SUMMERSIDE — Jill MacIntyre isn’t 100 per cent sure she wants kids. But she is sure that she wants the choice.
But given the state of the world’s climate (and not only politically), MacIntyre and other young people fear if things don’t change soon, the choice will be lost.
“In high school, I had the idea that there was more time. But that changed when I went to university. Friends I made at Mount Alison were talking about divestment initiatives to get companies and politicians away from using natural resources.
“Now, with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change saying we have about 10 to 12 years to reverse what we’ve done, we’re under a huge wake up call.”
If you haven’t caught on, MacIntyre, a 22-year-old Prince Edward Islander, is talking about global warming and what it means for not only her future but for others.
“Essentially, our lives may be cut short because of climate change.”
She said she’s learned about global warming all her life. As a 1996 baby, it was inevitable, she said.
But what she wasn’t expecting to be a topic of discussion was the ethics of bringing a child into the world, knowing the state of the planet’s environment.
“My girlfriends and I have had wine and cheese nights and then we’ll end up having the conversation if it’s ethical to have children knowing what we know about climate change. And for us, it’s an ongoing conversation. Most of my friends are very aware of the threat climate change has.”
It’s a perspective not everyone may take, but it’s one that niggles at MacIntyre.
“Our biological rights as people who can reproduce might be taken away by the time, we’re ready to have kids,” she said, leaning forward in her seat with urgency.
Beyond buying metal straws
But with all of this, some still might beg the question, “Why should we care, what can we do?”
“Growing up as a Gen Z millennial, I was focused on little actions I could. But recently I’ve had shift within my own thinking where I’ve realized that personal actions aren’t enough. We’re beyond the point of buying metal straws.”
To help stay informed, MacIntyre has surrounded herself with like minded individuals, researched climate change as well as become involved in the local Green political party.
“There needs to be structural change with a focus on government and corporations. I’d feel comfortable saying the average person my age is aware of what’s going on, but we need to get past that mental block and start calling for action.”
By mental block, MacIntyre means the ability human beings have to separate something happening elsewhere in the world from what is going on in their personal sphere. For example: The ice caps are melting, but they’re not melting in front of me.
“I think it’s sad that young people have to take up this torch simply because people who have caused climate change, or the older generations, haven’t.”
Recently she attended a climate justice conference that brought youth from across Canada together to the front lines.
“It was really incredible to be surrounded by these like-minded individuals who want to see things change. We’re a group of people who don’t mind civil disobedience, marches and walk outs.”
Young people are the connectors she said.
“And we have those connections, the resources we need, but it’s hard to organize young people when we may be focusing on getting jobs or an education, or if we’re not making enough money to help with funding.”
If she could say one thing to the young people of Canada and the possible future generations, it would be, “I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry we’re in this situation and that we have to make these decisions when we’re 20 years old. We deserve to live on this planet, to live here until we’re old and grey. But we have to start fighting so we can and so that our kids and grandkids can have it, too.
“Although we didn’t create this mess, we’re the ones who are going to have to clean it up.”
And while it may seem bleak, MacIntyre said she is hopeful.
“When I was 19 I got to vote at all three levels of government. And while I was disappointed by our voting systems it’s changed my outlook. I think provincial politics can actually make a meaningful difference. And while I’m on an Island with political systems that have been focused on agriculture and fisheries, we could also focus on eco-tourism.”
There are little things MacIntyre still incorporates in her daily life while trying to make waves on a larger scale.
Here are a few of the personal changes she's focused on:
- Reduce plastic consumption: “We’re all responsible for the ocean.”
- Retrofit your lifestyle, if you can afford it: “Shop at the farmer’s market if that’s an option.”
- Don’t contribute to clothing waste: “Join a swap/sell group. There are lots of options. Try thrift stores, donate clothes to organizations or people you know who would make a home for them in their closet.”
- Join community organizations and groups centred around eco-action.
- Try reducing food waste: “We waste about 40 to 50 per cent of all food produced. We can all individually mitigate that. Meal planning – and not necessarily prepping a week’s worth of food – can be an easy start.
- Freeze food scraps and leftovers that can be used for other recipes or to make soup broths.