Reason to Hope: on parenting the face of climate change

During the Cascadia Climate Collaborative Conference this April, I was invited to submit a testimonial to Conceivable Future, which asks how climate change is influencing womens’ decisions on childbearing. This is that testimonial. —Marnie Jones

As a mother of three, I can’t help wondering what future my children can expect to have. Climate change, ocean acidification, deforestation, and species extinction will radically alter the planet they inherit. Still, I don’t regret becoming a mother. I believe in our power, as a species, to change—and I believe in children as empowered agents of that change. I truly expect that together we can save the world.

I work for a social and environmental justice non-profit which convenes leaders from around Cascadia to talk about the world’s most pressing issues, including climate change. As a result, I’m personally and professionally exposed not only to the horrors of what we’re doing to humans, other animals, and the planet, but also to the beauty, courage, and vision of people who see a different way forward. My children and I feel deeply, personally empowered to make positive change.

As one example, my two youngest daughters went vegan over a year ago. Like Luiz Antonio, who won the Internet over when he told his mother he preferred his animals “standing up,” they made the choice themselves. They based their choices on what they knew about animal suffering and environmental issues, and since then they’ve been outspoken advocates of veganism to their peers, their relatives, and their teachers. They share Cowspiracy DVDs and United Nation reports on livestock emissions like some kids trade Digimon cards. They find it exciting and empowering. When a peer tells them the world is going to be on fire in 50 years (true story) they say, “no, because we’re fixing the world. Here’s how.”

We are living in a period of profound cultural transformation, and adaptation to our changing environment is a personal moral challenge for each one of us. Taking responsibility for what we each buy, eat, use, and discard MUST feature in our evolution as a society. My children want answers today about how to save the planet that they love, and it’s not enough to look to our legislators or our Fortune 500 companies to do the right thing. As a mother and as an Earthling, I sleep better at night knowing I’m doing all I can, right now, to preserve conditions for life on Earth as we know it.

I’ve had conversations with those who wonder if it’s not a mistake—even a crime—to bring more people onto this overpopulated planet, but I don’t share that perspective. I fear that if everyone who cares about the impact of humanity on our planet stops parenting children, then we lose a vital chance to influence the next generation of our culture. We need kids who know what’s going on and know how to help. The harm isn’t in how MANY we are, it’s in HOW we are. We need to face the stark realities: our appetite for meat and dairy is a primary driver of climate change that everyone ignores—are we blissfully unaware, or afraid to change our personal culture and habits? Our hunger for cheap consumer goods is at the expense of other lives. What comes in must go out, and when we throw something away there is no “away.” My children remind me not to buy my favorite snacks when they’re packaged in plastic, and I love them for it. They remind me that I shouldn’t wait for someone else to fix what’s broken—I should fix it myself. They are careful students of life, and when I behave with moral inconsistency I can count on them to call me on it. They demand the kind of integrity this world calls for today.

We must stop indoctrinating our children into violence—into war, into slaughter, into ignoring the suffering that’s on their TVs and on their plates. We need to tell them the truth about the human, animal, and environmental costs behind their iPhones and jeans and hamburgers, and we need to ask them what they would do differently. We need children like my daughters, and like Luiz Antonio, to put us back in touch with our compassionate selves so that we can once again live as members rather than owner-destroyers of the Earth community.

P.S. If this piques your interest, save the date for our upcoming Intersectional Justice Conference at the Whidbey Institute. We’ll be exploring ways to live as compassionate members of a whole-earth community, from March 25 to 27, 2016.

July 3, 2015

People & Partners


  1. Michael Foster says:

    Can I repost this lovely work on please?

    1. Marnie Jones says:

      Michael, please feel free! I appreciate it! —Marnie

    2. Michael Foster says:

      Thanks Marnie, it’ll be up in a few days.