No more branches will grow on the Andres’ family tree — at least not under climate activist Lena Andres.
The 17-year-old has signed the No Future Pledge, along with about 200 other young Canadians who are pledging to not have children in the name of the climate crisis.
"What gives me the right to bring a child into this world only for them to be wondering what’s next and to grow up with the eco-anxiety me and my friends are feeling; to be worried about what natural disaster is going to happen next?" said Andres, an environmental studies student at the University of Winnipeg.
"I don’t feel I have the right to make that decision for a human being."
"This is something that is so serious and nobody seems to be realizing the scale." - Lena Andres
The pledge was created by Emma Lim, a Climate Strike Canada activist who is based in Montreal, and is a friend of Andres’. Its intent is to express fear about the future of the planet and plead for political action.
A young woman who always imagined she would become a supportive parent, Andres said her decision to sign on was a "deeply personal" one that was "completely devastating and heartbreaking."
It hasn’t been easy on her family either; Andres said both her father and grandmother were upset when she told them she had made up her mind.
"This is something that is so serious and nobody seems to be realizing the scale," she said.
While Andres emphasized she would never push anyone else to make such a vow, she said it felt like the only option for her after months of striking with Manitoba Youth for Climate Action.
She hopes this pledge attracts the attention of older generations, particularly conservatives, including the premier.
During the televised leaders debate during the provincial election campaign, Brian Pallister talked about the importance of getting children involved on the climate file. "The best way to create an environmentalist is the way I think a lot of us became environmentalists and conservationists: walk around a pond, go outside, experience nature," Pallister said.
Andres said she was confused by the statement as she feels youth are leading the charge. However, she said she felt hopeful after attending the environment townhall (the NDP, Liberals and Greens were present). During the meeting, politicians and environmentalists discussed a province-wide Green New Deal.
Politicians need to take note of the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition’s seven key green deal recommendations, including ambitious emissions targets to achieve "net zero" status by 2040, separating oil and state, and protecting environmental rights, Indigenous rights and biodiversity, she added.
Andres’ Monday pledge announcement takes place days before the start of Manitoba's youth-led week of climate action. Young environmentalists are leading a "student die-in" later this week, as well as a large-scale school strike at the end of the month, to draw attention to their cause.
About one year ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a shocking report that states humans have 12 years to make massive and unprecedented changes to halt emissions to avoid catastrophic climate change.
"The only choice that people have is for this to be successful." - Joe Curnow, University of Manitoba assistant professor
"The climate movement has been at work for 15 years but what makes it unique right now is the intense time pressure that we are under to create meaningful climate solutions because the IPCC report has shown that it’s a very small window in which we can act to stop the worst," said Joe Curnow, an assistant professor at the University of Manitoba who studies social movements.
Curnow said the creativity of youth climate activists has been critical in the movement’s ability to create a strong politicized base of support — and will continue to be. Successful movements also require ongoing, escalated action in order to get the attention of the adults in power, she said.
"The only choice that people have is for this to be successful," she added, when asked about her optimism of the movement's success.
Andres’ said her mom has fully supported her decision not to become a mom one day, unless she is 100 per cent certain there is a stable life on earth for future generations.
That's because Andres was born on Dec. 27, 2001 — about three months after 9/11. The reeling terror attacks, she said, made her mom feel "guilty" about bringing a child into the world. Now Andres feels the same way.
Maggie is a cub reporter who covers every beat in the newsroom. She appreciates alliteration, when newspaper ink stains her fingertips and, more importantly, tips on social and environmental equity issues.
Updated on Monday, September 16, 2019 at 10:52 PM CDT: Fixes formatting