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“I’m really interested in exploring intergenerational justice more and would love to see more long-term decision making embedded in laws around the world to protect our children’s future, and the law being used to challenge governments and companies who are knowingly undermining chances of a safe climate for our kids.”


Meet Rowan.

Rowan is a Human Rights and Environmental Lawyer turned global activist and mother of two young girls. 

She currently lives in Oxford in the UK, and before becoming a mum she spent much of her working life in London, travelling to Brussels and in South East Asia working as a lawyer for Client Earth, EarthRights International and Oxfam.

Text:  Beth Mark
Photography: Sandra Freij

Her work for EarthRights was a significantly high point in Rowan’s career. It gave her the opportunity to finally combine her two loves; human rights and environmental protection. She worked in a small but expanding team that aimed to hold oil companies and other major organisations accountable for human rights and environmental abuses and did a fantastic job of supporting local lawyers and campaigners to work with communities that were impacted by the damaging practices and help them tell their stories.

During Rowan's career, she worked on several environmental issues (such as biodiversity and marine ecosystems), but never on climate. I asked her why she felt that was,

"It felt too big and too scary, and to be honest, too depressing… All of my life I've been taught to some extent about the climate crisis and it's never good news! I felt I needed more expertise to engage on such a complex issue, but I never fully allowed myself to engage with it, and absorb it on an emotional level, until I had kids…"

The development of an emotional link to climate change seems to be an emerging theme amongst parents; by having a child you invest in the wellbeing of future generations. Many parents (but not limited to) are hit with a sudden desire (be it innate or not) to start making improvements for the benefit of those to follow; to ultimately become a better ancestor.

She continues,

“After I had my first daughter, I was still head down, trying to find my feet in first time parenting, but something shifted with my second daughter. Having a very young baby, I felt a connection with the world around me on an emotional instinctual level that I hadn't experienced before, and I finally allowed myself to experience it fully. I felt the injustice of ‘why should I as a human mother have rights to raise my children in safety in a way that nonhuman mothers of other species, just don't have’. Non-Humans are being massively impacted by human activities and it just felt wrong. It made me as a parent want to engage in environmental issues. And then the 2018 IPCC report came out, which just confirmed all of my worst fears. And that was enough, I realised that I didn’t need any more expertise, that caring about the future was enough. It was all the qualifications I needed to go and engage in climate. That perspective of basing my engagement in love has remained really important as my involvement in climate activism has grown and is one of the things that keeps me going when it feels hard..”

In February 2019, with a tiny baby strapped to her chest, Rowan took to the streets alongside the youth climate strikers in her hometown of Oxford. She attended the strike with a commitment to herself that she would engage other parents. This is where her role as an activist began. She recalls,

“I made a sign that read ‘Parents Call For Climate Action’ which successfully prompted conversations with parents accompanying their children on the strike…When I got home I researched parent climate groups and came across a US climate group called Climate Mama. My initial response was ‘oh okay, other people are doing it, they've got this covered, I don't need to and if I did, I would be intruding in their space’. All of those imposter syndrome responses that immediately make you want to run for the hills. And then I took a moment, sat back and realised that it wasn’t easy to find that group. There is scope for expansion after all. I looked further and found other people in the UK who were interested in doing parent climate work, and others internationally. And that's how the Parents For Future movement grew in the UK, and Parents For Future Global.”

Rowan is an active founder of Parents For Future Oxford, Parents for Future UK and Parents For Future Global. Her thorough involvement has given Rowan a broad understanding of activism on a local, national and international stage. She no longer practices as a solicitor but continues to use law and legal strategy in her role as an activist. Over the years she’s fallen in and out of love with law but ultimately sees it as a powerful tool to achieve the change that’s required. Rowan explains,

“I'd like to reclaim the power of the law. I recognise it can be used in a positive sense. It is a powerful system and a useful tool, even though it's imperfect… After working in law for many years, I came to realise that law is ultimately, usually, bound by politics.  The ability to use law as a tool relies on whether or not governments and decision-makers want to grant you strong enough legal rights and make resources available for implementation and enforcement. So if it's a legal process we’re after then what we really need is political will to make that a strong process. And that's part of what brought me to do climate movement work; law is a tool that the movements can use to push politicians and decision-makers."

