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196: How to do right by your child – and everyone else’s with Dr. Elizabeth Cripps
29th October 2023 • Your Parenting Mojo - Respectful, research-based parenting ideas to help kids thrive • Jen Lumanlan
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Do you worry about the state of the Earth? Climate change perhaps above all else, but also resource extraction, air pollution, and the injustice that goes along with the ways the impacts of these things are distributed?
 
You're not the only one.
 
I know not everyone goes this far, but one of the reasons I waited so long to have a baby, almost didn't have a baby, and will only have one child is to reduce my impact on climate change.
 
We all know we're supposed to fly less, drive less, and eat less meat. But how can those actions ever be enough, when (I read somewhere a long time ago) that there aren't enough resources on the planet for everyone to consume the resources that an unhoused person in the United States uses?
 
In her new book Parenting on Earth: A Philosopher's Guide to Doing Right by Your Kids - and Everyone Else's (affiliate link), Dr. Elizabeth Cripps walks us through the moral arguments involved in taking action on these issues - as well as the ones we use to justify not taking action.
 
I really enjoyed this book. There are so many ways it could have gone wrong. Dr. Cripps is a White European philosopher writing about ways we can reduce our environmental impact.
 
The book could have been dense (ever get lost trying to follow a philosophical argument? 🙋‍♀️)
 
It could have been preachy.
 
It could have been completely tone-deaf, and say that we all bear the same responsibility to make changes.
 
It doesn't do any of those things.
 
It's easy to understand, practical, and acknowledges Dr. Cripps' (and many of her readers,' including my own) place in society. This is our responsibility - but also not just our responsibility. We need systemic change at the State, national, and international levels as well.
 
This book helps you see what you can do by yourself, and also when you combine your efforts with others, which is a lot bigger than the sum of its parts. And that makes it an interesting, hopeful read. (I worked in sustainability consulting for a decade and I learned some things!)
 
 
Elizabeth Cripps' book:
 
 
 

Jump to Highlights

01:20 Introduction to today’s episode and featured guest  02:39 Dr. Elizabeth Cripps gives a brief overview of what climate change is and how it is already affecting and will continue to affect us in the future 04:40 The moral aspect of climate change  06:39 The challenge of differentiating individual and governmental responsibilities regarding climate change 12:20 The connection between shame and topics like White supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism, and climate change 17:51 How broader societal concerns, like climate change, influence your everyday decision-making 26:10 Exploration on whether the Western-developed framework for climate change can be adapted to different cultures with varied moral perspectives 28:20 The choice of having children and how climate concerns influenced that decision  35:20 The concept of fairness and how children often have a strong sense of morality and fairness 37:18 A playful approach to life and problem-solving can inspire creativity for solving complex issues 38:54 How parents can engage in climate activism and justice alongside their everyday responsibilities  43:28 How parents might justify not taking action or not fully acknowledging climate change as a significant problem 45:20 Addressing climate change as a shared responsibility 48:12 Nurturing environmentally responsible children  51:42 Wrapping up discussion
 

References

 
Cripps, E. (2022). What climate justice means, and why we should care. London: Bloomsbury Continuum.   Cripps, E. (2017). Do parents have a special duty to mitigate climate change? Politics, Philosophy & Economics 16(3), 308-325.
 
Cripps, E. (2017). Justice, integrity, and moral community: Do parents owe it to their children to bring them up as good global climate citizens? Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 117(1), 41-59.
 
Seebach, N. (2018). Is classroom boredom hidden guilt? A comparison between teaching Aboriginal history in Australia and Post-Holocaust history in Germany. NEQ: Emerging Scholars in Australian Indigenous Studies
 

Transcripts

Jessica:

Do you get tired of hearing the same old intros to podcast episodes? Me too. Hi, I'm not Jen. I'm Jessica. And I'm in rural East Panama. Jen has just created a new way for listeners to record the introductions to podcast episodes, and I got to test it out. There's no other resource out there quite like Your Parenting Mojo, which doesn't just tell you about the latest scientific research on parenting and child development, but puts it in context for you as well. So you can decide whether and how to use this new information. If you'd like to get new episodes in your inbox along with a free infographic on 13 Reasons your child isn't listening to you (And what to do about each one), sign up at YourParentingMojo.com/subscribe, and come over to our free Facebook group to continue the conversation about this episode. You can also thank Jen for this episode by donating to keep the podcast ad free by going to the page for this or any other episode on YourParentingMojo.com. If you'd like to start a conversation with someone about this episode, or know someone who would find it useful, please vote it to them. Over time, you're gonna get sick of hearing me read this intro as well. So come And record on yourself. You can read from a script she's provided or have some real fun with it and write your own. Just go to YourParentingMojo.com and click ReadtheIntro. I can't wait to hear yours.

Jen Lumanlan:

Hello and welcome to the Your Parenting Mojo podcast. I worked in sustainability consulting for a number of years and the issues that I used to work on related to climate change have always informed my life and my parenting, even though I haven't really talked about it so much on the podcast yet. Today we're here with a guest who is going to help us understand how climate change as well as many of the other social justice related issues that it intersects is already impacting us and our children And give us some practical advice for what we can do about it. Dr. Elizabeth Cripps is a mother, writer, activist and philosopher, and author of the new book, Parenting on Earth: A Philosopher's Guide to Doing Right By Your Kids (And Everyone Else). She is Senior Lecturer in Political Theory at the University of Edinburgh where she researches and teaches climate justice. She lives in Scotland with her husband and two daughters. Welcome Dr. Cripps. It's great to have you here.

Dr. Elizabeth Cripps:

Thank you very much for having me.

Jen Lumanlan:

Yeah. And so I wonder if we can start with just a brief overview of kind of what is climate change just so we can start on the same page without going super deep into it. So what is climate change? How is it already affecting us? And how will it continue to affect us in the future?

