Anthony Albanese

Anthony and Maryanne Albanese

It is interesting that I had queried a friend in Australia about him being elected prime minister without knowing how she felt about the man and her response was very positive. “I am glad this happened and am excited at the results of the Greens and the Independents. The Independents who got in were all women. Some were given funding to run by an Australian billionaire, on the condition that they supported climate change action and making the government accountable.” and much more.

Then running late today and looking for a topic for this blog in my all things adoption group, I read this – “Australia’s new prime minister, Anthony Albanese, is the son of Maryanne, a woman who as a single mother in 1963, was strongly pressured to give him up for adoption. She resisted and raised him herself. He is a strong proponent of social justice and I’m so excited to see a new future for our country under his leadership.”

So I went looking for more and found this article in The Australian from 2021 titled – ‘Something wasn’t right’: Anthony Albanese’s heartbreaking Mother’s Day tribute. He said, she “sacrificed so much” for him. She had rheumatoid arthritis that “crippled her joints” and meant she couldn’t work. “She lived on a disability pension. Life wasn’t easy, and her health made things even harder but we got through because of her,” he said.

“We lived in council housing, which gave us a sense of security and stability. It was our home.” His mother taught him how to save money but the most valuable life lesson she passed on was to leave no one behind. “Truth is, mum was left behind by people who counted her out, and by governments who cut back support,” he said. “The cutbacks that happened in mum’s lifetime meant she had to justify the support she was receiving. When health funding was cut, the quality of mum’s care was cut too.”

“When they tried to sell our council house, it felt like our home was being taken from us.” It was his mother’s influence and challenge to make ends meet that inspired the Labor leader to get into politics. “Mum always gave me unconditional love. And I feel very privileged to have had that. Mums really are special,” he wrote.

Choosing Not To Have Children

More than one friend in my age group has told me that their grown children do not intend to have children which will mean no grandchildren for my friends. Even my oldest son has expressed some doubts that he will. What is going on here ? Very real concerns about how climate change will make the future very difficult for today’s children and their children and much sooner than I had previously heard – like by like by 2050.

Because I think daily about issues at least tangential to adoption, that is the first place my thought goes and in an article in The Guardian titled Should I have children? Weighing parenthood amid the climate crisis by Megan Mayhew Bergman I read – Ellie at age 23 wrote the author, “While I don’t believe the changes we’re seeing have to signify end-of-days, I do believe there are incredibly thoughtful solutions at hand which – if we can pull them off – would bring about a world I’d very much want to have children in. But I also think my generation may have found itself at a unique moment in which more people isn’t the answer, and alternatives like adoption represent more eco- and ultimately, human-conscious choices.” And to be certain, more than 100,000 children have been born in refugee camps in Myanmar and in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar, the largest refugee settlement in the world, which is vulnerable to extreme flooding and landslides.

Recent polling reveals that four in 10 young people are “hesitant to have children as a result of the climate crisis” and “fear that governments are doing too little to prevent climate catastrophe”.

An article in Vanity Fair last year by Tatiana Schlossberg titled How Should a Climate Change Reporter Think About Having Children? She goes on to say – Reproduction is a fundamental feature of life on earth, but a morally fraught decision for anyone who has the choice. And there’s not even a right answer. She mentions a drive through a scenic passage in Colorado but that “I felt so angry at our species. Angry because we are willing to destroy all of this and to do so knowingly, because we seem to value no life other than human life, and I’m not even sure how much we value that.” I would have to agree with that last bit somewhat.

She goes on to share – when you are a married straight woman in your 20s and everyone wants to know when you’re going to have a kid, it turns out to be almost impossible to avoid thinking about the future.

In answer to that, she shares – There are two familiar arguments about not having a kid when it comes to climate change. The first one is that it is unkind and irresponsible to bring a child into a world whose future is uncertain at best and apocalyptic at worst. The second one is that, as a privileged, white American with a sizable carbon footprint, any child of mine would be another person with a similar environmental impact, both in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and resource consumption. According to those two lines of thinking, having a child is unethical, both because of what it would do to the child and because of what that child would do to the world.

Realistically, she goes on to admit – As both a reporter and a person in her child-bearing years, I don’t know what the right thing to do is—and I don’t think that there is a right thing to do. I find myself feeling much the same way. I do believe humanity will continue to exist and on some level I feel that raising a reasonable number (like 1 or 2) of children to be highly aware and ethical will be valuable to whatever the future will bring.

