how to talk to my kids about climate emergency and extinction

(60 Posts)
mikalatuschek Sat 03-Nov-18 21:33:51

How do I talk to my children about global warming, that it is dangerous and happening now. That collapse of civilisation as we know it is probable and that we're in the midst of an extinction crisis? Can't leave them in the dark and yet I don't want them to live in fear!
But also can't live with knowing about it myself, feeling the grief and fear myself and keeping it silent. Of course, on some level they know something is not right and not talking about it seems incongruent...

OP’s posts: |
BackforGood Sun 04-Nov-18 00:26:06

It's been a few years now since mine were young children, but all of mine loved First News when they were about 7 - 10 / 11ish. Once they'd all read it here, I used to take them into school and they were very popular with the children there, too.

It is a children's Newspaper that covers news stories in a way that doesn't patronise, but explains the background to stories in the News and things affecting us in the World today.

incorruptibledream Sun 04-Nov-18 00:30:14

Perhaps don't use phrases like 'extinction crisis' or 'collapse of civilisation as we know it' 

Nissemand Sun 04-Nov-18 00:32:40

I'm not sure you're best placed to talk to them, you sound a bit over emotive.

Buy them a few books, or a subscription to New Scientist or something.

heartshapedpositnotes Sun 04-Nov-18 00:43:05

Why did you have children if you knew you would be bringing them into this situation? Did you adopt?

mikalatuschek Sun 04-Nov-18 18:25:24

Thanks for reading suggestions. I'll look into that.

The terms 'extinction crisis' or 'collapse of civilisation as we know it' is what they will inevitably pick up form the media, it's surprising what children pick up without us spelling it out, it will be pervading their lives and they will be experiencing this unless humans acts pretty pronto now. I wouldn't want to use those terms, I'd like to bring it gently, but not talking about it won't make them feel safer I don't think. Instead it could set up a lot of cognitive dissonance in them ("if this is true, why aren't my parents doing anything?").

You're right I'm emotive, if you aren't yourself you haven't paid attention. But yes, you're right, I probably need to attend to my emotions first before speaking to the children. That doesn't mean the emotions will go away, but I will need to be able to hold them myself.

I had children because I love this earth and humanity and despite the evidence I held hope for possible positive outcomes. I still have hope but it is waning.

It would require everyone to wake up to this now and stop denying...

OP’s posts: |
oatmilk4breakfast Thu 15-Nov-18 21:56:58

Hello this is EXACTLY how I’m feeling. I didn’t know it until this week how dire the situation is. Even the optimistic scenarios are dire. I feel such a profound sense of grief too and I respect that this is the thought that you are having for your children.


mum5netab1 Mon 19-Nov-18 15:10:10

Hi. I really feel for any of you freaking out about climate change. It's very very frightening. I've been doing a lot of research about what we can actually do. I feel like mums might make a real difference. I've given up my car, flights and meat. I feel like when mums realise they are putting their own children in danger then things might change?

oatmilk4breakfast Mon 19-Nov-18 23:26:12

I really hope so mum5. Thanks so much for responding - is lonely feeling like this!!

Amibambini Thu 22-Nov-18 22:05:53

Hello parents reading this. This is a pretty heavy subject and I'm a both surprised and not surprised how it is avoided so much here in mumsnet land.. You would think that as an online space dedicated to parenthood, the incredibly dire future of our children would be a hot topic. But no everyone would rather chat about the new Christmas ad and parking issues.

The truth is, if we keep going the same as we have been going, 5C of warming is locked in before the end of the century. That's not slightly hotter days and ooh it will be a bit like Spain in England. It mean total civilisational collapse brought about by global crop failure, mass movement of people and water wars. Our children will witness the end of civilisation in their lifetimes. It's looking likely we will witness it in ours. We have been failed by our governments and our media to fully communicate the truth about it.

I have a 4 year old, she's awesome, and I grieve for her future and that of her friends. I don't talk about climate change with her because I want her childhood to be as carefree as possible for as long as possible. But she knows that we live as mindfully as possible on the earth, we don't waste things and pick up plastic and do nice things instead of buying all the things.

When it becomes unavoidable, I will try to be as calmly factual as possible but also keep in front of her all the work that people are doing to help try and turn the ship around. Her Dad works for an international environmental NGO, and I am currently changing out of my career into climate communications related work and also volunteering with a new climate mobilisation group. I was a self employed wedding photographer but I can no longer bear to do that while the planet burns. I am lucky in that I am able to do that, I understand it's not as simple for other people, work wise.