Dr. Elizabeth Cripps:

So climate change, which is the warming of our atmosphere as a result of greenhouse gas emissions, is something that the International Panel on Climate Change is very clear, is getting worse, it is real, and it's caused by human actions. So the IPCC report, has said that we need to cut our greenhouse gas emissions by 45% on 2010 levels by 2030, to avoid dangerous climate change. So that's to try and avoid climate change going above 1.5 degrees C. Once it gets above that we're in really dangerous territory, cases of extreme weather, fire, disease, floods. And these are all things that we've actually already seen happening. I mean, the wildfires that we've seen in California, in Europe, the extreme drought levels of drought that parts of Africa have been dealing with for a long time now, the floods that we've seen, for example, in the UK, and this is something that is forecasted to get much, much worse if we don't act fast on it.

Jen Lumanlan:

Yeah. And just to be clear, the IPCC is

Dr. Elizabeth Cripps:

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Jen Lumanlan:

Awesome. Thank you. And of course, climate change doesn't affect everybody equally, right? It affects some people more than it affects other people and in different ways too.

Dr. Elizabeth Cripps:

Yeah, absolutely. So I mean, the harms done by climate change tend to fall much worse on communities that are already marginalized for various reasons. So the global south has already been suffering much worse, even within countries, it tends to be groups who have less say in decision making and who are already worse off in many ways, who are hit hardest by it. So it tends to be women, it tends to be communities of color, it tends to indigenous communities. So climate injustice, one way of putting it is it tends to exacerbate existing injustices.

Jen Lumanlan:

Yeah, And of course, it mostly wasn't people in those communities who were responsible for generating emissions in the first place.

Dr. Elizabeth Cripps:

Absolutely. Which would make it such a clear cut moral problems such a clear cut injustice.

Jen Lumanlan:

Yes. So we're wading into climate as a moral issue. And this is sort of the core of what your book does, what your research does, which is where we start to look at the links between individual level harms that we might know okay, I'm responsible for not hurting another person. And, and how does that show up in this huge thing like climate change where I can drive my car to the grocery store? And who knows who that's going to hurt and how it's going to hurt them? How can we connect those two ideas?

Dr. Elizabeth Cripps:

I think you've really hit on what's been a kind of philosophical challenge around thinking about climate change, which is that when we think about our individual moral responsibility. We tend to focus on well, I shouldn't hurt people directly, I shouldn't go out and run my car into somebody. And I should help them if I easily could. So if you can, the example that's always used as if you could save a child from drowning, and it would just, you know, damage your new shoes, then it's just a moral Noblet brainer, that's what you should do. But in this case, we have a situation where it's not about what anyone individual does, it's to do with the way that all of our actions combined, or the systems that we're part of the way of life that we're part of that's causing us harm. So we need to sort of expand the way that we think morally, to acknowledge that actually, well, we can share responsibility for these problems. And we can have a sort of shared or collective responsibility to act together to challenge them. And that might mean, that often will mean challenging our governments or institutions and trying to change them, rather than just focusing on our individual behavior.

Jen Lumanlan:

And I think that's really challenging, right? Because so much of the narrative around climate change has focused on things that we need to do individually. And I know that some of the oil companies have been instrumental in pushing this idea that this isn't this an individual level responsibility, but you're seeing it as like, how do you see the individual versus the governmental responsibility?

Dr. Elizabeth Cripps:

I think that they're connected, but I think you've hit the nail on the head there, and that it really suits big corporations, big oil companies, governments to present this narrative that this is well, this is all about the decisions that individuals make, and how to live their lives. It's their responsibility and actually, what's going on here, it's incredibly structural is it's very difficult for individuals to make low carbon choices, because of the way their societies are set up. It will be extremely unfair to leave it to some individuals who happen to be motivated to make all these changes. So actually, the thing that we need to do if we're actually going to tackle climate change is focus on on that collective change on how we can work together to bring that about, but actually changing our individual lifestyle can be an important part of that it sends an important message to governments and corporations so the more people sort of shift towards plant-based eating, for example, the more corporations are likely to respond by producing more vegan products. And then that makes it easier for more people to follow suit. So there are things that there are ways in which these lifestyle changes really contribute to it. And also, I think it's morally important not to be sort of complicit in the harm if we can avoid it. But I think the priority here has to be well look, how can I be part of bringing about collective change.

Jen Lumanlan:

Okay, and so, kind of digging a little bit more into the example you gave of, you know, rescuing the person or saving your shoes. I think in that case, it's fairly clear to me what I should do, because I can save a child. And I can clearly see the action that's going to come from it. And I know that the thing that I choose to do, the choice I choose to make is going to have that action, you know, that intended effect or not. But I also read somewhere, and I've wanted to cite this forever, and I can't find where I initially read it, that there aren't enough resources on the planet for everybody to live in the way that an unhoused person in the US lives at the moment. And so if I'm talking about the choices that I can make within this framework of yes, that's not enough. And we need to be doing other things. But I'm thinking about, you know, driving less, and eating less red meat and all those kinds of things, it seems as though the suite of options that I have available to me is not actually going to get us to where we need to go. So how can I reconcile those two things?

Dr. Elizabeth Cripps:

So I think there's a big difference there between thinking about well, what can I change or even, you know, lots of different individual people in the UK or the US choosing to make these individual lifestyle changes. What can that actually achieve versus well, how could we live in a way that actually enabled people, everyone, to live a valuable, sustainable life? And that's why I think it's crucially important to keep the focus on well, how would we need to organize our society? What would our transport infrastructure need to look like, for example? What would the way that we produce food and build homes need to look like to be sustainable? And then of course, as you say, there is still this very challenging point that says, well, actually, we do have limited global resources and in order to live sustainably to live within planetary boundaries, it's not impossible. It's certainly possible to meet everyone's basic needs. But going beyond that, in terms of increasing quality of life, we need to think in terms of, of technological changes, but also thinking into terms of how we value the way we live, maybe putting less focus on economic growth and more on the other aspects of human flourishing, like the experiences we have the opportunities that we have to engage with nature. And all those things which actually sort of go deeper and say, well, maybe we need to assess what matters in life slightly differently. And then actually, we do have a possibility of living sustainably.

