Hey, Vancouver, Climate Change is a Parenting Issue!

Kristine Sostar McLellan

Climate change is a parenting issue.

I remember being about eight years old and standing in front of the worldometer (population counter) that was set up at Science World in Vancouver. The number blinked up, down, up, up, down, down, up, up, up.

Every dip, representing a life gone from the Earth, remained not much more than an abstraction in my mind – perhaps because I had never lost anyone by this point, or perhaps because I was just a child. But the overall pattern, the ever-increasing rise in our world’s population, unnerved me.

The number felt as vast as the stars. How would we ever sustain more than five billion people?

I can’t quite recall whether this presentation came with a concrete caution for us to heed our resources, but it must have been an early nod to the kinds of lessons we hear now about climate change.

All I really remember is that I left feeling scared about the Earth’s capacity to sustain us, and even at such an early age, questioned whether I should have children (perhaps a reductive, child’s solution to that unnerving worldometer problem).

Still, deep stuff for an eight-year-old, to be sure. And while that memory has stuck with me for over twenty some odd years, it didn’t really come into play when determining my family plan. Or, at least, I tucked it away. Because at the end of the day we wanted to have kids, so, lucky as we were, we had them.

Anyone, regardless of wealth, education, or the generation that they were born into, should be able to do that.

It’s only in the last year that the reality of what the future may hold for my children has hit me in a way that I’ve been able to name out loud.

First as sort of a glib thing.

My husband and I killing time in the car as the little guy snoozes in the back, musing about how we better get used to the car because our retirement probably won’t include international travel like that of our parents’ generation. Plane travel, we determine, will probably be an incredible luxury item by 2050

But then, the feeling began to grow. It became less about the stripping away of luxury items that those who lived just 100 years ago couldn’t have imagined. Shortly after my second was born early this year, the dread would just creep in.

I’d walk past an East Vancouver house with a yard converted into a vegetable plot and wonder to myself, hmmm, how long will this plucky venture buy them once it all turns to shit?

More and more frequently I find myself unable to choke back the feeling of asphyxiation that overwhelms me when I consider what the next 50 years might bring. Will our children’s children talk about our lifestyles are lore?

They ate sushi!

They drove to work!

They had food.

This may be, and is probably, at least partially a function of the postpartum reality. This is generally a heightened period during which you are adjusting to becoming a mom (or becoming a mom again), and where your whole being is attuned to your child’s survival. Whether negative or positive, it is quite literally all you live and breathe.

It’s also, obviously, much bigger than that.

So I’d like to think that doing our best matters. I feel my cheeks redden when I forget my reusable bag at the checkout; our household meticulously recycles; we try our best to walk or transit first, though that has become harder with two babies. I don’t eat meat and will encourage my children to choose that path also.

The list of small, hopefully incremental commitments we make as a family could go on and on. My only worry is that none of it is really enough.

So what do we do?

I mean, I get that this is a “brand” writing this. But I’m actually just a person who felt that Moms deserve more. I wanted to make something not only helpful, but that burst with the necessities. I spent months measuring products and box samples and trying all sorts of packaging stuffing to make sure it felt “spa” and “gift” like without wasting an inch of space – or allowing the products to be compromised in transport.

In the end, instead of excess stuffing, I opted to use the pads – literal pads! – as the padding. Beautifully held together with recyclable materials, the only items in this package are what you’ll need to use to get by after bringing life into the world.

Then there is the issue of shipping. Honestly, I’d be insincere if I didn’t bring it up but so few retailers do. It’s the current landscape of sales and I don’t really have a tidy explanation. I try to make my local deliveries by hand – or, rather, by stroller – when I can. But that isn’t always possible.

I’ve hand-delivered kits as close as two blocks away and shipped kits across the border. Am I part of the problem? I suppose that is a reality I, and everyone who partakes in this current economic landscape, must grapple with.

So maybe what we all need to be doing right now, more than anything, is participating.

We, in Vancouver, have our chance this Friday with the Global Climate Change strike. It’s no longer solely for youth -- a category of which I’m sure I’m not the only millennial to be a little shaken to no longer be part of.

But millennials, perhaps most especially, need to usher in this next generation of activists. They’re not our kids, exactly, but a lot of us now have kids of our own. And while we may think we’ll never get through this first nauseous trimester or the tribulations of two under two, we will.

Faster than we think.

This blue eyed baby whose neck I tickle, whose chubby legs I grab… His face will soon take the same teenage composition of Greta Thunberg... Or the many other, courageous teenaged activists (often of colour) who have not achieved the same level of fame.

And what will I have to say for myself, of my generation, then? Will he, or my daughter, be staring into some equivalent metronome of terrifying numbers.

Down, up, down, down, up, up, down, down, down.

I hope not. Climate change is parenting issue.


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