This piece by George Monbiot really resonated with me, and with so many others, people were sharing it online who I had never seen engage with climate issues before - - and I started looking in Extinction Rebellion. I could write reams and reams about what they are doing (TL:DR AWESOME!) but that's a whole other thread.
What is happening is that there are lots of people actually getting up and doing stuff about it. And we need you to do it to. And you know what? When you start connecting with other people who care about this, and you work with them for our collective future, some of the gut roiling anxiety starts to melt away. You actually start to have fun, and make friends with beautiful, lively, passionate people who won't mind if you now and again cry about climate change. They will cry with you and then you get up and get to work. Hope sparks.

But we need more of you. Small individual life-style changes and small minded, peevish emotional responses and timidly hoping that the government will fix it will not be enough. Those tiny, innefectual responses will do nothing except kill our children and wipe all the beauty off the face of the planet. We don't have time to worry about what people will think, if they think we are just being Debbie Downers. The unfolding crisis, of which we have just seen the first corner of, will be the biggest cataclysm to ever be faced by humanity and it requires a response as equally gargantuan. We need to ask ourselves, what kind of a world do we want for out children, and for everyone else's children, human and not. And instead of waiting for the answer from above, we answer it ourselves. And the world that we need to keep living, one not based on turning every resource into money to be discarded, could be beautiful.

In 12 years time, my daughter will be 16, almost 17. I want her to know that we worked to avert disaster. I wouldn't be able to look her in the eye if she asked me when we knew and what we did when we knew, and if all I could answer was.. 'uh.. nothing really'.

Amibambini Thu 22-Nov-18 22:09:10

I have to go and do mum-shit now, but I will pop back and add a few links to cool stuff happening around the world.

mum5netab1 Fri 23-Nov-18 09:04:37

I just wanted to back up everything amibambini said. Unless we demand environmental policies of our leaders right now our children won’t have a future. I’ve stopped working at my normal job to try to fight against climate change and save my kids lives. I don’t understand how so many of you don’t know this is no longer a matter of the science books but is an existential struggle. I don’t understand why this isn’t on the news every night. The UN Secretary General has made it clear we are heading for hell on earth. New York will be underwater in thirty years. Billions will be refugees. We need to do everything we can to save our kids lives right now. I’ve done all the personal things - gone veggie, getting solar panels, switched to renewables, divested of fossil fuels investments. And I’m also backing extinction rebellion, trying to get arrested. The diminished economic future promised by Brexit is absolutely nothing to what will be unleashed by 5 degrees warming. Every tiny thing we do might save a life - might save our kids lives. Join together with other women and we can make a difference. And if we can’t, and our kids have to face apocalypse anyway, at least we will have tried. At least our lives will have had some meaning.

Amibambini Fri 23-Nov-18 16:06:24

YASSSS mum5netab1!!

bluejelly Fri 23-Nov-18 17:52:08

I agree with much of what has been said already. I decided I had to do something partly because I didn't want to look my grandchildren in the eye and say all I did was go to work, shop and fly and pretend it was all ok.
So I'm championing a green agenda at work and actively trying to raise awareness. But I know it's nowhere near enough.
In terms of what you tell children - I think it's unfair to tell young children. They didn't cause this and there's bugger all they can do about it. Once they get to a certain age (for my kids it was 9/10) I started talking about it more, and that's gradually increasing. But it's not an easy one.

mum5netab1 Fri 23-Nov-18 18:13:57

That's great that you are championing a green agenda at work bluejelly. I think and hope that the speed of change will gather pace. I pray it will or, you know, there won't be a future. I ask everyone I talk to if they have a strategy for going zero carbon and who is in charge of delivering it. Apparently the biggest single impact thing you can do personally is switch to a renewable energy supplier -takes ten minutes and saves you money. And of course vote for green policies whoever you support. I agree it's unfair to tell young children - also what are you going to say. 'It turns out civilisation is slated to end when you are forty because of the influence of the fossil fuel industry. Here's how to grow your own food and shoot'? In five years it'll be anathema to drive a petrol car. People around me with gas guzzlers are already getting challenged. Soon the same will be true of flying. I hope. When we were kids hardly anyone flew for a holiday, and the EU at least have got to slap an appropriate carbon tax on the aviation industry, haven't they? I mean 40,000 people dying from air pollution in the UK a year. My kid's got asthma. I can buy an ASOS dress for six quid. These things are related. I can't help thinking, I'd rather not have the cheap fashion and my kid be able to breathe. Maybe there'll be a rise in consciousness. It sounds like lots of people on this thread just don't know. Maybe it's about getting the message out there.

bluejelly Fri 23-Nov-18 18:31:55

Totally agree with everything you say mum5.
Part of the problem is psychological. Humans are very good at thinking in the short term (I want to eat a burger, I want to buy a new dress) but not very good at thinking long term (I want my great grandchildren to live in a clean, safe world).
And because there is no immediate penalty to unsustainable living, we push it to one side and shrug our shoulders.