Jen Lumanlan:

Yeah, And I'm thinking I'm gonna forget the exact date, but GDP has only been around for about 70 years or something as a measure of human growth and you know, everything that's valuable in the world. And the idea of measuring our gross domestic product as the thing that we care about more than anything else, has not been around for very long. So what if we just stopped using it? We'd started, what if we just stopped?

Dr. Elizabeth Cripps:

Exactly. And I mean, there's there was a very interesting, I mean, I'm not an economist, but there's some really exciting kind of economic approaches like sort of donut economics, which try and rethink the way that we should assess our economic progress and work within planetary boundaries and assess human wellbeing more broadly than just in terms of GDP.

Jen Lumanlan:

I'm wondering about the extent to which you see shame as intersecting this topic. And this has come up in a couple of different areas for me recently. We talk a lot about White supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism on the show. And I've talked with a listener who thinks that I talk about those things entirely too much. And we actually had a moderated conversation on the show about her perspective on this and my perspective on this. And I think ultimately, what we got to is, there's sort of a sense of shame here, like I'm complicit in this, and I don't know what to do about it. And so it's easy to kind of turn away. And I also saw that in research on boredom for an episode on that topic, where a lot of students will say, "Oh, you know, Australian, Aboriginal history is boring." In Germany, the history of the Holocaust, "Oh, that's boring. We don't want to do that." And the researchers are positing that maybe people are kind of turning away from this and calling this boring because the idea of considering yourself complicit in a way even though you weren't alive at the time that the actual actions were happening in some of these cases, that the thought of bit that complicity is just too overwhelming and too shaming. Do you see as something similar showing up in the climate change work?

Dr. Elizabeth Cripps:

I think it's really interesting. So the reason I sort of talk a bit about shame in the book is because I think that when we are talking about these collective harms. It no longer makes sense to talk about kind of individual guilt or blameworthiness. So much in the way that we would, you know, if it's one individual going out and punching another in the face. The sort of participation in these ways of life which are harmful, it seems more appropriate to think about something like shame, which attaches to do with with, you know, harms that you're part of, or things that you're part of, rather than directly hinging on what you choose to do as an individual. But as you say, it's a really difficult emotion to live with. And people will often react by turning off. And I think that's, that's something that we see generally with climate emotions. They're not easy things to sit with their fear. Some people feel guilt, frustration, anger, and yes, shame. And there is a real temptation just to shut them down and to ignore them and try and live as though we don't know what's going on. And there I think psychologists can be really helpful. I mean, they're helpful because they identify how bad that is for us that we just end in this kind of process of kind of disavow or double thing where we're trying to know something and not know it, And play all these kind of mental games, do all these mental gymnastics to try and make things make sense that we're deciding to do. And actually moving through that facing up to these emotions, even though they are really difficult, and working through them to come out with a kind of more of a determination or an earned hope, is actually a really valuable process. But yes, you're right. It's one that it can be very difficult to do or to encourage people to do.

Jen Lumanlan:

Yeah, and I mean, obviously, your book is about parenting--parenting, climate change together. And so I want to get super specific, because obviously, that's who we're talking to here in our listeners. And so you're describing the book a number of examples of parents giving their children large numbers of presents for holidays and birthdays, big tuition bills for private school, expensive holidays, and I want to quote a bit from the book here. And you say, "When we have kids, it's tempting to think that gives us a kind of moral free pass from fulfilling many of our responsibilities as global citizens. We think it's okay to spend all we have on toys and books and gadgets, birthday parties and holidays, sports coaching and job or university applications. More than that, we sometimes think it's what we should do. It's not selfish or immoral. It's part and parcel of being a good parent. And thinking like this, we make two serious moral mistakes. We overestimate some of the things we should do for our own kids when others need us to. And in the process, we let down the very children we are trying to protect because we're mistaken about what that means in this fragile world." And I think that this really gets to the heart of how many people who are listening to the show may be approaching this topic. And so can you dig into this a little bit for us? Tell us what you mean, when you're saying that that phrase to us that paragraph?

Dr. Elizabeth Cripps:

So I think there is this idea in the Global North and goodness, this is something that, you know, I do myself as well, we all do that we tend to think well, being a good parent means devoting myself as much as I can to my child. It means spending time with them, loving them, and of course it does. But we also tend to think, well, the way that we rightly express this is trying to buy them things, lots of toys, opportunities, think of worry about their economic future, worry about, you know, a school and, and so on. And in the process, I think there's a real danger that we've forgotten, firstly, what other people need and that other people still also have a claim on us. And secondly, we're what more fundamentally our children might need. Because we come to silver on the first point. We're still moral agents. I mean, we still have these, what I call about responsibilities as global citizens, which, broadly speaking, come from this fact that, you know, there is a real problem in being part of both complicit in a way of life, that's harming people that we should help people in need, if we can-- the kind of basic intuition that I think most people would share. And when we become parents that have this special responsibility to these new people that doesn't, that doesn't go away, and so yes, I think we can legitimately prioritize our children over someone else in need, if they're both in need. And we can prioritize doing things for our children, giving them goods and things over, you know, providing extra things for other people. But fundamentally, when it comes to a clash between maybe giving our children music lessons or something, versus helping people who really need it, it doesn't look so so straightforward to say, well, actually my special duty to my child trumps everything else. So that's the first moral mistake. And then the second one is, as I say that when we think about the world that we're leaving for our children, the future that they're going to grow up in all that And climate change, but also things like antibiotic resistance, the possibility of future pandemics, this kind of ongoing injustice that we've already touched on in this conversation. When we think about that actually, is going to matter deeply to them, that we're turning them out into a world which is incredibly flawed, possibly more than it will matter to them, you know, whether they've been taught to play the violin, or pay to get go to football coaching or bought 9000, toys, or whatever it is. So I think there is this real question of well, have we forgotten what's going to matter most to our children, as well as what we owe to other people when we think in this way?

Jen Lumanlan:

And I'm wondering the extent to which you are thinking about this, when you're thinking about the violin lessons, or whatever it is? How much does that factor into the daily decisions that you're making in your life?

