My name is Keya Chatterjee (pronounced like ‘Kenya’, but without the /n/), but usually I feel more like a Cassandra.
It’s not because I want a name that’s easier to pronounce. Nor is it because I always wanted to have a daughter and name her Cassandra (though it is a lovely name).
It’s because in my line of work, I often feel like the Greek mythological character, Cassandra, who had the gift of prophecy, but also the curse of no one ever believing those prophecies.
I’ve worked on climate change for more than a decade, and for more than a decade I’ve been telling everyone who would listen about the risks posed by climate change. Sometimes it feels like people don’t believe me. And sometimes I used to come home from work and be okay with that. But all that changed when I became a mother. Motherhood changed the way that I think about my day job. My baby boy is a constant reminder of what is at stake if we don’t tackle the climate crisis. We are already experiencing some very devastating impacts of climate change. But we also already have all of the technologies we need to switch to clean energy, and we know what policies work best. The problem is that our leaders don’t believe us when we tell them any of this. We are Cassandras.
Of course, most moms are used to being Cassandras. We can see the future, but our kids don’t believe us.
‘If you don’t eat your vegetables, you won’t be as healthy’
‘If you don’t brush your teeth and floss, you’ll get cavities’
Yes, moms are used to their prophecies being ignored. But there are some prophecies we can’t just let play out.
‘If you run into the traffic, you’ll get hit by a car’
‘If we don’t learn to conserve energy, and pass climate policies that help us do that, we will put the life support system of our planet at risk’
Those are prophecies we moms must control somehow. As parents, our job is to make sure that whether or not our kids believe us, they don’t ever run into traffic. Whether people believe me or not about climate change, I feel we have to do everything in our power to prevent the worst consequences for all of our babies.
The good news is that the only thing we are lacking is the political will release us from the grips of dirty energy. All we need is for our leaders to have some guts.
But they’ll never have guts, unless we show them what the future could look like, and tell them what to do. We mothers can show people that living a less consumptive life is not so scary. We can show people that line drying their clothes is actually pretty nice (it always reminds me of Tibetan prayer flags), and that bigger isn’t better (just look at how gorgeous our tiny babies were).
And in the process of doing all of that, we’ll have created the political support for the policies that will ensure that our babies can not only survive, but thrive.
I am so excited to begin blogging for Mothering, so that I can share the research I’ve done on low-carbon mothering, and learn from the Mothering community. In this community, I know I won’t have to feel like a Cassandra, and that I’ll get inspiration, support, and ideas from the Mothering world about how to raise my baby in a way that is consistent with my values. Thank you for joining me on my journey.
About Keya Chatterjee
Keya Chatterjee is a Climate Change and Environment expert, and Director for International Climate Policy at World Wildlife Fund. Her work focuses on the environmental crisis facing the planet, and what policies and measures should be taken to ameliorate the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. Keya’s commentary on climate change policy and sustainability issues has been quoted in dozens of media outlets including USA Today, CNN, and NBC Nightly News. Keya resides in Washington, DC with her husband Andrew and her son Siddharth. She enjoys practicing yoga, biking, and spending time with her friends and family. She is working on a book about how to have a baby without raising your carbon footprint to be published in 2013 by Ig Publishing. Keep up with Keya’s writing on the nexus of climate change activism and motherhood at www.keyachatterjee.com.