The birth of my new son has heightened the sensitivity of every nerve. Each piece of food he eats seems like a potential choking hazard. The risks of my daily cycle into work feel greater. The world seems a more dangerous place as basic instincts kick in to create a safe and secure environment for our baby. Yet are the visible and everyday hazards the ones that I should be most concerned about? Is there a larger, hidden risk that should be at the forefront of my mind? The answer is yes.
The level of evidence that human activities are changing our climate is hard to ignore. Most recently the Berkley report funded by sceptics to prove that all this climate change stuff was made-up by nasty anti-capitalists determined to restrict daily freedoms discovered the opposite.
Why should this matter to new parents? On a pragmatic level daily life will be very different. Imagine for one moment that the UK has fallen under the control of a highly efficient dictatorship. The dictator has introduced only one new rule which is that every person has a strict carbon ration. Overnight the new regime has somehow installed magic meters to measure our use.
Puzzled, we have a shower aware the meter is ticking. The drive to work inevitably hits the meter, but we hadn’t accounted for the empty home diminishing our carbon allowance due to sloppy use of heating timers. In just five hours the meter hits zero. The lights, our computer and the heating all shut down. We can’t buy food and have to walk home to a dark, cold house. The enormity of our dictator’s rule hits home. We realise that fundamentally our lifestyle and economy has to change entirely.
It sounds ridiculous, but is it far-fetched? UK legislation states by 2050 we have to cut carbon emissions by 80%. We have just 39 years to achieve this colossal level of change easily within the life span of our newly born children. What will their life be like in this very different future?
On a more emotional level our children might live in a world with less richness and diversity. Changing weather patterns hit people and animals living at the extremes the hardest. Anybody who has been entranced by David Attenborough’s beautiful Frozen Planet series will understand what impact significant climatic change will have. How would we feel about our children inheriting a future without some of these amazing creatures and landscapes?
How should new parents respond? At the simplest level, every tonne of carbon dioxide we pump into the atmosphere makes it just that bit harder for our children’s generation to cope. Basic things like making sure the house is better insulated not only mean that baby’s room is warmer but also saves money and cuts carbon.
Personally, my ambition to grow vegetables has resulted in commandeering some space at the in-laws garden and growing enough beans, carrots, courgettes, broccoli and even aubergines to feed us and baby for most of the summer. This small-scale version of the good-life has provided organic food, saved money and cut significant amounts of carbon.
At a more complex level, perhaps parents should re-think how they can provide a safer future for baby. It may feel safer to drive our precious bundle around in a large, solid 4×4, but is that really the case if the carbon it emits is helping to create a long-term legacy that will be expensive and difficult to address?
Becoming a parent presents a huge array of new feelings. Life takes on different challenges and demands but in this period of enormous change perhaps all of us need to think a little harder about how our current lifestyle choices will have a long-term impact on our baby’s lives.
Trewin Restorick is CEO of Global Action Plan www.globalactionplan.org.uk
Follow Trewin on twitter @TrewinR