Dr. Elizabeth Cripps:

And it's no, I mean, it's hugely difficult because I don't know exactly what the balance is for different people. And that's one thing that I definitely talk about in the book, but I can't go out And say, well, you should always make exactly this decision because for different parents, it's going to be a different set of values and a different process. I can only say, well, look, when we're weighing these things up, there's different things that will matter to our children and things that we could do for them, or that we could do for other people, there are some things that we can ask ourselves, like, what, how fundamentally important is this to a good life? Or if my child could look back from 2050 at this pivotal moment in time, what would they rather have focused on? And I don't know exactly what the balance is. I try to kind of find some kind of way involving, you know, giving opportunities to my children, the ones that perhaps matter most to them, or to me, but also, you know, keeping time and money to tackle global challenges as well.

Jen Lumanlan:

Okay, so you're almost talking about like a rubric for making decisions, right. And I think that's, that can be really helpful for parents. And I use a similar one as well. I actually used to teach a sustainability MBA class on lifecycle assessment, which is the tool to actually understand the trade offs between the environmental impacts of products and services. And the end of the class, the students would always say to me, how would you even manage to go through a grocery store when you're constantly making these trade offs? And I would tell them, you know, I have this kind of rubric that I use, where I'm looking to see is the fruit organic or not. And it's not that I think organic fruit is better for me, it's that I don't want the workers to be around the pesticides. But if their organic fruit is coming from 1000s of miles away, and the local fruit is not organic, then I'm gonna buy the local fruit because I think the climate change impacts are far greater on everybody on me and everybody else than the impact of the pesticides. So that forms kind of a rubric that I use to more quickly make decisions rather than getting paralyzed in front of the display of oranges every time. And so what you're saying is that we can sort of use this idea of, is my child going to look back on this pivotal moment and say, "Yes, this was the right decision"? Are they going to kind of take this perspective of this was the right decision to make for me, and as I was growing up, and for the other citizens of the world? I'm wondering, is there any more steps in that rubric for you are that you've seen other people use that would be helpful to parents who are listening?

Dr. Elizabeth Cripps:

So I think the first thing that it's helpful to do is to think about recognize it as a long term thing. So I think if we try to agonize over every single decision, so if you know, every time I told her want to stop at the corner shop on the way home from school and say, "I really want an ice cream Mommy," I start thinking, well, do I buy them an ice cream? Or do I give extra money to UNICEF or whatever? Do I read them a bedtime story or spend more time on on activism? I think it helps to kind of think long term, or what are the things which, you know, I really think we need to ring fence because they're so important for my children's upbringing, and further the projects that matter to us as a family. And then as it were, protect them, and then make space for these other things, which are also deeply important. And I think once we do that over the long term, then the decision that goes one way, or the other, is it going to be, is it going to be something that we have to agonize over so much? So I think that definitely helps. I then think that there are things that we can do in terms of thinking about, well, how do we approach this? Do we focus more on lifestyle changes? Do we focus more on coaches? And I talk about? Well, I think that for many reasons, we have to think about this as a collective. But then we can think about, well, how we can usefully play a part in this, you know, what talents do you have? What organizational skills do you have? Do you have spare money, spare time or both? On either, you know, what can you actually contribute? And how most usefully can do that? So I think there's, there's things like that that we can do to decide, well, what should I do with the time or money I've carved out? And then as, as I say, there is this this difficult balancing act between the other things my children need from me, and this project, which is also important for them. And there, I do think, you know, really trying to focus on what children and us as families really need and will contribute most to flourishing rather than, you know, perhaps that the things that we're taught to think matter because they're consumer goods, which seem really important, or you know, other passing fads. And then as I say, thinking, well, let's try and think about this for a long term point of view. Of course, right now, my child's going to be demanding the latest plastic gadget or whatever. But if they could look back, how would they broadly speaking, rather, I'd divided my time and energy right now?

Jen Lumanlan:

Yeah. And I think another idea that came up in the book is that really resonated for me was the idea that donating $1,000, and not that everybody has $1,000. But just as a kind of a benchmark $1,000 for carbon cutting charity could be 25 times more effective than the biggest individual level changes you could make. I mean, that that really was a shift for me. I didn't know that before. And so even if you don't have $1,000, right, that's still an amount of money that you are able to give to a charity that's doing that kind of work could be super, super meaningful.

Dr. Elizabeth Cripps:

Yeah, I mean, so I think it's recognizing that we can do a lot by being part in various ways, whether it's financially or in terms of contributing our efforts to these NGOs or other groups who are combining to work towards political And corporate change. And I mean, as I say, I do think the individual changes can play an important part within that. But the key goal has to be the collective. So if we're, you know, if we could do both great, if you could only do one, I would probably prioritize trying to bring about collective change.

Jen Lumanlan:

Yeah. And related to that, I think, is the idea of seeing how your little drop combines with all the other little drops. And I'm sure folks have had the experience of maybe donating to a GoFundMe or a to Akiva page where you're the first potential donation to this large amount that somebody's requesting, and it's like, is this actually going to make a difference? Whereas if you're closing the gap between all the people who have donated a the little bit that's remaining, it's like, oh, my little drop feels really meaningful. When actually, all those drops are meaningful, right?

Dr. Elizabeth Cripps:

That's, I mean, that's such a good example, because it really brings out I mean, this is a really important sort of idea and thinking about this philosophically, because it's so easy to think, well, what I do isn't going to make any difference, you know, whether it's turning down my heating or not flying, or whether it's going to a march or contributing to a climate or for that matter, you know, an anti-racism charity, you might think, well, I'm not going to make any difference. But actually, as you say, one way and the philosopher Julia Neski talks about this, that you can maybe think about it as well, am I going to help to harm and we've got this group of people who between them can make a really big difference and I'm one of them and it's kind of still up for grabs, which way this is going to go so I can think of her as being part of that important that important move again, it's part of thinking less about ourselves as individuals and more about what we can achieve collectively?

