My husband woke up in the middle of the night, worried suddenly that our kids would fall victim to a pandemic virus and die.
“I just wish they were home,” he said.
You’d think you would stop worrying about your kids so much when they are old enough to be out in the world. But I know how he feels. I had a dream earlier in the week that our younger child was in some sort of danger I had no way of alleviating, and I woke up in a panic.
In the middle of the night it’s easy to focus on dangers and worries. The middle of the night is no time for rational thought — that’s what morning is for.
But even in the morning I worry about the world we are leaving our children. Will they have jobs, health insurance, clean air and water? Will they have access to fresh food?
Will they have kids themselves, and what will the world be like for those kids?
A report released just after Valentine’s Day found that the health and future of every kid worldwide is threatened by carbon emissions, pollution and general planetary degradation, as well as targeted marketing of soda and fast foods, tobacco products and alcohol.
The report, commissioned by the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the science journal The Lancet, looked at the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals from the perspective of how those goals measure up for kids. It discusses how children are affected by poverty and war, traffic and air pollution, health care and education, as well as dangers ranging from rising sea levels to increasing carbon emissions to crime and pedestrian safety.
Who wouldn’t be up all night worrying after reading a report like that?
The answers, the report says, all stem from global commitments. The U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by member nations in 2015, are lofty — among them affordable clean energy, clean water and sanitation; an end to poverty, hunger and war; and environmentally responsible consumerism, all by 2030.
It’s time to put children at the center of those goals, the report says. In other words, we need to think less of our own inconvenience and more about what the world will look like when our kids and their kids are grown. Will they survive? Will they flourish?
The report calls on governments worldwide to take action, to invest in child well-being, and to measure policies and decisions by how they impact our youngest and most vulnerable citizens.
When you think about whether there will be clean water anywhere in the future, maybe a plastic-bag ban isn’t too onerous. When poor kids worldwide suffer the most from air and water pollution, maybe loosening environmental regulations to save corporations money is a poor choice by governments.
“The health of children, and their future, is intimately linked to the health of our planet,” is one of the key messages of the report.
It’s not good nighttime reading. But it is the perspective we need when we’re thinking about our own goals.
Greenpoint appears every other Sunday. Look for it next on March 15. Reach Margaret Hartley at [email protected] or @Hartley_Maggie on Twitter. Opinions expressed in Greenpoint are hers and not necessarily the newspaper’s.