Hundreds join student's climate-change pledge: No kids until Canada takes action

An 18-year-old McGill University student pledges to not have children until she is sure her government is taking serious steps to battle climate change.

Those signing agree to not have children until government ensures safe future

A student sits with a notebook and pen.
Activist Emma Lim launched a pledge campaign, vowing to not have kids until Canada takes action on climate change. (Isaac Olson/CBC)

An 18-year-old McGill University student pledges to not have children until she is sure the Canadian government is taking serious steps to battle climate change.

And hundreds more are following in her footsteps.

"Our government isn't doing enough," Emma Lim said on CBC Montreal's Daybreak Tuesday.

The steps provincial and federal lawmakers are taking are "nowhere near the action needed," she said.

The young climate activist decided to take action of her own — launching a climate-change movement dubbed, "#No Future, No Children," that is quickly gathering steam. 

Her campaign, which invites all Canadians to participate, officially kicked off Monday on Parliament Hill. 

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As of Tuesday morning, more than 300 people have signed her online pledge, which states: "I pledge to not have children until I am sure my government will ensure a safe future for them."

Having kids is something Lim has always thought was in her future, but she wants a future where, every fall, she can watch the leaves change colour.

She wants to go sledding with her kids in the winter and swimming in the ocean in the summer.

"I am giving up my chance of having a family because I will only have children if I know I can keep them safe," she writes on her website. 

"It breaks my heart, but I created this pledge because I know I am not alone."

She wants her children to breathe clean air and live a life in economic security — not the possible insecurity wrought by climate change, she said.

Lim said she comes from a family of Holocaust survivors who have experienced first-hand the impact mass migration can have on people's lives.

Mass migration caused by a global climate crisis could be many times what her family experienced and just the idea that her children may have to "again face the very worst of humanity terrifies me," she said.

Dreams of motherhood

Lim grew up in London, Ont., and she has wanted to be a mom for as long as she can remember. She still has a list of baby names on her computer, she said.

Listen to Emma Lim's interview on Daybreak here: 

Giving up that dream is not easy, she said, and she worries that, despite her best efforts, nothing will change.

The patriotism she felt as a child — the belief that her government can do anything — is fading, she said.

"It's clear that our leaders aren't taking this seriously and this is a serious issue," she said, citing the federal government's approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion on the heels of proclaiming a climate crisis.

Emma Lim, centre, with her mother Catherine Cartman, left, and her friend Sophie Price. (Submitted by Emma Lim)

As it is, Canada is not on track to meeting the Paris Agreement goals, she said. Were the country to take the necessary steps to meet those goals, she said she may one day consider having kids, but everyone who pledges has a different objective.

Her aim is to look to the future with hope instead of fear, she said.

Waiting until the government takes action before having kids is an "alien concept" for her parents and grandparents, Lim said, but she's getting support back home.

Mother supports daughter

Lim's mother, Catherine Cartman, went to Ottawa to support her daughter.

"It's a parent's role to support their children," she said, and she hopes it will inspire change. 

Cartman, a mother of three, said she wants Lim and "youth everywhere to feel safe to have children."

While she would like Lim to have children someday, she said, were the world to fall into complete disarray because of a climate crisis, "who can blame her for not having children? "

"It would be selfish on my part to encourage her to have children under those circumstances."

With files form CBC Montreal's Daybreak