Jen Lumanlan:

Yeah, so it was very US context, but imagining yourself as a swing state voter.

Dr. Elizabeth Cripps:

Yes, exactly. Yes. Yes, exactly.

Jen Lumanlan:

Yeah. Okay. And also curious as to how weird country specific, you know, the Western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic country specific. The way that we're thinking about this is, and this has come up, actually, just in the last couple of weeks I've been reading Jonathan Haidt's book, The Righteous Mind, and again, very us focused, but he describes taking a trip to India relatively early in his career and seeing how other people in other cultures I mean, India, specifically, but also in many other cultures around the world, think about morality very differently than people in the US think about it, where you are presumed to be an individual, and you are responsible for yourself, and not really for very much beyond that. And I'm curious as to firstly, the framework that you're developing is obviously fits within a Western Eurocentric culture. How much can we assume that translates to others? And are there ideas from the way that other people think about morality that would be helpful to inform the way that we could address it within the context of climate change?

Dr. Elizabeth Cripps:

So I think it's yeah, so I try and start in this book, and actually, in my other one to two from the sort of fairly uncontroversial moral ideas. So the idea that, you know, there's something problematic about harming other people is one that would be pretty widely shared to get across many philosophical and indeed, religious and cultural viewpoints. But as you say, that kind of individualist way of approaching things is, is a very western one, and actually, there is a lot that we can learn when it comes to responding well to climate change, but also actually to the all the ways that we kind of live in conjunction with the natural world in a very exploitative way, which is also worsening things like antibiotic resistance, and the threats of future pandemics, we can actually learn a huge amount from indigenous communities, for example, who found much more connected and respectful ways of living and engaging with nature and who tend to think about these things more collectively. So I think there is there is a great deal that we can learn. I think I mean, it's also, as you say, I mean, I write very much from the position of somebody in the global north, and I'm kind of aware of my own privilege. So to some extent, I I'm conscious that I, I'm only I can only really presume to speak to people who am broadly speaking the same position, because, you know, it would be utterly presumptuous and inappropriate for me to start telling people who are already dealing with the realities of climate change, or, you know, have been dealing with generations of racist policies directed against their communities, for me to say, this is how you should live. What I'm trying to say, as well as parents who have this privilege, who should be concerned for our own children, but also for the victims more broadly speaking of these injustices. This is what we can do, this is what we should be doing and reflecting on. But at the same time, I will be incredibly wary of any kind of White savior style approach, which says that means we just sweep in and have all the answers and solve all these in a kind of White middle class type of way. This should be about inclusive activism, listening to the vulnerable communities, listening to the voices of those people who are entitled to be heard. So it's very much about well, how can we reflect on and use our privilege rather than how can we just decide what's going to happen.

Jen Lumanlan:

Yeah, and I will say that was one of the things I appreciated most about the book is you are very conscious of your place, and, and of not overstepping that, and I really appreciated that perspective that you brought to it. So. And I think that that kind of leads to one of the choices that many of the listeners of this podcast have that many people in many other parts of the world don't have, which is the decision to have children or not have children, and to decide how many children they want to have. And I will say, I don't know how common this is, but climate issues were a factor in my decision to have children. And they were I mean, the other part of the story is I didn't like children. So there was sort of that part of it, but then I would say about equal weight and not liking children part. And I think it would be irresponsible of me to have a child part and, you know, conversations with my husband, and those kinds of things happened and then ultimately, we ended up having one, and will not have any more than one partly because I would be a much worse parent to more than one, and partly because I want to minimize the impact that I my decisions are having on the world. And so I think my sense is that this is a relatively uncommon way of approaching the decision to have children or how many children to have, when I see people posting in online communities, this doesn't really factor into the decision that they're having. And so I'm wondering, can you give us a framework for how you would think about approaching this decision or maybe how you have thought about approaching this decision for you?

Dr. Elizabeth Cripps:

So well, yeah, I think I can, I can do both because what I try and do in that chapter is sort of reflect on it philosophically, but kind of think about what I've done rather than again, for reasons that we've talked about, rather than sort of try and make presume to make decisions for, for other people, particularly when it comes to a choice that's so, so personal is this. So there's sort of three reasons, I think why these concerns would play into our decisions about family size. So one is this, the fact that having a child in a country like the ones that we live in, is one of the biggest impacts that you can have on carbon emissions. The other is just fear for the world that we will be bringing a child into. And that's what we see with the birth strikers. And some others say, you know, I just don't want to do that to a child as it were. And then there's also a third one, which doesn't get talked about as much. But actually, interestingly, you you indirectly alluded to there, which is this idea that actually doing all the other things we should be doing for our existing child or for you know, everyone else in this incredibly challenged world takes up a lot of time. The more children I have, in some ways, the harder it will be for me to give that time either to other people or to my existing children. And I think that they're all understandable and valid reasons. I don't ultimately think that they're sort of knocked down reasons not to have children, I certainly hope and I'll since I have to, but because it's incredibly demanding thing not to have a child, if you want to. I mean, it will be a huge sacrifice and as we've talked about, this is a collective crisis. Actually, what we do as individuals, is only a part of bringing about change. And if you compare, for example, the impact that having a child, the carbon impact how many a child I think in the States is seven tonnes annually, I think, and in terms of carbon dioxide emissions, whereas it is much smaller, something like 1.4, I'd have checked that in France. So the difference that policies can make to the impact of your child is huge. So again, this comes back to what we mustn't put all the pressure on individuals, particularly in this case on individual women, and how they, how they use their bodies and it will be very demanding. So I think that, you know, ultimately, it's a reason it's a reason that we certainly factored in making our decision. But I don't think it's a knock down, we shouldn't have children. And again, this sort of fear for our children's future is very legitimate and very understandable. And to some extent, I kind of worry. Another reason why I think we owe it to our children to do something about this is that the world that their children would face could really be very dire if we don't, and they will be left with this as a real sort of searing dilemma. But I think at this point, you know, there is a third option, which is that we have children, and we work together to make sure that they have a good world rather than either terrible world for our children or don't have children. So for me, it ended up being balanced on these concerns, and we decided to stop it to children, although I would have loved to have more probably would have wanted to have for all things being equal. But that seemed like the right decision for us. But I don't, because different people can value family size so differently for different reasons. And be often those reasons are associated with past injustices. So for example, I read some studies that suggested that women of color in the states can particularly value being able to have and raise large families of their own biological children, precisely because of the abominable racial injustices that their community faced in the past. So I just don't think it would be appropriate it would, it would be outrageous for you know, White women like me to start saying, "Oh, well, you should be stopping it to children." That that's just not different. communities will have their own reasons for valuing family size differently. So all I can say is, you know, this was how it factored into into my decision making, but different people will be making their own decisions.