However after years of complacency I do feel things are finally turning. We have to stay positive and take courage where we can. It really is starting to change in my company. I hope this is replicated in many others!

Socrates11 Sun 25-Nov-18 00:42:21

Just watched all of this video. Frome uprising: funeral for extinct species. I think it illustrates what is happening and what is at stake really well. Why I thought of OP, just look at all the children involved through your the event. I think it's great. We are creating a worse and worse situation so it is time to rise up, challenge and change the 'business as usual' politics.

7Days Sun 25-Nov-18 01:06:33

Oh God this is
I've put my head in the sand. Id rather a meat dinner and a new dress than think about this.
But. Mt kids, everyone's kids deserve a decent chance at life. The tide is turning and people are waking up.

Baby steps.... Change to a renewable energy supplier.

Meat. Is it just cows that are the problem? And is it just intensively farmed ones? Maybe grass grazed like we see here in the UK and Ireland isn't as bad?
What about pork and poultry?

I like the suggestion above that mums will lead the change to sustainability.
It's like there's been a massive destructive party at home, the place is in absolute shit, but mums are rolling up their sleeves and getting stuck in the hard work of clearing up as usual.

We have to keep hopeful.

mum5netab1 Sun 25-Nov-18 10:35:34

I went to a workshop called Active Hope, and from that I ended up speaking at the funeral for the future. In our kids lifetimes civilisation will end unless we do something. I’ve got the kids’ pensions. We are due to hit 4 degrees before they draw them - 4 degrees is, well, apocalypse. Change your energy supplier. Stop eating beef and lamb and dairy if you can. Get rid of your petrol car. Refuse to fly. And campaign -tell everyone. People really don’t know. If we thought petrol would give our kids cancer in thirty years we wouldn’t go near the stuff. Petrol is going to do far worse than that. I’ve changed everything in six weeks and apart from a bit of grumbling about sausages it’s all been better. I’ve accepted it’s unlikely I’ll be a grandmother. That’s been the hardest thing - but who knows maybe if we work really hard our kids might be able to have kids themselves?

mum5netab1 Sun 25-Nov-18 10:50:00

Solar panels! We aren’t taking a holiday this year and are getting solar panels instead. The car thing is amazing. Even with getting green cabs it’s still cheaper than owning a car. Can’t recommend enough!

RosemaryRusset Sun 25-Nov-18 11:20:45

It's so hard. I have been doing all the things for so long - no meat, travel by bike, minimal shopping, and it's great that everyone is thinking about that more too - it does make a difference if everyone takes these actions.
But what we really really need now is political action. Campaign, write to your MP even if you don't know exactly what to say, join Extinction Rebellion if there is one locally (this is my next move), talk to people you know. Some local councils are taking it on - Bristol City Council have passed a motion declaring a Climate Emergency and committing themselves to take action. The more of this that happens, the more pressure there is on national government to act.
I have a small daughter too and am terrified for her future.

mum5netab1 Sun 25-Nov-18 13:05:37

Yes! Political action is needed. But so is raising consciousness. I don’t think people understand it’s their kids whose lives are in danger. I can’t think that if mums realised it they would carry on voting for a government who want to expand Heathrow, and invest in fracking rather than renewables. It’s insane. Kids are already dying in wildfires and in thirty years it’ll be our kids. By which time it will be too late because irreversible climate change will have occurred. For crying out loud the poles are melting! Why isn’t this stuff on the news every night?

bluejelly Sun 25-Nov-18 13:55:49

It really hit home for me when I realised we had to get to carbon zero by 2050. Zero. This means we have to make profound changes to the way we live. The quicker we get there the easier our lives will be. But I don't think people have quite clocked that yet. So I'm busy telling everyone I possibly can. And trying to start with my own choices. We have to have hope but also courage.

mum5netab1 Sun 25-Nov-18 14:17:26

I’m so glad to hear you say that. I’m asking everybody what their plan is to go carbon zero.

Thomlin Sun 25-Nov-18 16:07:16

I can't help but feel we've created a life where using things that will harm the planet has become necessary. In the 50s and 60s my work had 6 small factories dotted over the region. People who worked there were local and would walk to work. We now have one huge super factory and people drive 50-100+ miles to get there.

It's a shame. I think a lot of people bury their head in the sand because they think it's inevitable. No point in worrying about something that's going to happen anyway.

I will research green energy companies and have a look at small things I can do. I don't want to be part of it anymore.

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