Child Earth

Mary Catherine Bateson is a cultural anthropologist, the daughter of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson. Here’s a thought-provoking snippet from Stewart Brand’s summary of her talk at the Long Now Foundation:

The birth of a first child is the most intense disruption that most adults experience. Suddenly the new parents have no sleep, no social life, no sex, and they have to keep up with a child that changes from week to week. “Two ignorant adults learn from the newborn how to be decent parents.” Everything now has to be planned ahead, and the realization sinks in that it will go on that way for twenty years.


Herself reflecting on parenthood, Bateson proposed that the metaphor of “mother Earth” is no longer accurate or helpful. Human impact on nature is now so complete and irreversible that we’re better off thinking of the planet as if it were our first child. It will be here after us. Its future is unknown and uncontrollable. We are forced to plan ahead for it. Our first obligation is to keep it from harm. We are learning from it how to be decent parents.

3 Responses to Child Earth

  1. This post was mentioned on Twitter by Robin Houston, Jaime Kyriakidis. Jaime Kyriakidis said: The mother Earth metaphor is unhelpful. Our obligation is to keep "child Earth" from harm. Parenting Earth:

  2. John F says:

    I don’t think child is a better metaphor for Earth than mother. It is important to keep in mind the treachery of metaphors, ceci n’est pas la Terre and all that. Two of the best metaphors for Earth are cradle and footstool.

  3. harsh says:

    Thought provoking. The point is we have multiple siblings and mother does not care for anyone. A mother that is too engrossed in her love for his father Sun and a protective husband Jupiter has little time for her children. On a serious note we do not exist for our mother.

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