Jen Lumanlan:

Yeah. And so it's, it's more about awareness that this can factor in, right? And rather than a prescriptive, you know, that this, this is what you should do coming out of it. But here are some considerations that you can use that could impact your decision to have children or how many children.

Dr. Elizabeth Cripps:

Exactly. I mean, that there are moral reasons here to take it into consideration, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they're going to be overriding for people.

Jen Lumanlan:

Yeah. Okay. And so I think a lot of this is really linked to the idea of fairness, right? And one of the examples that really stuck out to me in your book was your child's feeling horrified that anyone might have to experience what would happen if a car's airbags were to break. And you said it had never happened to you, and you would hope it wouldn't happen to her and, and your six year old just kind of burst into tears and, "I don't want it to happen to anybody." And so I think our children have this really strong sense of morality and of fairness, but over time, through the experiences we have, and we ultimately end up with adults who can walk past a person lying on the street and not offer to help. And we can kind of see photographs of people dying in a newspaper and turn the page and look for what else is happening in the world. And so it seems as though our culture does a really good job of teaching us that we should stop seeing things that otherwise when we were little, we wanted to change a today, we might still want to change as well. And so I'm sort of saying this as an example of a way that we could learn from our children, right. Our education system is based on the premise that we know what is right. And we will teach that to our children, and then they will learn it and they will be better people. But I'm looking at this from perspective of, is it possible that we're the ones getting this wrong? And that we could actually learn something from the way our children are are perceiving this? What do you think?

Dr. Elizabeth Cripps:

I think that's completely right. I mean, a it's really interesting that because our children, I mean, certainly look at my little girl there, they have this kind of intuitive sympathy or desire that things don't go wrong for their fellow humans. And maybe I'm generalizing too much, but certainly that there seems to be this kind of capacity for caring about things very deeply. And I think that we, as a society, we sort of tend to respond by as it were trying to toughen them up in the way that, you know, you hear kind of anecdotal stories of affluent British families kind of teaching their children not to care about the suffering of animals when they're engaging in sort of sports in the same way that, you know, we can imagine Roman families teaching their children to toughen up by taking them to arena to watch the games and maybe you know, rather than go through this process, which is you say we do we get to adulthood, and we are able to just flick past the stories of suffering. Maybe instead of doing that, we should sort of stop and think well, what are our children telling us in their reaction there. And I think there's a lot of other ways in which we can learn from our children. So one thing I talked about in the book is sort of one of the psychological tools that we can use to kind of move out of climate apathy is, is trying to reconnect with nature. And that's something that our children can do already, they can become incredibly absorbed. I mean, again, with my, my little daughter, I talk about in the book, she just would sit there just watching some tadpoles wriggling around in a pond and will be so completely absorbed, and I would just be distracted and thinking about, well, oh, I can take a photo of her. I can put this on social media or whatever. But she she had that kind of capacity to pay attention, which is something that adults could really usefully relearn. And of course, young people are also leading the way in activism in many ways. And that's something that I think we have to be really conscious of his parents and kind of being part of that and, and respecting what they've done and their voice while at the same time realizing it shouldn't be their problem to solve.

Jen Lumanlan:

Yeah, and what you said about nature really reminded me of just an interaction I had with my daughter yesterday, where she was at a summer camp, and I don't even know what the curriculum topic of the day was. But she came home and I said, "What did you do today?" And she said, "We watched a dragonfly emerge from a pupa." And that was some, you know, random thing happening on a leaf nearby where she was eating her lunch. And that was the thing she wanted. Not whatever it was, the grownups are trying to teach her that day. And so yeah, so so that capacity for wonder and excitement over just something super simple that's happening. I think we have lost, we've lost a sense of play as well and of approaching life in a playful way and of playing regularly. And I think a lot of creativity comes in play. And maybe the way out of some of this challenge involves a lot of playful thinking, to bring the creativity that we need to find solutions to problems that may seem intractable.

Dr. Elizabeth Cripps:

Yeah, I think that's true. And I think in some ways, there are all kinds of examples of the way in which that as a society, we've become very consumerist, very materialistic. And our children kind of go through this process, which actually is very bad for their mental health of associating more and more value with, you know, what they can by having the latest gadget. Whereas when they're in their early childhood, they are, you know, absorbed in in imaginative play, and they find, you know, worlds for themselves and this or they can, you know, be totally happy just watching a frog for 10 minutes or so. And I think it is, it comes back to what we were saying about, well, what should we really value and we're measuring what a good life looks like.

Jen Lumanlan:

And so for parents who are starting to think about this and thinking, I don't have time, the lens that I was when I was thinking about how do we approach this was a conversation that I had with a woman of color recently that really has stuck with me. And she said, I don't know if I can fully understand what it's like to be a White person, but I think I can do that more easily than you can imagine being a person of color. And of course, I think she's absolutely right. And she said I know, as an example, I wouldn't have to worry about whether the person driving towards me and my child in the street is going to speed up as we're approaching the crosswalk because they're racist. And of course, having to go through life thinking about those things is truly awful, and it's our responsibility as White women and White people to shift our our thinking and our child's thinking on those things. So that this woman and her child don't have to have this experience. But it got me thinking what is it like to be a White person? And the perspective I came up with was, I am relatively privileged, right? I don't have an incredibly high degree of stress in my days, but I do work with a lot of parents who do and I think that even though we're not worrying about the car speeding towards us in the crosswalk, it's almost like all the other things expand like a gas to fill that empty space. And I bring this up, because I think a lot of parents who are listening to this are thinking, well, I would love to care about other people's children and to do more work on climate activism and climate justice. But I'm at the end of the rope, just thinking about my children, like, how can I possibly do this? How would you respond to that? What would you tell a parent who might be thinking that?

