Sarah: I’m Sarah Allely
Olivia: And I’m Olivia Rosenman from Brain on Nature.
Sarah: We wanted to share this episode we made about a community group of new parents fostering connections around climate action and care for the natural world.
Parent 1: We did think quite a bit about climate change even before thinking of having a baby. Yes, there was. And she works in the sector. So it’s obviously been front of mind quite, you know, in the form.
Parent 2: And both perspectives like in terms of the world we’d be bringing a baby into and the environmental impact of having a baby. So yeah, I think it was very important that, you know, if we decide to have a baby, we need to do everything we can to.
Parent 1: Yeah, the problem has actually.
Parent 2: Yeah. Because I mean, obviously he won’t be able to make much of a difference by the time like, you know, by 2050 or something. So it’s up to us. It falls on us to make a difference.
Parent 2: We agonised about it for many, many years before deciding. And I think we also decided like just the one. That’s right. Right. Yeah, it’s yeah. I think becoming a parent makes it not just like the thing I do professionally, but the thing it’s really personal now.
Olivia: We’re at Darrell Jackson gardens in Summer Hill, in Sydney’s inner west, at a Sunday arvo gathering of the climate playgroup. Rosa Brown is a high school teacher, mum of two kids, and in her spare time she’s been wrangling this playgroup.
Rosa: I think the group’s just getting a little bit more integrated so people are opening up and.
Like learning about their stories and I was speaking to one dad was really interesting. He was saying he felt often quite out of [00:02:00] place cuz he’s the only dad who comes to things like parent things and climate things. They both seem to be quite dominated by moms. And we were talking about why women and moms might be more drawn to climate than, than dads that he was saying. Maybe there’s a maternal instinct.
Rosa: I think when I had Max, I wanted to see myself as the same person as I was before I had a child. It’s like, I’m still me. I just happen to have a child. Whereas now I think I have just, No, no, you have to actually, You are a mom and like being a mom is more than just kind of having, you know, he’s not a hobby.
He’s, he’s more there all the time. and so I think I was quite resistant to the idea of going to a mother’s group. Cause I’m like, well I wanna meet people because they have the same interest as me. And not just cuz they happened to have a child at the same time.
Nic: Families, connecting over climate change is important. I mean, the playgroup offers a way for, parents to [00:03:00] be able to talk about climate change and participate in a conversation about climate change in a way that’s family friendly
Rosa: The conversations are really important too, that if people aren’t speaking about it, then they’re not caring. So I guess the playgroup is also a little bit. An attempt to bridge that conversation gap. But I’m sure it will. People who come to it won’t be the people who’ve never had a conversation about climate, but I guess there’s some hope that there’ll be a bit of a ripple effect or that it will give more people confidence
Having a sense that there’s a shared interest or shared concern that somehow our values align, at least in this area, makes it, I think, feel like a bit of a safer space.
So that’s why I think this dad then opened up to me about, um, you know, feeling sometimes that he wasn’t so sure about what to do in. other Spaces. Um, and also it’s really interesting then people started, or some people started sharing their stories about how they came to being interested in climate and they’re often also really personal stories.
Nic: One of the things that happened to my family was that during the black summer fires, my little boy was, he was only two at the time, and he had a lot of difficulty with the smoke that was smothering Sydney for 90 plus days. And that’s an event that a lot of Australians can relate to cuz it affected nearly the entire east coast.
Sarah: Nic Seton is from Australian Parents for Climate Action.
Nic: the climate playgroups actually how I found this organization.
Sarah: The playgroup is part of the Australian Parents for Climate Action network, and Nic joined one of their gatherings. A while later, Nic became the CEO.
Nic: A little young one like that is extra vulnerable in that situation, as are many people with any kind of breathing difficulties or health challenges, and older people. My little boy ended up contracting pretty sort of acute bronchitis.
Um, and every time there was a significant smoke. Uh, event, he was having a lot of difficulty breathing and we took him into hospital a few times during that summer. Uh, and the first time was probably the most stressful, not just because we weren’t in control of, uh, his health and we needed to get, uh, support and get him onto oxygen as quickly as possible, but also because when you’re going through a 90 day smoke event, you don’t know where to go.
You can’t play outside. Uh, our old house isn’t very airtight. His childcare center wasn’t able to keep the smoke out. There wasn’t really a sense of relief, and so it led to a sense of, um, feeling like we didn’t have a lot of control and it was very difficult Emotionally. I was, I was quite anxious every time the phone rang when I was at work, I thought it could be the next hospital run.
