Anthropocene

Sofie’s World: Raising a child during the climate crisis and growing up in the age of the Anthropocene 

By Anders Lorenzen

My daughter Sofie was born in April 2021, in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic and in a decade in which climate change is increasingly high on the global agenda. Sofie’s World is a series of articles in which I reflect on parenthood in the context of the climate crisis and what it might be like for her growing up in the age of the Anthropocene. 

Fair to have a child during the climate crisis?

My partner and I have long questioned whether it was right to bring a child into the world in the middle of the climate crisis, grappling with whether or not it’s fair to bring her into a future of ferocious wildfires across multiple ecosystems, escalating deforestation, devastating floods, melting ice caps, crippling droughts, locust storms, etc.  Add to that the possible complete breakdown of financial markets and our entire economic system because we have not spent enough money preparing for and adapting to climate change and one could argue it’s not the best context for a child to grow up in. 

Parenthood is an incredibly humbling experience; until you’ve held a newborn you’ve brought into the world it’s hard to truly understand the depth of their innocence and vulnerability and the weight of the responsibility of looking after them. 

Sometimes at dinnertime, after a hard but equally rewarding day with our daughter whom of course, we are completely in love with, my partner and I look at each other and ask each other what we’ve done bringing a child into the world during this strange time? 

We frequently reflect on what kind of a world she might grow up in and what the world will look like when she is 10…15… 18 years old? In 2041, for example, she will be celebrating her 20th birthday, in a year in which, based on the targets set by the government today, the UK electricity grid will theoretically be free of fossil fuels and car petrol and diesel engines are banned for good. 

Sofie and I in a nearby park.

Will Sofie face obstacles that we don’t face today? 

Sofie will certainly live in a different world to now. It might be a world in which we have finally bent the curve on the climate crisis and emissions are declining year on year. Or it could be a hugely disrupted world in which every system, natural or man-made, is spinning increasingly out of control.

As Frans Timmermans, the EU’s lead climate negotiator at COP26 said during the summit ‘My grandson will be 31 when we’re in 2050. If we succeed, he will be living in a world that is liveable, he will be living in an economy that is clean, with air that is clean. If we fail now and in the next couple of years, he will fight with other human beings for water and food. That is the stark reality we face’.

Follow this series for further reflections on parenting in the climate crisis. In the next article, I’ll be exploring: how to celebrate your child’s first Christmas with sustainability in mind.

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