Dr. Elizabeth Cripps:

Well, the first thing I say is that I completely sympathize. I mean, I feel the same. And it's, it's so much to juggle being a parent emotionally. And actually that it is it is really hard. And I do I mean, I remember my sister saying to me some years ago, when something I'd be more worrying about, who turned out to be not something to worry about just said, "Oh, well, what would you worry about now?" And I was like, "I'll just move something else up my list. There's like this constant set of things that I could worry about." So we do always we do always have the capacity to do that. And of course, there are I mean, even within White people, there are huge divergences in terms of privilege. So I mean, I, I am not going to speak for the parent of a severely disabled child who is using you know, all of that, well, I might, you know, might try to advocate for them, but I'm not going to tell them what to do. Because, you know, they have so much that they have to do already for their child. And then there's many parents who are really struggling, because they're in the squeezed middle, caring for disabled or elderly parents, for example. And that's hugely challenging. So there are going to be some people who just don't have either time or money to spare. But for a lot of us, I think it is a question of moving around priorities, and maybe rethinking what some of the things we worry about. Because if you know, if you're literally in a house that's on fire, you don't say, "Oh, I'm not going to worry about this, because I've got too many other things to worry about with my child." You put that to the top of the list. And I think what I'm saying is uncomfortable, though it is. These challenges, these global emergencies that our children face, like climate change have to be much nearer the top of the list than than they are for us. And it's not I don't say it lightly, because I know how hard it is. But I do think it is true. Yeah.

Jen Lumanlan:

And I also wonder if there's space to worry less, right? I don't know what was in your number two position. The number one thing suddenly dropped out of favor, you know, became not an issue anymore. But did that number two thing have to expand? Could you worry about it? Think about it to the state the same extent you already were? And is it possible that you have some now mental capacity to think about some other things? Like is that, is that a valid way of approaching it?

Dr. Elizabeth Cripps:

I think it might well be and I think with our children, a lot of it comes back to this sort of thing. Well, what really matters to them, actually, there is a lot of psychological evidence that piling them up with material goods, consumer goods, isn't very good for their mental health and actually stepping back from worrying a bit less about that and a more about, you know, just making sure that they have some time to play, and some time with us and some walks with us or whatever can be equally or more valuable. So I think to some extent, it's sort of reassessing what we worry about in the sense of well, am I why am I judging myself against other parents who are buying more for their children, for example, there are ways in which we can just try and rethink that. And then yes, there are strategies that we can use to try and manage our worry list, if you like.

Jen Lumanlan:

Can you tell us as well, some of the ways that we justify not doing anything, or acknowledging this is a problem out there? Right? Maybe it makes it into the one spot number one spot, but we still don't actually do very much. What are some strategies you see your parents are using?

Dr. Elizabeth Cripps:

Well, I think most people essentially, fall back on the fact that almost nobody else seems to be doing anything about it. So yes, there will often be appeal to oh, yes, you know, there's so much else I should be doing. There's also just I don't want to think about it, because it's just too scary. But I think there is a lot of it is just psychological that we are wired individually or socially, to think in short term ways. We're taught to think of things in terms of, you know, what's their economic worth, we're taught to think of the natural world is just a kind of exploitable commodity, rather than something that we you know, we're part of and that we depend on. And all of these things give us a psychological explanation of why we do what we do they explain it. We have kind of set attitudes and things which which clash with climate change. We think that you know, it really matters to us to be able to go on holiday abroad for example, and that happens to conflict with the the statistics on carbon emissions and flying and exactly the same way that you know, the smoker will just try and deny the facts on tobacco and cancer. We will we have to adjust one of them to be able to live with ourselves. So sometimes it's easier just to adjust the the inconvenient fact rather than than our attitude. But I think the important thing about all these that though they're completely understandable, they are still explanations rather than justifications. They are morally, you know, we have reasons to try and work beyond them, and to challenge them to find ways of thinking more long term reconnecting with nature, facing up to these difficult emotions, rather than trying to hide from them.

Jen Lumanlan:

Yeah, And I think one thing when my book is coming out in September, and one of the points I'm making is it's not only parent's responsibility to do this work, right? We need the help of everybody. Yes. But I'm wondering, do you think we have a special responsibility as parents to address climate change?

Dr. Elizabeth Cripps:

I do think we have a special responsibility. I don't, as you say, I think everyone has this responsibility because we are all moral agents. We all owe it to our fellow human beings to do this. But as parents, we, it's sort of widely accepted, I think, in common sense, morality, as well as sort of, sort of philosophical ways of thinking about this, that we do have things that we owe to our children, because they're our children, whether we think about it is because we brought them into the world, or because we made a commitment to them. We have this special responsibility for them. So that means that on top of the reason that we have just as human beings to care about these things. We have this additional motive, the fact that these these people who we owe so much to and who we love deeply, they need us to act on it.

Jen Lumanlan:

And as I was thinking about that issue, I was thinking, you know, there's isn't it kind of ironic that the entire capitalist system relies on the free labor of mostly women having and raising children. And then turns around and says, "Well, actually, you're now we're also responsible for fixing one of the biggest problems that capitalism has faced has created, right?" The irony of that just is like a vise sort of squeezing from both sides.