Olivia : Rebecca Huntley says communities around Australia are grappling with how to talk about climate change. She’s an experienced social researcher and the author of How to Talk About Climate Change in a Way that Makes a Difference
Rebecca: what is clear is that from all my research, that if is that people often don’t know how to raise the issue of climate change when they don’t know how people feel about it. All right. So they could be at a P&C or a Mother’s Day breakfast or whatever at school and something, you know, you wanna say, Oh God, I, you know, you might be wanna say God, did you see schmo doesn’t hold a hose or something and you’re not sure whether you’re just gonna get crickets. And of course climate change has become worse than sex and religion as the thing that you don’t want to talk about cause you don’t want to be that kind of person.
Rosa: my mother’s group is really lovely, um, , but I, yeah, I do find. It’s a little, I definitely don’t feel able or to be as open or it just worries me a little bit. Cause I don’t wanna alienate myself or make others feel alienated
Rebecca: So there is evidence that the more children you have, the less concerned you are about climate change.
but I mean, I say that in that, in, there is some data in that there is, hasn’t been an enormous amount of. Work done on this, but when we’ve looked at who remains disengaged on the climate issue it tends to skew towards women with lots of caring responsibilities. And I think that’s less because they’re concerned about climate change and more just cuz they’re overwhelmed. It’s like, don’t make me solve this thing that, you know, seems unsolvable and also the other thing, I think , the perceptions, fair or not, is that to be a good environmental citizen, you’ve gotta spend an enormous amount of time and spend an enormous amount of money, So that being a good environmental citizen means rushing out the door and remembering your keeper cup and you know, piling your children onto a bike….and, you know, growing your own food and go to organic markets sometimes in it is perception that, that being caring about the climate environment requires you to spend [00:08:00] more and do more. And if you’re already overwhelmed, you’ve got three or four kids.
If you’re on your own, you’ve got caring responsibilities for older parents, you don’t have a lot of income. It just seems too much.
But what is clear is that for people who they’ve already got a frame of concern, some understanding of the science. it’s in their consideration set, but maybe it’s like four or fifth for the fourth or fifth big important issue for them having a child.
It can make them care more. So it can tip them. Not always, but it is a common thing. So it can be a transformative thing can also be a transformative thing for grandparents. There’s something about new life, thinking about wanting to protect it. Thinking about that trajectory can, can switch people.
Nic: You often notice in a lot of, uh, non-profit organizations that the membership, uh, is sometimes overrepresented by older age groups because those people may don’t have as many dependents or, uh, responsibilities, uh, on their time.
And also younger age groups often really good at mobilizing as well. And we see that the students [00:09:00] or, um, you know, younger, um, generations are really good at representing at rallies and, and, and all sorts of political events. Parents are so. Not to be seen because they’re busy, they’re busy people, and we’ve set out to try and facilitate their participation to make sure that climate change isn’t just something that they can be a part of, but also something meaningful to them because, Often these discussions are had in big concepts about things like carbon reduction and, um, you know, greenhouse gas emissions and things like that.
That’s not really what climate change means to most people. Climate change means to most people is, are my kids gonna be safe? How does it address my anxieties? Um, does it affect my health? Does it affect my, um, household economics, my bills? Uh, these are all elements that we need to engage with people on as well.
And so we need to make climate change something. , um, families can access the cl. Climate. Playgroup is one of the first steps towards doing that and making sure that you can go down to the playground and take your kids somewhere that they’ve been asking you to take them all weekend. Uh, whilst also participating in building a community in, um, increasing awareness in educating each other and supporting different ACT activities and actions that are part of the climate playgroup.
Rebecca: So I think an organi something like that is fulfilling all the wonderful, supportive life stage community stuff that people need when they have kids with the added knowledge that you’ve got a group of people who are as worried about this issue as you, connect it to being a good parent and may actually provide a support network and an understanding support network for activism.
Rosa: A really high proportion of number of people haven’t really had a report, never having spoken about it. So I guess the playgroup is also a little bit. An attempt to bridge that conversation gap.
Rebecca: So one of the things about Australian food Parents for climate action, I mean, even just small things. Like the other day they’re doing a training and I said, Look, I’ve got my kids on my own that week. And you know, I don’t know if I, and they’re like, Do you understand there’s none of that conversation.
It’s like, it’s at eight 15 after we’ve all put our kids down like the kid. Do you understand? It’s, it’s idea that you can be involved in activism in a way where you don’t have to check your responsibilities, a parent at the door. So I think that’s important too. Um, because you do have to meet people where they are in terms of their life stage and their constraints.
And a lot of political activism doesn’t do that. It’s like, let’s have a six o’clock meeting after work and it’s like, I can’t do that. Like, whatever. So I mean, I think, I think we are generally getting better at that, um, as society, but it’s still a problem. And, uh, I think that it, it, it’s the same way that I said that one of the problems about when we talk about what can you do about climate, it’s very much about, Oh, you’ve gotta go to new, more meetings and give more money.
You can live exactly the life you’re living now. You just find a way to bring climate into the life that you already have. So you could be going to the local sporting group, maybe you, at, at, with your kids, and you could say, Well, do you know that, you know, Tennis Australia has [00:12:00] decided to give back or won’t take any more money from Santos because they’re really worried about climate.
