Father's Day reflections on parenting in the climate crisis

Father's Day reflections on parenting in the climate crisis

As we look forward to celebrating fathers, father figures and all things paternal this Father’s Day, we caught up with Net Zero Now’s very own Nick Hajdu, our Marketing Director, to see what raising two young boys looks like when you’re a climate professional facing into a climate emergency.

Hey Nick, how’s parenthood treating you?

Very well, thanks - I’m lucky to be Dad to two amazing boys – Robin, who’s 10, and Toby, who is 8. It’s funny thinking about parenthood today, knowing that 11 years ago it wouldn’t have crossed my mind to factor climate change into the many considerations you take into account before starting a family. And yet, today, it’s a key part of my life and is something that will shape my kids’ lives enormously, whilst it has also become a key reason that a growing number of people are actively choosing not to have children at all.

How do your concerns about climate change influence family life?

We’re quite an eco-conscious family, so concerns about climate change influence where we choose to holiday, what we choose to eat and some of the activities we give great focus to. We try not to fly and have rediscovered the joys of travelling in the UK, which brings many attendant benefits – like a far superior baggage allowance! We’ve explained to the boys that the reason we’re trying not to fly is that flying is damaging to the planet, and that’s enough for them right now. We do eat meat as a family, but we enjoy many vegetarian meals and the kids are encouraged to grow and eat plenty of fruit and veg. Growing is a good starting point to learning about where food comes from and how we rely on our amazing planet and other creatures – like bees – to feed us. It’s all about encouraging the boys to build a deeper understanding of how our planet supports our lives and helping them to appreciate the beauty that is all around us.   

How do you talk to your kids about climate change?

I guess the short answer is that I reframe most conversations about climate change in terms of what we can do to keep our wonderful planet healthy. My kids are still pretty young, so we have conversations about tree planting, picking up litter and recycling - encouraging them to see that these are good things to do that support a healthy community and environment. We’re focused more on encouraging them to learn about what it means to be a good citizen right now, rather than driving home hard truths about the realities of climate change.

Parents have always had to grapple with questions about the appropriate age to deliver harsh home truths to the kids – like where the meat on their plate comes from, for instance – and, I suppose, climate change is little different in some senses. 

I know as they get older and we cease to be their primary point of socialisation or source of information, we’re not going to be able to protect them as much, but I’m hoping that we can continue to underpin their learning with a belief in better - that we can always do something to make a difference.

So what was your thinking around taking your son on a climate march?

It was a big decision to take my eldest son on one of the school strike climate marches. His school was supportive of him being taken out one Friday, as they saw it as a valuable educational experience for him, and we were joined by several other school families. It was also my first march, so I’d been a little worried about what to expect and, like any concerned parent, wanted to ensure that he was protected from any real or perceived threat. The reality was that it was an extremely friendly, enjoyable, fun experience with loads of music – anything but scary. His t-shirt caught the interest of quite a few cameras, so he also had his first experience of being interviewed!

Again, I thought carefully about how to explain what everyone was doing there and told him that we were all here as a group of concerned parents and children to ask the Government to please do more to look after the planet. Simple messages that didn’t alarm, but explained our role as agents of change – and he was more than happy to join in with the ‘systems change not climate change’ chanting whilst sat on my shoulders.

What would you say to other parents who are wondering how to broach the subject of climate change with their kids?

I would encourage parents to get involved in an age appropriate way – whether that’s taking them on climate marches or just ensuring they hear positive messaging about the things we need to do to keep our planet healthy. It’s not something we can ignore, and my kids and their friends will, ultimately be the ones that are going to solve the problem as the climate scientists, engineers, humanitarian workers, activists and economists of tomorrow.

Do you think many parents are carrying a lot of climate anxiety on behalf of their kids?

I personally feel very concerned and worried about the planet. Not a day goes by when I don’t open another newsletter, or several, which sets out a bleak trajectory. I worry about my kids and their children, and it is frightening to think about how increased global temperatures will create numerable crises – heatwaves, flooding, drought, migration, food scarcity and more – that they will have to live through and deal with. Whilst I’m aware of that, I’m certainly not putting that on them. But I do think I have a duty as a dad, in the face of the greatest crisis to face humankind, to ensure my kids are prepared for this. And, as they get older, I’ll make sure that they know more about what to expect to prepare them for the world that they’re going to be living in. I also take some comfort in knowing that I am trying to do something about it while I can.

So, do the kids know that Dad’s a climate super-hero?

Hmm, I’m not sure about that! But I am super proud to be able to work in an organisation that is doing its bit to contribute in a positive way to the problem, and I love going home and being able to explain to them what I’m doing – that, every hour I’m away from them, I commit to working and fighting for a better planet. I certainly have much more pride in what I do today, working for Net Zero Now, than I had spending my days working in a marketing agency, where the goal was driving mass consumption – helping people who didn’t need it to consumer more. I feel better now – as a person and a parent.

Happy Father’s Day, Nick. What’s planned?

I’m hoping for a nice, chilled beer in the garden and enjoying some quality time with the kids. That will do me just fine!