The Alchemists at Home

I wrote about the very specific climate and environmental anxieties I have about becoming a parent, which I’m not currently in the process of doing, but would like to do, and am afraid to do.

If you click that link, you’ll see some things about me that many people choose not to share about themselves, and a couple of things that I have in the past chosen not to share about myself. I decided to share them for one of the same reasons I started the Climate Anxiety Counseling project: I wanted to know if I had company. The Toast has a particularly responsive and generous commentariat (and a rigorous commenting policy) and people wrote in with their own fears, decisions, declarations of willful avoidance or painful preoccupation, showing where they overlapped with or diverged from mine, and expressing a gratitude that I also feel towards them for putting these feelings into words.

Twitter user @eveewing asked a similar question on the last day of January. There, too, people spoke of their reasons for fearing or not fearing, for holding off or going ahead. Some were flip, some grim, some earnest; all of their responses were, unsurprisingly, informed by what they revealed of the rest of their lives. Someone who works on climate change and environmental justice wrote that they can’t help thinking about it, and pointed out how little most of us know about earth’s systems and the way they interact. An EMT wrote that they’ve “been to too many senior apartments as an EMT and have seen too many people dead alone not to want a family.”  Someone from Sri Lanka spoke of the vulnerability of their home and the ways climate change is already affecting their agriculture and their coasts. Others spoke of raising a generation to mediate these problems and take care of the world, and of talking about it with the kids they do have.

Conceivable Future frames climate change as a reproductive crisis, and interviews people about the ecological calculus of making and raising a child. There, too, people’s stories of their own decisions are moving and direct. Many of the people interviewed there so far appear to be white, but many writers, investigators and scholars have articulated environmental racism, even before it’s exacerbated by climate change, as a reproductive crisis as well: the lead-filled water in Flint, MI and Ottawa County, OK;  African-Americans ghettoized into floodplains; schools built on toxic sites in Providence and New Orleans. Without drastic, prioritized revision of physical and social structures, climate change will make things worse for people for whom things are already bad, the people whose lives are most delicate, most precarious, most tender.

I was glad, reading those comments, that people were hearing what I said; I was glad to hear their stories, and the responses to @eveewing’s question, and to see the faces and hear the voices of Conceivable Future’s interviewees. If they’re important, it’s because hearing that we’re not alone can help shape how we act together, toward each other.

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