Saturday, 21 June 2014
A Dad's View 9: A dad's green teen hopes
As he assesses the impact his family will have on the future of our planet Tom Dunmore also reflects on his 'green teen' hopes
When I was a small child, my father taught me to swim in what seemed the cruellest way possible. He stood in the pool in front of me and reached out his hands so they almost touched mine. I only had to swim a few inches to get to him. But with every fledgling stroke I managed, Dad took a step backwards – so no matter how far I swam, he was always just out of reach. It left me with a desperate, splashy swimming style and deep psychological scars.
But here I stand, knee-deep in a Norwegian fjord, inflicting the same torment upon my three-year-old. It's just another example of how parenting forces you to do things you once considered abhorrent - from wiping up another person's poo to spending a week in Center Parcs.
I've quickly learned to ignore the angry stares of those childless pleasure-seekers whose calm is disturbed by Ava's hysterical explosion in the supermarket or those repeated seat kicks on planes and trains.
But it's harder to quiet the voice inside – I can picture the teenage me snarling in disgust at what I've become now I'm a family man. And what Teen Tom disdains most is the slow erosion of my green credentials.
Years ago, I considered myself something of an eco-warrior. I cycled furiously, recycled religiously and shopped ethically. Then I had a child and, although I have more invested in the future, I find myself with less time to worry about it.
I still cycle, but with the baby on board it's not possible to go far – so we use taxis and rental cars too.
We quickly decided our small, gardenless flat and impatient demeanours weren't suited to cloth nappies, so we buy biodegradable disposables instead. We're poorer, but the planet doesn't seem much richer.
To my car-loving, jet-setting contemporaries, the simple act of composting marks me out as some sort of tree-hugging radical. But had I been truly green, I would have stopped producing children. Any environmentalist worth his sustainably produced salt will tell you that the biggest challenge facing the planet is over-population. But that didn't stop us having another one – and this time we're not bothering with the bulky, ill-fitting, 'green' nappies.
Still, I'm not ready to give up hope for humanity. When you're one in eight billion, it's hard to believe that your individual actions will make a difference. But now we're a family unit, we've quadrupled our impact. We're still only half a billionth of the solution, admittedly - but we're not the only family that cares about the planet's future.
So for now, we're sticking at two kids, four bicycles and a bucketload of optimism. And I have a backup plan – while we're holidaying in the Norwegian mountains and living off freshly caught fish and berries, we're secretly in training for the moment that the seas overwhelm us and society finally breaks down. I have no hope for myself – I've been so ruined by consumer technology that my heart goes into palpitations if I can't get a mobile signal.
But if I can't save myself or the planet, I'm at least going to teach my children how to swim – I may need to call my dad for help.