Why Having Children Made Me More, Not Less, Hopeful That We Can Fight the Climate Crisis


It does feel, in many ways, that there are now even fewer reasons to be hopeful, with the film’s setting now seeming less a dystopian future and more a contemporary story about the times we live in, with the UK once again ravaged by flooding, the climate emergency becoming more urgent while political solutions are inadequate and compromised by a profit-driven economy. I have often felt that the time since my children were born can only be characterised by an increasing sense of despair in relation to the climate, cumulative disappointments that seem to point solely to catastrophe.

But as I watched the film, I found myself drawn again to the love it depicts, how this love emerges from the flood waters, damaged as the city is, but still alive, still forceful. One of the most hopeful images in the film is of two mothers supporting and protecting each other, stronger through their friendship, singing as they walk through a sodden landscape. I was struck again by the thought that hope is not the same as optimism; it isn’t based on facts, or predictions. It comes from the refusal to give up, just as the unnamed heroine of the book and film can never give up, must always fight to survive, for herself, her son, for all those she loves.

It doesn’t seem to me that this is a passive kind of hope, a wishing for the best while sitting back and doing nothing. It’s a hope based on love itself, of what love drives us to. Whether for our children, our parents, our friends, love compels us to want a better future. And, crucially, this future relies on our care extending beyond those we are related to: it needs to go beyond self-interest, beyond even our personal ties—like that stranger who showed me kindness in the park—to a habitable, more equal world for everyone. I’ve long held the belief that hope can broaden our outlook. Though my hope may, in one sense, have started in my child, in his freshness in the world as I pushed his buggy along the street, it has gained strength in its expansion, in a wider view that encompasses a better, fairer world for all.

With my children now both at secondary school, I see how motherhood—and the hope it inspires—has propelled me to take action; to help create that better world. Now, they have their own fears and speculations; there are difficult questions about how we should live, and what their future will be like. As parents, all you want to do is reassure, and sometimes that doesn’t feel possible. But hope encourages me to keep going, to push beyond the limits of my own home, my own family, and—just as books and films do—to broaden the horizons of my life. When I wrote The End We Start From—and when I watched the film—this felt like something the story can offer, now: some small, steadfast image of a new beginning, even in the midst of disaster.

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