• Prerna Singh Butalia

Raising children for a better world

Updated: Jun 1

“Que sera sera, whatever will be, will be; The future’s not ours to see…,’ sang Doris Day, a quarter of a century ago. Flash forward 2021, when the world is 1.16 degree Celsius warmer than it was in 1955, when the song released, and we are beginning to see signs of what the future holds.

According to a study published in the journal Climatic Change, an increasing number of couples between the ages of 27 and 45 are choosing not to have children from fear of their kids having to live through an ‘impending climate apocalypse’. As high as 96% of respondents showed extreme concern for their existing, expected or hypothetical children. This study came close on the heels of a 2017 one by Lund University, Sweden, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, which claimed the annual carbon footprint of a child is the equivalent of 58.6 tonnes of carbon emissions.

As high as 96% of respondents showed extreme concern for their existing, expected or hypothetical children.

Photo by Laercio Cavalcanti on unsplash
As a parent, or as a caregiver of a young child, do you feel confident enough to say ‘whatever will be, will be’ or do you worry about the future? Do you wonder how you can do better by your child, for your child and with your child? Should we all swear off having kids? Can you imagine a planet without kids? How joyless and not-quite-sustainable would that be! And what about the kids we already have?

According to Mike Berners-Lee, author of How Bad are Bananas?, having a child is one of the most environmentally unfriendly things we can do, but—fortunately, he does add a ‘but’—what’s important is not how many children you have, rather how you raise the children you have.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Enter, Eco-parenting. Conscious parents are turning to what experts call eco-parenting. But how eco-friendly can you actually be with a baby in tow? What would a life without diapers and wet wipes and endless art supplies look like? A life without goo and slime and stains? Of course, there are those who would have you believe if you haven’t left your city job and migrated to a small town in the hills, where you’re home-schooling your child and growing your own food, you’re not really doing anything that matters.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Every action matters. Every flight you ditch for a train journey matters. Every abandoned shopping cart full of stuff you wanted but didn’t need and decided you could do without matters. You don’t have to identify as an environmentalist or as an activist to help your child learn to care for the planet and for other people. In a pandemic-stricken world, increasingly dominated by screens, it is critical to speak to kids about community, about living with others (even as we live locked up in our homes, away from socialisation of any kind) and about living with nature and consuming less. For ideas on how, stay tuned to this space, where we’ll be sharing activities, stories, experiences, reading lists and more, to help you be the best eco-parent you can be. As Jen Gale, author of The Sustainable(ish) Guide to Green Parenting, puts it, it’s about doing what you can, one step at a time, for each of us has the potential to create positive change, imperfectly.

So we do what we can, and hope someone is else is doing what we can’t. After all, we’re just trying to make the planet a better place, while being a parent. No pressure! Don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise!