What it means to want to say to your kids “I did my best”

June 29, 2023 by Joshua
in Nature

I’ve heard parents say about the environment “I want to be able to look my child in the eye and say ‘I did my best.'” I think it means something darker than they mean, and that they know it, but won’t acknowledge it consciously. I will.

When do you say such a thing? Not when things are fine. If the problem is solved, you don’t have to say something like this. So you say it when things are bad, but not just bad, as bad as they can get. If you think things will improve or aren’t that bad, you don’t have to say it.

You say it when you, they, or both are at risk of dying. You say it when the aquifer or river you and everyone for hundreds of miles depend on has run dry, the trucks that were bringing food and water stopped delivering them because some other place needed them more, and you have no hope for the sustenance you need. That’s when you say you did your best. Such ends could arise in countless ways.

We talk about rising sea levels and losing keystone species, but we don’t take the next step to what it means for Earth’s capacity to sustain life means. People talk about how humanity had its run, maybe rats or cockroaches will take over next. We say those things to keep our views abstract, but population lowering unintentionally means you have to look people you love and want to protect in the eye and say, “we don’t have enough to live on and I can’t do anything to help you.” That’s when you say “I did everything I could.”


We don’t want to reach such situations! I don’t have kids and I’m doing more to avoid them than anyone I know or nearly anyone I’ve heard of. We don’t have to reach situations like them. We can lower population the way many nations have, voluntarily, non-coercively instead of forcing nature to do it for us. We can live sustainably ourselves, all 8 billion of us. If it’s hard immediately, we can do the best we can as fast as we can and keep changing systems.

I hope it’s obvious I’m not trying to push doom and gloom. I’m simply clarifying what others are saying, hopefully encouraging people to change. I polluted as much as anyone. I said “whoever dies with the most toys wins” for decades. Then I took the warnings seriously based on decades of their happening and in a 2.5 year period lowered my total environmental impact over 90 percent. You can likely lower more if you aren’t already vegan, do drive, and do have kids. You can reduce much more. You can do it too! You’ll love your life more afterward in every way, including the places you fear it will get worse. Especially them.

Footprint Josh 2016 US world Josh 2018

When your children ask why you didn’t do more, do you want to tell them because it was inconvenient? Because you could afford to splurge and everyone else was doing it?

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