FROM refusing to have babies, pledging not to fly or to cleaning up the local beaches, three women reveal how they’ve made radical life choices to put the planet first.
We hear from the 'Supergreens' and how they are helping to make the world a cleaner, greener place.
'I’m on birth strike.'
Jessica Johannesson felt that it would be unfair to bring children into a world and went on 'birth strike' over environmental issuesJessica Johannesson, 35, is an author and lives in Bath with her partner, Adam, 34, a writer.
“Looking at the cute toddler in the bookshop where I worked part-time, I felt a pang of sadness. While I was in a relationship and would have loved to get pregnant, I’d decided to go on birth strike as I was so worried about climate change.
Adam and I met at a festival in Edinburgh in March 2012 when were both studying at university in the city.
Although we weren’t involved in any activism at the time, we had similar views on things like taking care of the environment.
In 2015, James began studying for a master’s in Bath, so we decided to move there.
ALWAYS WANTED CHILDREN
I’d always wanted children and assumed I’d be a mum one day, and after many months of discussing when would be the right time to have kids, in January 2018 we decided that we would start trying at the end of that year.
A few months later, however, we saw that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had published a report on how devastating it will be to the planet if temperatures rise by 1.5ºC.
Although we’d been aware of the threat of climate change for a while, we thought it would happen 100 years in the future.
For the first time, we realised that the impact would be felt imminently, and it would significantly increase the risk of famines, heat waves, wildfires and floods across the globe.
We both spent weeks in shock, trying to decide what it meant for us and our longed-for child.
By November, I had come to a painful decision – as much as I wanted children with Adam, I felt that it would be unfair to bring them into the world.
I was too terrified of the effects on the environment, conflict and of the hardships they may endure.
Luckily, Adam felt the same, but it was a very difficult decision.
Wanting to get involved in climate change activism, we started our own Extinction Rebellion group in Bath, and soon began taking action.
In January 2019, I came across Birthstrike on social media, a group for people who are too scared to bring children into a world where so little is being done by the government to tackle climate change.
There are over 800 people, both men and women, from all over the world in the private Birthstrike Facebook group, and I’ve also met a few other Birthstrikers at climate change marches.
I’m now 35, and it’s unlikely that I’ll ever have my own child unless governments make radical and fast changes.
I still grapple with our decision on a daily basis. It breaks my heart to think that I might never become a biological mother and see Adam become a biological father.
Our friends and family are sad for us because they know how much we wanted a baby, but they respect that we are doing what feels right for us.
I love hanging out with my friends’ children and it gives me a lot of joy to think I’m fighting for them and their future.
I don’t have much faith in the government to do what needs to be done, but if enough people make our climate a priority and show support for the changes we need, the politicians will have to act.
As thousands of children already exist in this world and need a loving home, Adam and I would definitely consider adopting in the future. For now, though, we feel that our energy has to go into activism. I believe humans have the ability to halt the worst of the climate crisis – but we need to act now.”
‘Flying somewhere on holiday doesn’t feel right any more’
Daisy Learmond, 35, runs a private tuition school. She lives in Grosmont, Monmouthshire, with husband James, 35, a stay-at-home dad and their children Ottie, four, and Otis, five months.
“As I stepped out of my campervan and looked at the view of the Pembrokeshire coast with my two children, I felt so free.
In the past, a family holiday would have been to Spain or Portugal, but now we’d pledged not to fly so that we could help save the planet.
After meeting James in July 2012 at a mutual friend’s wedding, we moved in together in Kent.
While we did the house up, it struck us how much of a footprint we’d create if we bought everything new, so we decided to try to upcycle and use second-hand materials for the renovation.
We bought a ’50s kitchen sink unit for £50, and re-purposed elm floorboards for the kitchen surfaces.
The room looked incredible, yet cost us under £100. I’d been concerned about the environment and have been a vegetarian since I was four, but I got real satisfaction from being as green as possible when we renovated the house.
Concerned about the effects of dairy farming, I went vegan in January 2014, and James followed suit a few months later.
When we married in September 2018, we had a vegan wedding buffet.
Our children Ottie and Otis were born in November 2015 and September 2019 we chose reusable nappies and wipes.
