It’s not easy being a parent in a climate crisis
Whilst the release of the latest (and last for a while) IPCC report this week didn’t necessarily give us new information, it has certainly brought up a range of emotions for parents, grandparents and carers in our community. It's a time to remember we are all in this together and that we all need to take care of ourselves along the way.
Erin in Victoria shared, “I watched the IPCC press conference while nursing my one year old, reconciling that we'll face irreversible tipping points before she hits double-digits. The intergenerational injustice is clear, but so is our way out: nothing short of an end to the destructive fossil fuel era will keep our children's rights and safety within reach.”
For Lara, “the report is upsetting, obviously, but not unexpected. It's the lack of reaction from the media and from people generally I'm finding hardest to deal with. Life goes on as if everything is normal when it's not. It makes me want to scream.”
Perhaps you can relate to their feelings?
It’s the often unacknowledged challenge of being a parent in the climate movement - the emotional and mental toll this can have. We face the mounting evidence that our children’s future is very uncertain and despite the overwhelming case for swift emissions reductions, we are facing the consequences of decades of inaction and lack of leadership on climate action even today. Parents and caregivers take seriously their duty of care to their kids. Not surprisingly, threats to our kids future safety often leave us grappling with a range of emotions which are at times strong and uncomfortable. At times we may feel overwhelmed and isolated by the enormity of it all.
For me that’s one of the many things I love about being part of the Australian Parents for Climate Action community - despite the challenges and frustrations we face, despite the anxiety and anger that can arise - I know I’m not alone, rather I’m connected to and surrounded by thousands of other parents who get it, who have my back when the going gets tough and who inspire me to keep taking action.
In the face of the IPCC report release this week Helen in NSW shared - “I feel the bottom has dropped out of my children’s world. The starkness of the warnings can’t help but fill me with grief. Despite this, I can feel active hope holding me steady. That there is a powerful group with me feeling this fear and being bravely called to action gives me comfort and energy to keep going.”
It is by acting together, supporting one another, connecting to the love that we have for our children and this beautiful planet that we find active hope and we know that we are not alone as we do the most important work of our lifetime.
I’d like to share a fable that resonated with me this week, a story passed on by Laura, one of our active online community members, who also knows what it feels like to face the challenges of parenting in a climate crisis but who also wants to inspire active hope in others.
This is but one version of the story….
According to an old Native American legend, one day there was a big fire in the forest. All the animals fled in terror in all directions, because it was a very violent fire. Some of the animals began to notice that hummingbird was flying in the direction of the fire. They were stunned.
"What are you doing, hummingbird?" the animals asked, “You are so small and the fire is so big”. The other animals felt overwhelmed and very powerless.
"I am going to the lake," he answered, "I drink water with my beak and throw it on the fire to extinguish it." The other animals were dismissive - 'Are you crazy? Do you really think that you can put out that big fire on your own with your very small beak?'
'No,' said hummingbird, 'I know I can't. But the forest is my home. It feeds me, it shelters me and my family. I am very grateful for that. And I help the forest grow by pollinating its flowers. I am part of her and the forest is part of me. I know I can't put out the fire, but I am doing the best that I can'
As parents today, we are faced with often overwhelming scenarios and increasingly severe natural disasters - but we do have a choice in how we respond.
Just like the hummingbird, we may not be able to put out the fire on our own - but just like the hummingbird we can do our best, and when many of us do our best we create a bigger impact and a stronger support network for each other.
Taking care of ourselves along the way is crucial - below are some trusted resources that our members find helpful and empowering when the going gets tough.
Connect with others at a Climate Cafe - next event 26th March
Climate Psychology: Podcast episode with Susie Burke
Eco-grief, burn out and climate anxiety: coping with climate change can be a difficult task. Psychologist Dr Susie Burke explains the impact of climate change on mental health – from trauma to the frustration of inaction – and how to bolster community and individual wellbeing. You can access the episode here
Tips for Dealing with Eco-Anxiety
Good Grief Network
The Work That Reconnects
Book: Active Hope by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone
How to face the mess we're in with unexpected resilience and creative power
Remember the Hummingbird...
One version of The Forest Fire and the Hummingbird story narrated by Wangari Maathai can be accessed here