07/31/2012 12:13 EDT | Updated 09/30/2012 05:12 EDT

Because of the Environment, I May Not Have Children


Growing up, I never doubted that I would someday become a mother.

But over the past few years, I have begun to question whether or not I should ever have children.

It has nothing to do with anxiety about supporting a child on a writer's income -- that could be overcome with help and hard work. It has nothing to do with a lack of maternal urges -- my uterus twinges every time I smell a baby's hair. It has everything to do with my fears about climate change and how different my child's life will be from my own.

I am not exactly an environmental crusader. I turn off the lights whenever I leave a room. I use public transportation. I recycle. For a long time, I thought this was enough.

It's not.

No decent parent would knowingly put his or her child in situations where they would experience fear, discomfort and pain. But this is exactly what we are doing by not acting immediately to lessen our impact on this planet.

In the latest issue of Rolling Stone, leading environmental journalist Bill McKibben uses the undeniable power of numbers to explain that we are quickly marching into doomsday. He writes:

We have five times as much oil and coal and gas on the books as climate scientists think is safe to burn. We'd have to keep 80 percent of those reserves locked away underground to avoid that fate. Before we knew those numbers, our fate had been likely. Now, barring some massive intervention, it seems certain.

I am beginning to understand that "alarmism" is a word people like to use when they would prefer not to think about inconvenient truths.

We must understand and accept is that climate change is not happening at some unspecified time in the future. From droughts and wildfires across the United States to the breaking off of an iceberg twice the size of Manhattan just last week, climate change is here. We are all bearing witness to it. It is happening.

What will it take to spur action from world leaders? Do we need an environmental Pearl Harbour? Will it take New York City under water? Smog alerts on Christmas Eve? How about a failed North American corn crop that will spike food prices to astronomical levels and make widespread hunger a reality for those of us who have never truly felt it?

When you are speeding towards a brick wall, it's a bad idea to wait until the last possible second to slam on the brakes.

Fossil fuels are very much the enemy. President Obama squandered a golden opportunity by giving the automobile industry bailouts without this disclaimer: they would receive the billions of public dollars only if General Motors, Ford and Chrysler acted in the interests of our children -- by creating and implementing vehicles using only sustainable fuel sources.

But every day, world leaders are choosing the economy over the environment. As McKibben puts it, you can't have both.

Personally, I choose unemployment over extinction.

We need decisive leadership and action now. It will not come from the Canadian prime minister, as Stephen Harper is unashamedly bedfellows with Big Oil. It will not come from our minister of the environment, Peter Kent, a vocal proponent of the oil sands. Oh, Canada! Stephen Leacock himself could not have penned a parody this absurd.

I look to President OBama and other world leaders to make this change. I ask for an emergency environmental summit in exchange for our votes this November.

As a species, we must adapt or die. World leaders must scrap our current system by penalizing and taxing the fossil fuel industry within an inch of its life and using that money to grow the sustainable energy economies. By continuing on as we have always done, we are digging ourselves into an ever-deeper hole that our children will never be able to climb out from.

Sixteen years from now (Malia will be 30 and Sasha will be 27), I cannot look into the eyes of my suffering child and tell her, when there was still time to alter the course of her future, that we sat back and did nothing.

And that is why I'm still not certain that I can ever become a mother.

My voice is the only weapon I have. You have one, too.