And then we’re worried that tennis, we won’t be able to play outdoor tennis if we live in a place where it’s like 50 fucking degrees every summer and what’s our position? And should we as a, as a tennis club declare a climate emergency and think about renewable energy and talk about it and bring somebody in from Tennis Australia to talk about why they’ve taken the position they have.
On climate, it’s still hard to do, but it’s still within the context of we’re all here cuz we love tennis and I, we want our kids to play tennis, that kind of thing. So you don’t have to go to a green piece meeting to talk about climate. You can go to all the meetings that you normally go to.
Nic: it’s this climate playgroup that decided to get together to hold an event in the elector of Reid, which was a critical swing seat in the election.
One that, um, uh, was, uh, the focus of a lot of discussion around climate politics and one where there’s a lot of, uh, culturally and linguistically diverse communities. And [00:13:00] it was this climate play group that says, Well, we’re gonna go there and we’re gonna hold a really big, really positive, really inclusive event.
Uh, on the day the election was called, there were 500 people at this big picnic with choirs and musicians and all sorts of, um, you know, local groups and, uh, community organizations. And it was a really positive event. And that’s when I sort of realized, oh wow, this is doable. We start with family, we start with the playgroup, and we build on this together in a way that’s actually gonna start to demonstrate strong support, public pressure, and a political wind that’s headed in the right direction.
Rebecca: say you’re a member of Parliament, conservative member of Parliament, but in a seat that’s hasn’t got a great margin, right? There’s a, you know, fancy, kind of impressive independent running.
Maybe the Prime Minister isn’t very popular. You’re a bit worried, right? You’re sitting on five, six, 7%, which usually you’d be okay, but you worries volatile times. You go into work one day and there’s a letter from the ceo, Global CEO of Greenpeace saying, You know, Australia isn’t doing the right thing by climate.
What are you doing as a member of Parliament? Blah, blah, blah. You know, put it in the correspondent file. Then you look at your diary and there’s seven middle class moms who’ve come in to have a meeting with you. They all live in the electorate. There’s are people that you know previously, they work for small business, They previously voted for you.
They all sit there and they say, We don’t like your position on climate. We don’t like how you have, What are you gonna do about it? You’re more scared about those seven women and all the other women that, or men, women, all the other people they talk to than you are about the CEO of gon pe. Even though the message may be exactly the same.
Nic: We’ve got this long history of seeing polarization on the topic of climate change as to whether you’re for or against, or whether you are, uh, on this side or that side. And that’s been really damaging to constructive discourse and, and, and progress.
Climate’s a family issue, I mean, climate. Is something that we all depend on to be secure and stable into the future, [00:15:00] especially younger people. Younger people don’t get a lot of say in decision making, and that’s where it falls down to parents and families in general to really look after their best interests.
Families, parents, grandparents, carers, are all motivated by their love for their kids and their lives, uh, and for the respect they have. Young people are gonna need, uh, a future that is both safe and conducive to the best possible life that these young people can have. That requires us paying attention to climate change, supporting climate action, and being very ambitious because we’re facing some serious headwinds that threaten the. Future of young people, and it will not be the same as the fu as the, as the upbringing that I’ve enjoyed or that we’ve enjoyed. It will be different, uh, that much we know. But how different and how difficult is up to us, we can actually make it [00:16:00] a lot safer than some, uh, extreme models could predict, but we can also make it a lot brighter.
Yeah. I think, uh, with the climate playgroup, it’s a really good example of how family is. A key value that everyone is, they’re representing, let alone fostering in themselves and in each other. And it’s a value that everyone has. It’s, it’s a value that cuts across politics, uh, and it’s, you know, in innate human value that, um, everyone can relate to in their own way.
Sarah: Rosa reckons that dad who mentioned that he’s often been the only dad at playgroups, perhaps felt he could open up to her because there was the shared emotional concern of climate change, making it a safe space.
Rosa: So that’s why I think this dad then opened up to me about, um, you know, feeling sometimes that he wasn’t so sure about what to do in other spaces. Um, and also it’s really interesting then people started, or some people started sharing their stories about how they came to being interested in climate and they’re often also really personal stories.
So I think it just made me feel like I was able to connect with other people in a really, in a deeper way, like maybe with more integrity or just kind of open. And that’s really nice because I think a lot of the time you wanna feel close to people, but you don’t really necessarily know how to or what to ask, or you realise, oh, actually I can’t find so many similarities
Olivia: This episode was produced by me Olivia Rosenman
Sarah: And me Sarah Allely. The sound engineer was Isabella Tropiano.
It was made with the support of the Inner West Council’s community wellbeing grant.
Olivia: If you would like to know more about Inner West Families For Climate Action playgroup, go to brainonnature.com/playgroup