This article originally appeared on VICE Canada
In her fight to draw attention to the climate change crisis, Emma Lim is using the ultimate bargaining chip, vowing to give up her firstborn—at least theoretically.
The 18-year-old hopes that young people across the country will join her movement #NoFutureNoChildren and pledge not to have kids until federal politicians put climate change policy at the centre of their election platforms, and take urgent action.
“People joining the pledge are giving up parenthood, which is supposed to be one of the most important things to us,” she said. “This will show how serious we are about this and how grave this issue is.”
The movement is described as a response to the “existential threat posed by climate change” in a world that is “increasingly unsuitable for life.” Without a focus on reining in harmful emissions and protecting the environment, Lim paints a picture of a challenging future, rife with limited resources and socio-economic problems brought on by climate change, that scares her so much that she wouldn’t want to bring kids into it. She cites the potential for extreme weather, food and water shortages, and a prohibitively high cost of living.
Her parents are among the first people her pledge has touched. Lim has spearheaded dozens of student climate strikes, but on Monday, the day she launched her campaign, her parents joined her in Ottawa because their future grandchildren are on the line.
Lim says she saw “massive changes” in her parents when they learned about her pledge.
“For the first time, the impact of climate change became real to them. You read about hurricane stories and heat waves, but the massive, most catastrophic events haven’t touched us yet in Canada. There’s flooding but it hasn’t really affected my immediate family. But this hurts; this is something tangible,” she said.
A handful of people joined Lim on Parliament Hill on Monday morning when they announced the #NoFutureNoChildren pledge, but hundreds more have already signed up online. The first-year biomedical science student at McGill University missed a chemistry lecture to announce the movement.
First-year journalism student Sophie Price skipped her history lecture at Carleton University Monday morning to pledge her support. She says the pledge could see an entire generation choosing not to procreate, and that would be a powerful political statement with all kinds of social and economic consequences.
“This is thinking for the future,” Price said. “I’m 17, so I’m not having kids now anyway. But what I’m saying is I’m not planning on having kids when I’m 30. I’m saying this now so that people can see that this is a big deal and we need to start acting now before it gets any bigger. If I only started doing this when I was 30, it would already be too late.”
Putting motherhood on hold is “a really big deal” for Price. Although she won’t be able to vote in October because she doesn’t turn 18 until November, she said it is already resonating with two people who can vote—her parents. “I’ve always liked kids and the idea that I wouldn’t be having them is kind of a shock to my mother because I’ve been talking about having kids since I was like, 5.”
Though the decision to have kids remains a personal one, there is at least some scientific study that suggests slowing population growth could significantly reduce carbon emissions.
The #NoFutureNoChildren launch coincides with the Green Party unveiling its full platform, which is described as one where every policy is viewed through the lens of a climate emergency. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said politics as usual won’t cut it.
According to Lim, who will be voting for the first time in the upcoming federal election, it’s the only major party’s plan that she can get behind. But she will be voting strategically.
“In Canada, it’s the first-past-the-post system so as much as I might admire their party and their platform, I will be voting for the first time this election and I will have to vote pragmatically,” she said.
Lim said she’s unimpressed by what she has seen so far from the Liberals and the Conservatives.
“I think they’re being cowards. In Canada, we know that climate action is needed, but the people who are supposed to be our leaders and have our best interests at heart are taking the easy way out,” she said. “They’re towing the line with barely there climate policy like banning plastic when we need to be reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. [Conservatives’ Leader Andrew] Scheer doesn’t even have a climate policy plan with actual emission reduction targets. There’s nothing there and he wants to get rid of carbon pricing.”
She describes the #NoFutureNoChildren pledge as both an expression of deep fear and a plea for action. “I’m kind of scared of this election and what’s at stake. It seems to be an election between no climate change action and pretty bad climate action.”
Follow Anne Gaviola on Twitter