Dr. Elizabeth Cripps:

Yeah, I mean, it's hugely, I mean, there's, there's so many ways in which climate injustice is gendered. But I think it can't be understood without thinking about it in those terms. It's also deeply racialized. So I think, I mean, one thing to send the book is that I am very much talking to parents so that doesn't just mean mothers, it means fathers as well who have and share these responsibilities. But there are kind of gender implications about the fact that you know, who tends to put in most of the work about making lifestyle changes, or you know, how you what you eat, and the things that you buy as a family. There is a risk of kind of putting more more work on women. So there is sort of important in tackling this fairly, to have a some kind of, of distribution of labor within within the family. And interestingly, a lot of the climate activists I talked to were women. But when the ones I talked to who do you know, found a way of making this work, often, you know, they will be focusing more on the activism, but their partner often around will be doing more of the other stuff to kind of balance it out. And I think that's kind of going back, I think, to the tools that we can use to find a way that works for our family. A lot of it if if for people who are raising children in conjunction with another parent, there is this kind of well, some people can focus more on one thing and the other person or on more of other things. And that also makes it kind of possible, I think, to do this.

Jen Lumanlan:

Yeah, yeah. And, you know, we talked a little bit about what we can learn from children through play through creative thinking, through their views on fairness. And I'm wondering if we have also, in addition to doing this work ourselves a responsibility to raise children who are kind of good global climate citizens, what are some ways that we can go about doing that?

Dr. Elizabeth Cripps:

So it very much depends on the age of the children, because you know, that it's going to be very different to engaging with with a young sort of preschool child to engaging with a teenager who apart from anything else will often have, you know, their own ideas and their own experiences from having perhaps being part of this, this movement themselves. But I think that the sort of key things are empowering children without scaring or brainwashing them. So this, this is sort of doing it in a way of talking openly to our children, encouraging them to think about these problems and debate it rather than just kind of laying down the law to them. But it's also about you know, moving through this process from maybe engaging with nature more with young children reading them stories through this kind of highlighting instances of of injustice, or talking a bit more about you know, the changes in the weather and so on with, with older children then getting on more to the to the science and politics. But I think it is it is really important to have these conversations and one thing again, this comes back to to the way in which this is a very kind of intersectional question because it's it's very tempting to say, "Oh, I don't want to scare my children." But I think actually, you know, for a White parent, we can say, well, okay, if I don't have this conversation, a what is society? What are the things that they see on the media that they see around them, even in school, going to tell them about how unjust world should operate, what women should have, what girls should have, how children colors should be treated, and so on. But also, you know, what are their contemporaries of color actually facing? So, I mean, if you know, six year old Black boys are having to be told you can't play with a water pistol in public, when actually I don't think it's too much to say to White parents. Maybe we should be having these conversations with our children as well so that you know, the next generation aren't aren't in the same situation. And equally, if girls of 10 or 11, are being told they can't wear certain things at school, because they're more likely to get attention from the boys, then seems maybe it should be the parents or the boys who are having conversations with them at the same age. So I think that's definitely something to bear in mind when we think about this.

Jen Lumanlan:

Yeah, And you have a list of suggestions in the book. And as I was reading through them, and you know, obviously, the ones that you've mentioned here, we're not talking about necessarily reading books with preschoolers about polar bears and ice caps. It's not necessarily about the typical image that might come to our mind when we're thinking about climate change. It's a lot about justice. It's a lot about critical thinking. And those are conversations that we can have in so many different areas of our life, whether we're technically talking about climate change or not.

Dr. Elizabeth Cripps:

Yeah, I think that's true. And I mean, I think it is kind of there is there is that sort of bringing in of the science and the climate science, especially as they get older, and I think that can kind of start more with an appreciation, enjoyment of nature, and then moving it out as you go older. But I think yes, as you say, it's more about developing the kind of capacity for injustice, for justice, and to recognize and challenge injustice from an early age and this capacity for critical thinking is crucially important.

Jen Lumanlan:

Yeah. And so for parents who are listening to this thinking, "Okay, I'm on board." And I kind of committed to doing this in my work to approach it from a, you know, I'm entry level, I'm just learning. This is the thing. I want to get started. And from another parent who's like, yeah, I already knew what the IPCC was. I didn't need you to define that for me. I also want to take a bigger step, what step would you advise parents who are at those two different stages to take?

Dr. Elizabeth Cripps:

So I think the parent who really you know, is only just started thinking about this, a really helpful thing to start with can be something that the DearTomorrow project, which I talked about the book that, which is to sit down and kind of write a letter to your child in, say, 2050. And think about, you know, what will the world look like, then? What would you like it to look like for them? Then, you know, what would you like maybe them to be able to see had happened in bet- in between. That I think can be a really helpful starting point in sort of motivating ourselves to act. I think, then key things to do in terms of, you know, wanting to take action is thinking maybe sitting down and thinking, well, you know, what can I do? What can I contribute to this collective effort? What are my skills? Am I a natural communicator? Am I really good with technology? Am I really good at organizing? What are the things that I can do? And then you know, what groups are there in person or align locally or more broadly that I can be part of that I can work with what others can I work with? Because I think both because we need to do this collectively, we can't do it alone. And also, because that solidarity, the community of working with other people is really important. I think in avoiding the mental health challenges that can come with it. For both of those reasons, I'd say then, you know, seek out your people to do this with.

Jen Lumanlan:

Yeah, well, thank you so much for those ideas and for writing the book, which is deeply practical, which is unusual, I think, for moral philosophy books. So so thank you for writing something that can really make a difference hopefully in the lives of parents and also in the lives of our children and our children's children as well. So thanks for being here. Dr. Cripps.

Dr. Elizabeth Cripps:

Thank you very much for talking to me.

Jen Lumanlan:

And so listeners can find a link to Dr. Cripps's book Parenting on Earth: A Philosopher's Guide to Doing Right By Your Kids (And Everyone Else), as well as her other books and papers that I read to prepare for this episode at YourParentingMojo.com/ParentingOnEarth.

Jessica:

Hi, this is Jess from Verlies, Panama. I'm a Your Parenting Mojo fan, and I hope you enjoy this show as much as I do. If you found this episode, especially enlightening or useful, you can also donate to help Jen produce more content like this and also save us from those interminable mattress ads. Then you can do that and also subscribe in the link that Jen just mentioned. And don't forget to head to YourParentingMojo.com to record your own message for the show.

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