By Rebecca Weigand
Intertwined personal and political factors led to my decision to adopt: I was turning 40, single, wanting children, and afraid it might be too late. I was also keenly aware of the environmental impact of adding another child to an overcrowded planet—that didn’t stop the wanting, it just added a layer of guilt and doubt.
After the long process of becoming adopt-ready, I waited for two years without being matched. I was beginning to question whether adoption was the right path for me. But just when I was considering giving up, my two-year-old bundle of energy and light arrived. Now everything I do is part of falling in love with her.
The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report offers a stark picture of the climate reality we’re facing. It warns that we need to cut emissions by at least 45% by 2030 (when my daughter will be 14 years old), and to net zero by 2050, if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. A look at the extreme weather events happening around the world tells us we’re already in trouble.
My daughter and I live a pretty climate-friendly life of organic local food, co-op living, getting about without a car, outdoor play, and second hand toys and clothes. But it’s not enough. I want my girl to have a livable planet to grow up in. I want not only her physical health to be secure, but also her mental and emotional wellbeing. I want her to be able to enjoy green spaces and lush forests, to swim in clean waters and to eat healthy foods. And I don’t want her wellbeing to come at the expense of that of other young people around the world. I want her to know that everyone is equally well cared for, and that that climate refugees are not rebuffed and hungry children, not ignored. I want her to grow up in a global community that respects all life, not one that ignores warning after warning, as yet another animal species falls into extinction.
I want my daughter to have meaningful work and a healthy family life in a caring community. Like all adopted children, she has experienced trauma, mostly in the form of multiple changes of home and caregivers before the age of two. And she is at risk for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD). It’s hard to know yet, but she may need special resources at school and a more supportive and flexible employment situation.
My hope is that my daughter will find creative and meaningful work, as a young adult. Yet climate change seems to be bringing with it a shift to right-wing political and economic policies, a rise in racial injustice and a reduction in the social safety net. This is especially worrying to me as an adoptive parent, because it will impact the adult life of all of today’s children, and especially those who are most vulnerable. Climate justice calls for a radical transition in our society. We need good, well-paying jobs in fields that are not dependent on fossil fuels and that support a shift to green energy and a less consumption-based economy. These are investments and changes that need to be happening now.
Although my daughter came to me through domestic public adoption, her background is first-generation Canadian from the Middle East. The fossil-fuel industry has shaped politics in this region of the world, and I wonder if it shaped her first parents’ journeys. Her first family’s country, with which I now have a special connection, has been experiencing unbearably hot temperatures, with 53 degrees Celsius the average for July 2018—a disturbing record. I suspect that many other adopted kids, including Indigenous children, carry some history of colonial or resource-extraction politics in their stories. I want to honour my daughter by helping to protect the land that gave her to me, in every way I can.
Before becoming a mother, I was actively involved in Citizens Climate Lobby and other environmental groups. I wrote letters and attended rallies and kept myself informed about what was happening. Now, I’m too tired to write, and all the rallies seem to conflict with nap-time. But the need is even greater, and more personal. And there are young people all over the world calling for action. A young girl in Sweden, Greta Thunberg, has been striking from school, saying (painfully), “If adults don’t care about my future, why should I?”
I don’t want my daughter to ever doubt my love for her. I know that this love needs to go beyond the Now—beyond ensuring she has a good sleep and doesn’t succumb to that monster tantrum. It can be so hard for me in the day-to-day with a young child—as it is for all parents, but especially those whose kids have experienced trauma and loss—and yet it is so important to keep the big picture in mind.
We need rapid climate action, in Canada and globally: a high carbon price that is returned to the people; no new fossil fuel development; investment in sustainable infrastructure, green energy, and jobs; and a commitment to reducing consumption. The science is clear. We have no time to lose. Let’s do this for our children.
The opinions expressed in blogs posted reflect their author and do not represent any official stance of Adopt4Life. We respect the diversity of opinions within the adoption, kinship and customary care community and hope that these blog posts will stimulate meaningful conversations.
We're ramping up our #timetoattach campaign in February, for 15 more months of parental leave for adoptive parents and kin and customary caregivers. To really make an impact on our mission to Ottawa, we'd like to share your experiences of what it was like helping your child to settle in and bond. Find out how to share your story.