We then went greener still with our household products, using eco-friendly washing-up liquid, and buying in bulk to reduce packaging waste.
We also subscribed to a veg box which means it arrives loose, without plastic packing.
As a child, I had holidays abroad to America, Italy and Amsterdam, and we took Ottie to Mallorca in 2016, when she was six months old.
In October 2018, James and I flew to Barcelona on honeymoon, but once I calculated our carbon footprint I just couldn’t do it any more – I felt too guilty.
When we got home from honeymoon, we pledged to stop flying and only use our second-hand campervan, which we’d bought a year before.
Our first family holiday to Pembrokeshire in the van last year was incredible and we realised there are many amazing places to go in the UK.
Ottie loves any excuse to get in the campervan. And I think our decision is rubbing off on other family members, as they’re all reducing their flying, too.
Some economies might depend on tourism for survival, but that’s not a good enough argument.
We all need to switch to relying onlocal tourism instead.
Pledging not to travel on aeroplanes is our choice and I don’t judge anyone who chooses to fly.
When we’re retired and the kids have grown up, I’d love to travel the world – but only if electric planes have been invented.
We bought an electric car in 2016, and while I haven’t calculated exactly how much smaller our carbon footprint is now, I know it’s better than using petrol.
My children don’t go without; they just live in a way that’s more considerate of the planet we all need to live on.”
‘I’m cleaning up our beaches’
Lissie Pollard, 42, is a full-time campaigner at Final Straw and lives in Emsworth, Hampshire, with husband Steve, 43, an IT director, and sons Alex, 11, and Lucas, nine.
“As my son Alex walked along the beach near our home, he looked around, before telling me that he didn’t like our beach any more because it was too dirty. Looking down at the tiny specks of plastic covering the pebbles, I knew that I had to do something.
I graduated from a degree in marine biology at the University of Southampton in 2000 and always felt a connection to the ocean.
I worked part-time as a graphic designer, fitting it in around parenthood after Alex was born in 2009.
At the weekends, we’d head to the beach as a family. But over the last five years, the amount of plastic building up on the sand has become a real issue.
My friend Bianca, 37, and I spoke about the state of the beach.
She has children of a similar age and had the same concerns, so in February 2018 we set up The Final Straw Emsworth to campaign against single-use plastic.
We organised a series of beach clean-ups and approached local businesses, asking them to reduce the amount of plastic they used. It took off.
That June, we expanded to become The Final Straw Solent, covering the southern coastline.
Now, over 400 businesses have committed to reducing their use of straws and stirrers, offices are ditching disposable cups and local beauticians have pledged not to use plastic cotton buds.
Bianca and I also visited 50 schools around the Solent area last year to speak in assemblies, spreading the message to up to 1,000 children a week.
We’re only at the beginning of understanding the toxic impact of microplastics on the human body, but a study released last summer suggests we could each be consuming between 39,000 and 52,000 microplastic particles a year.*
Scientists don’t know yet what the health implications could be in the long-term, but I fear for my children’s future.
On Sir David Attenborough’s 93rd birthday in May 2019, we held a plastic-free day with local schools.
It took off on social media, and in the end we had schools taking part from all over the world, from the Maldives to Brazil.
We supplied online materials for teachers to do presentations and activities, ran beach-cleaning events and gave talks in schools.
We wrote to Sir David and told him that we were doing it in his honour and we were thrilled when he wrote back giving us his support.
People want change, and this has forced the government to make legislative change.
As a result of campaigning, plastic straws and stirrers will be banned from sale in England from next month.
Alex and Lucas are my own little eco-warriors, and they pick up litter whenever they see it.
Lucas is on the eco council at his school and I hope they both grow up to be passionate climate change campaigners.
This year, I’d love more businesses to sign our pledge. We’ll keep visiting schools and running beach clean-ups around the south coast.
We’re planning to make our plastic-free day on David Attenborough’s 94th birthday even bigger than last year.
I hope that in future, beaches around the world will again be somewhere children want to be.”
Hair & make-up: Naomi Lake at Big Mustard
Styling: Salome Munuo
Source: *Environmental Science And Technology Visit Birthstrikeforfuture.com, Finalstrawsolent.org
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