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  • Writer's pictureJose Arrieta

How did you tell your children about climate change?

How do you tell your children that the world the live in today is the coldest they will ever experience? I know my parents did not raise the topic. But I will. My daughter's generation will obliterate climate change. She needs to know this early. They need to win and anger is a fuel. Not the only one but a fuel alas. 


The climate crisis is real. My six month old daughter is currently experiencing the coldest months she will ever live. No global agreement exists today that aims to make the world colder than it is today. None.


Yet, my wife and I chose to bring her to this earth. And as Elon Musk said "My [daughter] didn’t choose to be born, I chose to have [her]. [She] owe[s] me nothing, I owe [her] everything". So how do I do this? How do I tell her that although she inherited a warming Earth, she also is given the technology and resources to fix it? 


Non-identity problem

For one we can think of the non-identity problem in philosophy. This problem has a canonical intuition pump. Namely the case of two.mothers who have children with a genetic disease. 


One mother conceives her child naturally, knowing that the child will inherit the disease. The other mother deliberately modifies her child’s DNA before conception, so that the child will have the disease. Both children grow up to have lives that are worth living, but they suffer from the disease. Are the mothers morally wrong for birthing their children?


One definitely is, right? But historically, philosophy would have said no. The person-affecting view would say that one can harm only people who exist. And the fact that the child whose mom chose them to be sick grew to have a life worth living means they were not hurt. At least not more hurt than the hundreds of unfertilized ovules that fade into oblivion during the mother's life. 


Climate change 

Global warming is a trivial extension to this example. My daughter and the people in her generation would not have been born were our grandparent and great grandparent generation chosen to believe in the science of climate change. At least they would not have been born under the heuristics I and my wife used to choose our way into parenthood. 


As I chose parenthood, a clear element was in my mind. My child will be part of the glorious generation. The first generation who will die knowing they obliterated climate change. This form of Vorfreude was central to my choice. But I could only get to this choice because of the half century of climate negligence paved by the Silent and Boomer generation. 


Had climate change been stopped in its tracks as acid rain and the hole in the atmosphere were. That is shortly after the discovery of the cause, I would have chosen to have a child for other reasons. 


I have a life worth living. But my life would be different had climate change never existed. This epistemic nugget sets the foundation to how to introduce the warming Earth to my daughter. It serves as my central promise to her. And the core of my commitment to her. 


Choosing parenthood

I chose to become a parent when I was 5. I played with Nicole my dad's Godchild. She was great. It felt so nice to care for someone. This feeling repeated with Mariana was born a decade later. I could see on the eyes of my Cousin/Godchild a wisdom that endeared my heart. I chose then to become a parent. 


This does not mean I had a plan but a destination. I chose to learn engineering and physics. These helped me understand the truth behind the reality that we as a society have the resources and technology to beat climate change. We just lack the intention to do so. 


I did  not know it then, but my switch to management was crucial as well. Climate change is a crisis of management. A crisis of division of labor and integration of effort. Silent, Boomers, and Gen Xers have chosen not to solve it. This knowledge filled me with cynicism and fire. A limelight that shone true. I had a new foundation to be a parent. A fully novel theory that broke the path set by my parents and grandparents. I was set to have a child. 


Responsibility 

My theory of parenthood is built on responsibility. I ought to guarantee my daughter has a life worth living. To choose a partner with whom I could helpy daughter find meaning in a world on fire. After decades of search this came to be. It required a divorce and a pandemic to give me clarity. But as the second decade of this century came around clarity emerged. I could have a child. 


I had a job, a niche in society, and values that could help me do my part to raise a child in a society that battles climate change. I had an answer. 


An answer

My loved one. History is filled with darkness. The future is filled with anxiety. Genocide, war, plunder, and slavery fill history books. Climate change and pandemics endanger our civilization. Yet, you come from an uninterrupted line of people who chose hope instead of fear. Your mom and I are part of this genealogy. We chose to have a child not in spite but because we knew we could help you find meaning. 


This meaning is the foundation of my promise to you. I promise to be there for you, to care, protect, and guide for as long as I live. I promise myself to make your life worth living. To fight every crisis of trust and meaning. My love and attention are forever yours and with it my unquestionable acceptance. Your life is yours to live. But rest assured you will never walk alone.


Today is (most probably) the coldest day in your life. Every year the world will become warmer. I hope this fills you with power and rage. We are part of the solution. We are the Moses generation that needs to take us out of Egypt and into a land nev| promised but possible. A world of munificence and sustainable growth. You will live to reach this land and throughout you will see me fighting to help clear the way before you. I will not be there forever. But I am certain you will find  your way after I am gone. 


I live to help climate change be but a nuisance in your history. I wish your life is filled with joy and tribulations of which climate is just a background noise. Your mom and I gave you a life to live. A life to love, to take risks, and heal your bones and heart when the risks lead to sadness. A life to experience the joy and humanity when your hopes materialize. All my life, I will be there for you to share the good and the bad. You owe me nothing but if I could ask, I would ask for you to choose hope over fear, to take risks, and love life. 


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