She also acknowledges that – not having a child is not the same as becoming a vegetarian or buying an electric car. Having a child, becoming a parent, can be a defining feature of life on earth—the reproduction of aspen trees is not necessarily parenthood, but it is part of the same drive to pass on genetic material; it is hardwired in us, and we share it with all other lifeforms.

A dear friend of mine is involved with Project Drawdown, a climate-advocacy organization, that has ranked the 100 most effective solutions to climate change, and found that together, education and family planning for women and girls is the second-most effective way to reduce emissions (after reducing food waste, which includes shifting to a plant-rich diet and preventing deforestation), because when women are more educated, they generally have fewer children, and also add to the economic and cultural success of their communities.

The Vanity Fair article author notes – The birth rate in the United States and much of the developed world is declining. When people express concern to me about there being too many people on earth, they don’t seem to be saying there are too many Americans; they are, knowingly or not, talking about limiting the growing and increasingly young nonwhite populations in the global south. Throughout American history, anxiety about population is almost always linked to race or national origin, so what I always want to say in response is, “Who are you talking about when you ask me that question?”

I do feel lucky to have the female freedoms I do because of the time in which I have lived. I acknowledge that I am indebted to the work of so many women which has given me choice (and currently, that is highly under threat). Support for reproductive freedom is a core part of my own political identity, as is support for climate action as an environmentalist. We try to raise our sons to value the same things as well.

I will also admit to a certain degree of arrogance in that kind of thinking. That my having kids is okay because my kids will be a good persons and who knows ? One of them might solve climate change. OK, so the latter idea is probably not the most likely outcome, nor is it the most powerful argument in defense of my having children. Any person could say as much. True, I di think that my children are special, geniuses, perfect in their own ways, but I also realize that my children doesn’t necessarily have a greater right to be born than anyone else’s. I am sad for the youth of today. Even back around the 2000s when my husband and I decided to have these two boys, the concern was not as urgent as it seems today (and I say seems because it should have been more urgent then and even in the early 1970s when I had my daughter).

Why It Can’t Satisfy

For my family’s movie last night, I chose the only one in our dvd library that has a story centered on the mother. AI and robotics are already a part of our modern time and the the movie – AI Artificial Intelligence released in 2001 – envisions where that world may be headed. The movie credits the short story – Supertoys Last All Summer Long – by author Brian Aldiss. SPOILER ALERT (if there is anyone who would want to see the movie and actually still has not).

When one considers possible alternatives to adoption for couples experiencing the emotional pain of infertility and longing for a child’s love, which is what motivates them to take another woman’s child to raise as their own, a sentient child robot might appear to offer that solace. However, at least in the imaginings of this movie, there is made the point about all of the ways a robotic child, no matter how life like and responsive, will never be the same as a child a woman gives birth to.

A robotic (mecha in the movie) child will never grow old, cannot share in the family meal. The parents will age and eventually die, what becomes of such a frozen in time child ? That is an early question that the sentient robot child asks early on which reveals a fear many children have and not without reason that their parents may die and leave them orphaned.

When the mother’s comatose biological child awakens from a long coma and starts down the long road of recovery, there is a clear sibling jealousy between the two forms of children. Eventually, the issues become so serious, the mother abandons the child in the forest (this blog’s image is from that scene). Like Pinocchio in the story his adoptive mother reads to him, David wants to become “real” so that he can regain his mother’s love. This abandonment, rejection and the desire for reunion is at the heart of many adoptee stories.

The movie does a good job of conveying the complexities of creating such a child substitute. In the movie, climate change has first drown the coastal cities of Earth, wrecking such destruction that after a long period of suffering that ends humanity, the Earth enters another ice age. After 2,000 years, an alien race that is a sophisticated blend of sentient, powerful beings arrives and discovers the frozen robotic child in a thawing world.

For only one day, these powerful beings are able to observe human mother/child interactions drawn from the memory banks of the robotic child and are also able to recreate his long-deceased mother from a lock of hair once taken from her and saved by the supertoy Teddy bear that accompanies the robotic child on his quest to become real so his mother can love him or at the least, so he can feel loved by her again. As his mother falls asleep at the end of the one day granted the android child, she tells David that she has always loved him and this is the moment he had been seeking throughout his quest. David is able to go to sleep next to his recreated mother at the end of the movie, having satisfied his quest, and allow his own robotic self to enter a kind of permanent sleep state lying beside her in her bed, holding her hand.

And this is why this can’t actually be the love that drives couples to adopt someone else’s child . . .