You undergo psychological adjustments when you become a parent. One of the major ones concerns allotments of time. That is, how you allot your future time on this planet in your head, and where you are going in life.
For so long as a free, childless person you are used to considering time in comfortable and familiar allotments. Where will I be this time next year? If I’m doing ok in this same job, that will be good / bad. Renting this flat will probably do for another six to 12 months. (Totally thought that about my last rented flat, where I stayed for six years). Over my last decade of independently hustling words and pictures I have never been able to see or plan far ahead.
It seems to me that our generally foreseeable allotments of time are usually one to two years. Maybe if you’re super strategic and live life through spreadsheets, like some people I know, five years? Surely you don’t tend to think much beyond that.
You might also have some dim, unforeseeable time allotments subconsciously lurking back there, when you hear talk of climate change, electric cars, future stuff. You might half think that anything beyond the year 2050 doesn’t really matter, because surely if I’m still around then (taking nothing for granted) I’ll only be a few years from dead. Who can possibly visualise the year 2050?
When you have a child this all undergoes a massive shift. You start thinking in foreseeable allotments of five to ten years and that alone is frightening enough.
But the unforeseeable time allotment warps in mindbending fashion. It’s conceivable our children could live to the year 2100, the next century.
Now you have a grand investment in a much longer stretch of time.
There’s a kind of psychological climate change in this which is colossal, a whooshing timelapse over which you have very limited control.
The issue of climate change in its more recognised sense has been prominent in my head lately.
Over the last few weeks we have been treated to televisual gems in the form of the BBC Dynasties nature documentary series narrated by national treasure Sir David Attenborough.
These are vivid, engrossing and stressful-to-watch tales of how creatures extend their own personal dynasties – whether they are chimpanzees, penguins, lions, wild dogs or (next week) tigers. These creatures and their natural habitats are under serious pressure and looking down the barrel of extinction within our lifetimes, thanks to man.
Attenborough spoke on Monday at United Nations-sponsored climate talks in Poland. The meeting was said to be the most critical on climate change since the 2015 Paris agreement.
“Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate change. If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”
A BBC reporter suggested his speech was indifferently received by some. The pull quotes are certainly all strongly emotive and you might suggest the detail or constructiveness of his talk wasn’t substantive, I don’t know.
Yesterday afternoon, all these things prominent in my head, I went to the National Assembly for Wales Senedd building to photograph a protest against the Welsh Government planned M4 relief road through the Gwent levels in Newport.
According to the literature handed out by the organiser CALM:
“Over 35% of the Levels have already been lost to steel works, the second Severn Crossing, distribution centres and retail parks. This nationally important wetland landscape and its rare sensitive species cannot afford further losses. The construction alone will generate vast additional CO2 emissions.”
A tweet mentioned “£2.4 billion on 14 miles of tarmac”. I have not rigorously interrogated these numbers but even if loosely true, they are alarming. (Edit at October 2021, the planned M4 relief road failed in part due to Future Generations criteria).
As well as Brexit uncertainties and unrest on the global political stage, including President Trump – who famously doesn’t believe in climate change, things do not look so swell right now and it’s easy to feel a little overwhelmed.
But if I can just force myself back into thinking in allotments of 12 months or so, perhaps everything will be alright.
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