By Sue Tiffin
Recently I was reading a picture book to my children prior to bed. The book, Our Planet: There’s No Place Like Earth by Stacy McAnulty, like many books and TV shows geared to kids nowadays speaks to the effects of climate change and the importance of both individual and collective action in mitigating those effects.
My kids – and likely your children or grandchildren, too – hear the news on the radio, watch science documentaries and learn at school about how to be environmentally conscious through energy conservation, consumption reduction and other choices we make on a daily basis. But it was in that quietness of the evening that my youngest, who is seven, piped up to ask a question I had long anticipated: “Will that happen here?”
Parenting in these times, with this generation of kids who are living life alongside war, environmental catastrophe, a completely unknown and unstable future compared to previous generations, and an ongoing pandemic, is really something else.
Young people themselves report feeling angst about bringing children into a world facing a climate emergency – in a recent survey of 10,000 people aged 16 – 25 in ten countries, about four in 10 said they are hesitant as a result of the climate crisis to have children. About six in 10 of those same study participants said they are very or extremely worried about climate change and almost half said they feel distressed or anxious about the state of the climate to the point it affects their daily lives and ability to function.
“Respondents rated the governmental response to climate change negatively and reported greater feelings of betrayal than of reassurance,” reads the study abstract. “Correlations indicated that climate anxiety and distress were significantly related to perceived inadequate government response and associated feelings of betrayal.”
There is no more pressing concern in this election – in any future election, on any level – than our environment and our response to climate change. Every issue will matter to someone, especially our most vulnerable populations – affordable housing, quality education, our overwhelmed healthcare system, long-term care challenges – and these issues intersect in numerous ways, but climate change and environmental crisis puts greater stress on each of these important issues.
We’ve seen, just this past weekend, how intense storms can take out power – an inconvenience for some but life-threatening to others, including our elderly population. These outages also result in a direct interruption to systems in place by and for families, with four schools just south of us closed due to ongoing outages. We know that as people in other communities are pushed out of their own homes due to fires and flooding and coastal erosion, they need a place to go while we already have an affordable housing crisis. Drought across North America and elsewhere results in food shortages here, and weather and temperature fluctuations change our ecosystem, resulting in increased or decreased wildlife populations.
Everything we do – work and play – will be affected by these changes. It’s not enough to be reactive as the changes force emergencies on us, we need to be proactive in anticipating them, and making sustainable progress to the way we live.
It is happening here, I told my child, but it’s why we do our best as individuals, look for the helpers, learn what we can about nature so we appreciate it, and hope the majority will do the same.
It’s why it’s so important – more now than ever – we vote for a government that takes action and is best suited to deal with not only issues we will face in the next 20 years, but challenges we face now and in the next four years. Ask your local representatives what their plan is to address the climate crisis, question their priorities and review the policies of each of the parties before you vote.
Our kids deserve the hope of a good future, and sweet dreams before bed.