To gather an overall ‘world stage’ understanding of who Parents For Future are and what they stand for, I asked Rowan about what’s next for the global project ..

“As well as providing connections between national groups and helping local and national groups feel part of a movement of parents right around the world, there are three areas of work Parents For Future Global is focusing on.; The first is mobilisation to engage more parents and provide support to national groups to work together. We need to be more visible as a movement! This work is particularly important around the circle of themes like deforestation, where there are links between the Brazilian Parents For Future group and the European groups where you've got the drivers of deforestation in Europe and the people feeling the impact in Brazil.

Education is also an area of interest with many of the national groups aiming to ensure that climate is included in the school curriculum (in a way that is 
sensitive to the mental health burden that comes with processing information about climate breakdown). And thirdly, we have advocacy and litigation, which is still in development, but which is an area I’m focussing on. One of the strands will be around ‘future generations’ legislation, which is something we’re looking closely at in the UK with the Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill. I’m really interested in exploring intergenerational justice more and would love to see more long-term decision making embedded in laws around the world to protect our children’s future and the law being used to challenge governments and companies who are knowingly undermining chances of a safe climate for our kids.”

Rowan was keen to stress how privileged she feels to be able to dedicate so much of her time to the movement, but explains that it hasn’t been easy,

“Quite early on, I decided to take this work seriously and see it as work, rather than something I was dabbling in. Most of the time, I work during nap times, first thing in the morning and every evening with a lot of time spent on my phone when I shouldn't. So it's not a perfect balance, but I’m not sure a perfect balance exists. I’m often feeling my way, trying to follow my instinct and prioritise what feels important to do right now. Working around my young kids’ schedules helps remind me of why I’m doing this - it is for them, for their future; I’m enormously grateful for their squeezy hugs that remind me to appreciate the beauty of the present rather than spend all my time worrying about the future. I do feel very lucky to have support from my husband Dan, who recognises the importance in the work and so does a huge amount of childcare and all the washing up! I recognise that’s not an opportunity or scenario that everyone has so with support from some brilliant people I’ve worked with previously, part of my work over the past year has been setting up a Parent Climate Fellowship. This will enable some of the amazing committed parent activists out there to get financial support to keep doing their important work. We are prioritising fellows from the global south and diverse backgrounds to try to diversify the parent climate movement and make this work sustainable.”

Rowan ends our discussion by summing up what her advice would be to anyone wanting to take action,

“It took me a while to realise that there is no right (or wrong) way to be a climate activist. I would encourage others firstly to just do it - reach out and get involved and see where it takes them, but also to think about the skills they have to share. For me, law aligned with my professional background, but everybody has something that they're bringing, it might be less obvious, but people bring all sorts of different skills and all sorts of different professions. You don't have to retrain or qualify in any way to become a climate activist! You can bring the skills and passion that you've already got and repurpose them."

Hundreds of secondhandshoes at home in preparation for a shoestrike in Oxford.

Rowan has become a well-known figure within the parent-climate community.  Her consistency, support, knowledge and passion have come as a gift to so many. We thank her for her on-going commitment to the movement and wish her all the best on a local, national and global level.


1. Parents have an enormous interest in the future environment and we can’t leave it to ‘someone else’ to look after our kids’ (and all kids’) futures - Decision makers are not going to make long term decisions unless we hold them to account.

2. There’s no wrong way to be a climate activist.

3. Engaging in climate can be surprisingly strengthening and empowering! There’s real power in aligning your actions with your instincts and putting love and connection at the centre of your work.

London 2020