Advice on life during climate change

This week’s question

( Submitted by a reader like you! )

Q. Dear Umbra:

How can I possibly raise a kid with all of this *gestures to everything burning, flooding, and exploding across the world* going on?

— Having Escalated Longing to Procreate

A. Dear HELP,

This is an Umbra question I can’t answer alone.

I very much want a child of my own someday -- the operative word being “someday” -- but I have no earthly idea how to raise a kid in any context, let alone in a never-ending nightmare news cycle. Despite my hardest work to be upbeat and hopeful about the future for you all, I’m not some delusional Tinkerbell-Pollyanna hybrid. I read the news too, it makes me feel just as horrified as you, and I don’t always have an idea for how to deal with it.

So I asked my clever and kind editor, Teresa Chin, a mother of soon-to-be-two, to help me answer this.


Teresa: Being a parent does come with at least some degree of climate guilt. There was that big study from a couple of years ago that suggested that the most significant decision in determining your carbon footprint is how many kids you have. The authors calculated that one child adds about 60 tons of CO2 to your footprint per year. I think of my carbon footprint the same way many new college grads probably feel about student loans. Like, “Oh crap, how am I ever going to repay this?”

That being said, I feel like becoming a mom has given me greater empathy for others, and I’m invested in the future of the planet in a different way than before. So if anything, it’s given me a reason to work harder to make sure we take climate action before it’s too late.

A quick question

Dear Umbra,
How do I kill the 30-50 feral hogs that run into my yard within 3-5 minutes while my small kids play? 🐗

Read Umbra’s 2014 response to America's feral hog problem here.

Sometimes, it’s my unfortunate job to make sense of the inquisitive ramblings of the internet. In case you weren’t on Twitter on Monday (or ever, bless you), the site blew up after a debate on mass shootings and gun control turned quickly from the tragic to the absurd. A gentleman asked Twitter what he was supposed to use (if not an AR-15 assault rifle) to protect his kids if “30-50 feral hogs” were to suddenly invade his property.

To that I say, “Sir! You’re asking the wrong question!” The real puzzler is how do you kill 30-50 feral hogs in such a way that you -- and a bunch of your neighbors, I guess, because that’s a lot of pork -- can still eat them.

Feral hogs are an invasive species that can really wreak havoc on the ecosystems they take over. You may feel squeamish about killing an animal, but what if that animal is destroying all sorts of other animals’ homes and just happens to be edible? I guess that’s a philosophical question you have to decide for yourself. But even most vegetarians can agree that wasted meat is a climate disgrace!

So what is the best way to kill a feral hog and still be able to eat it? I decided to consult my two friends with hog-wrangling experience and boy, did they deliver. Turns out you definitely don’t need an assault weapon.

If you’re particularly enterprising, you don’t even need a gun!

A few takeaways: If you have to kill a hog, try to make use of the meat. And any future assault-style weapons ban probably won’t impact your ability to keep your property free of an unwanted porcine presence.

So about offsetting that vacation...

Was it in just last week’s newsletter that we talked about carbon offsets for flights? Time flies (and so do many of us)!

Well, this week, I discovered the Swedish online tool “Shame Plane,” which shows you the lifestyle changes you’d have to implement to offset the impact of a given flight. Frankly, I feel conflicted about it: On the one hand, I think that plane travel is a byproduct of our spread-out, globalized society, and it can feel like an oversimplification to blame individuals for flying so much. On the other hand, I think there are a lot of unnecessary plane trips that this tool might eliminate -- at the very least, it could push people to look at their other less carbon-intense travel options. Anyway, give it a spin, see what you think.

Ask me a question