which is far from the truth! No one expects you to be an all-around fighter in the Battle for Mother Earth. Focusing even on one small aspect of conservation or an eco-friendly lifestyle makes such a difference. We don’t all have to be stopping the oil rigs in the gulf or suing the government over air quality in coal towns. Sure, we can offer our voices, funds, and support to these larger movements, but it’s the little things that start to add up. For example, changing to a more sustainable diet like being vegan (or just limit your intake if you’re hesitant to make a drastic switch). The farming industry produces SO much CO2, destroys precious habitats, and decreases biodiversity which means more disease and a more unsustainable food source that is much more prone to collapsing. And seafood isn’t much better. 1/3 of all fisheries are pushed to their limit or past it, countless innocent fish are killed in the process of fishing, and the amount of trash and pollution that is exerted in the process is downright sickening. The less people out there eating meat, the less demand there is and thus the less production there will be. Or, petition your local grocery stores to switch away from CFCs or HFCs to a less environmentally harmful refrigerant because CFCs and HFCs are 10,000 times more potent than CO2. Movements on the local level in your community are super important because they set the basis for a statewide, then national, then international movement. And if you think change like this can’t happen, you’d be wrong. Politicians may be selfish, stubborn people, but if the majority of their voters are pressing them to take action, they’ll do it because they don’t want to lose their seat in congress or town council or wherever they may be. Become so loud they can’t ignore you. And hold the companies you support accountable for their shitty practices and shop more carefully. That’s something that I need to work on myself. The dollar is powerful.
The beauty of all these small acts of kindness towards the earth is infectious, inspiring others to do the same until suddenly we have a whole army of people fighting for the future of our planet.
If you’re feeling alone or like you don’t know where to start when it comes to taking action, there’s so many great people, groups, and organizations out there that are striving to make a difference. I’ll list at the end of this article a bunch of great sources to look into that I love to support, learn from, and draw inspiration from. A good first step though is just to educate yourself and read up on all the issues going on in the world. It can feel daunting and hopeless, I know, but what I find that helps me feel better about it is viewing the situation as being plentiful of opportunities to make a difference and better the world. There’s no wrong way to get started, as long as you get going. One favorite resource of mine is this podcast called: How To Save a Planet, which is AMAZING. It’s super informative and does a great job of balancing reality with optimism, each episode posing a problem and explaining it in detail then offering steps we can all take in our daily life to solve the issue. It’s hosted by Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson (who I absolutely LOVE. An incredible person) and Alex Bloomberg and they both do a great job at making the information detailed yet easy to digest. Super great resource that I can’t recommend enough.
If you want to support more high profile causes, you can look into groups like The Sunrise Movement, EarthJustice, NRDC, and countless others. Want something more local? There’s so many more options than you realize. When I was looking into local organizations, I thought I was gonna come up with nothing. But after literally a single Google search, I walked away with over 30 that offered chances to donate, volunteer, attend awareness events, classes, and so much more. I was honestly overwhelmed by it all but it makes me so happy to see all these people that are eager to protect the planet right in my own backyard. It’s seeing groups and people like this that gives me hope that we can turn the tide and prevent the worst effects of climate change, which, in turn gives me hope that if I were to have kids, they’d still have a beautiful planet to call home.
But there’s also another part to it: I firmly believe my kids will be part of the solution more than I ever will be.
I’m not placing any expectations on my (imaginary) future kids—they can be or do whatever they want. What I mean instead is that my kids will most likely be smarter, kinder, more well-rounded, and earth-conscious than me and my generation. They’ll be born into a mindset that nature is our friend and will need to be treated with kindness and respect. The next generation should always be an improvement on the previous and I do hold great confidence that humans are getting better and smarter as time goes on. Gen Z often gets shit for their behavior, especially on social media, but remember that the majority of them are still teens and kids. No one was smart or of completely sound mind at that age. We all did stupid stuff. The only difference is they have the internet to showcase every mistake or shitty opinion. They’ll grow. They’ll get better. Hell, they’re already much more willing to get behind causes than previous generations. I feel like the past couple generations have given up on their activism days rather quickly—or as they’d put it, “became realistic”. I don’t see why adapting to the realities of life have to come at the sacrifice of your morals. They’re not mutually exclusive. You can have both. I think people just hate the idea that they’re not this prominent leader of a revolution or movement and so they give up. But it’s not about your vain views of yourself. This isn’t something to make you feel better or more important. It’s a movement to save the world. Never give up. Every action, every voice counts.
On a side note, since I meant this to be about my kids’ future, another big thing I hope about my kids is that they end up being (greatly improved) mini versions of me because I love the idea of having tiny little clones bothering all my friends and family. You thought just one of me was enough, try a whole (tiny) army! Boy, nobody is gonna invite us to any parties, are they? Getting bullied by me is one thing, but four tiny versions of me? That’d be unbearable! And yes, they’ll be vegan (or at least I’ll raise them that way and encourage it. Again, they’re their own people, they can do what they want).
There’s really no doubt in my mind and the sentiment of having kids actively influences a number of decisions and inner conflicts I’ve been having (but that’s not a conversation for here or now). And despite my constant pessimism and anxiety and depression and uncertainty about my own life, I do maintain a great amount of hope for the future of the earth. The tide is shifting and a huge, green wave is upon us, I can feel it! And remember to always vote! Especially at the local level! Be sure to check what your local candidate’s environmental plans are! And keep in mind, I am FAR from an expert, but I do know these things are actually happening and we need to work fast to stop the damage we’re causing. The few things I’ve touched on in this article hardly scratch the surface of climate change and the green movement, so be sure to read up and learn about all that’s going on and all that you can do to help!