On being non-existent…

I don’t exist, or so I’m told. (1)

Except I’m writing these words, so there must be something rattling around in my head of an evening. So what do I mean? Well, let me take you back about 6 years. My first son has just been born. I’m in that ‘mental free-fall’ state of so many new parents, sleep deprived and trying to work out what shape my life is now there is a new tiny, helpless human being in it. That’s when it hits you – this is forever.  Not the milk and nappies and winding; rather, the visceral realisation that you will spend the rest of your life protecting, helping and rooting for this person, even when they’re capable of tying their own shoelaces and buying their own underwear.

A bit further down the track, and number #1 son has a little brother. I start doing the maths. “When he’s 10, I’ll be 44. When he’s 20, I’ll be 54.” I realise that’s fourteen years in the future, in a world where even now, six months bring a decade’s worth of horrors and dire news from around the world, of ailing icecaps, disappearing forests and Old Testament weather. The world doesn’t have time to waste; my boys don’t have time. And yet, all around us politicians fiddle while the world (in some cases literally) burns down around them.

I understand I can carefully ration our use of kilowatt hours, make my socks last as long as possible, even try to banish animal products from our lives, but my actions alone won’t save them. I’m not independently wealthy, there’s no nest egg to live on for a decade while I dedicate my life to activism. Do I continue as I am, trying not to lose the joy of seeing them grow, under the knowledge that they are doing so in a damaged and increasingly angry world?


Choose activism, even if it’s in the 10% of headspace you have left after the day job, the bairns and whatever else makes your world go round.

Choose using the skills you have, whatever they may be.

Choose learning new ones.

Choose finding levers to pull, and cracks to open.

Choose doing something about it.

Choose looking into the abyss with people who give a damn.



(1) According to my CEM colleague Dr Marc Hudson, social movement organisations aiming for systemic change tend to be populated by students (no kids, no ‘careers’) or retired types (post-kids, post-careers). This is known in his trade as ‘biographical availability’, and he cheerfully points out that therefore, as a working age parent of young children who is also involved in climate activism, theoretically speaking, I don’t exist.

This is (part of) what CEM is trying to do; make it possible (or less difficult) for people who don’t, or can’t “do activism” to lend a hand, or get stuck in, as they have the time and energy to do so. If you think maybe this could be you, get in touch.

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