On the pages of The Sydney Morning Herald (of course), an ANU climate scientist (of course), Sophie Lewis, agonises whether or not it is right for her – and more importantly for Gaia – to have a child:
I have always loved children and always wanted children in my own life. At the same time, among my friends and colleagues, such ordinary desires are increasingly accompanied by long, complex conversations about the ethics of such aspirations.
Children born today face a dramatically different climate future than their parents did.A child born today is a child of a changing – and extreme – global climate. The decision to have a child is a decision to exacerbate such climate extremes.
We collectively recycle, switch off lights, install LEDs and chose green energy providers. But such measures are more than negated by a decision to have children; having a child in Australia is an ongoing commitment to a high carbon future…
Older climate scientists speak widely about their worries for their grandchildren and the world they have provided them. While such concerns must weigh on older minds, younger climate scientists’ future concerns require active deliberation. Should we have children? And if we do, how do we raise them in a world of change and inequity? Can I reconcile my care and concern for the future with such an active and deliberate pursuit of a child?
Put simply, I can’t. Nowadays, the pitter-patter of tiny feet is inevitably the pitter-patter of giant carbon footprints. Reusable nappies, a bike trailer and secondhand jumpsuits might make me feel like I’m taking individual action but they will achieve little. A child born today is inevitably a consumer and, most significantly, is a consumer of greenhouse gases.
Alas, you will be disappointed to find out that – having conquered both infertility and her green conscience – Sophie will, after all, have a baby:
Our much longed for child will both exacerbate climate change and will have to fix the problems set in motion by its parents and grandparents. In essence, this burden is the choice I have made for my child.
Having made the decision to multiple my own carbon footprint in perpetuity and to inflict an extreme climate future on my daughter, the question becomes – what now?…
I hope today’s children, born of a complex admixture of anxiety, guilt and fear, but all the while fiercely desired, can do better than their parents did. I hope they can be more empathetic, more creative and more responsive than we have been.
As for myself, my work thoughts should be punctured by worry. By senseless luck, my forthcoming daughter will have the opportunity to thrive in a warming world. Many, such as the children of our Pacific Island neighbours, will not. This should prompt more sadness, not less.
In today’s Sophie’s Choice, Dr Lewis could only save her planet or her child and she has selfishly chosen the latter. But please spare the thought for her future daughter, who from the youngest age will be made to feel the immense guilt of having been born at all (the guilt to make the Calvinists look like care-free hippy stoners), not to mention the immense responsibility on her (initially) tiny shoulders to redeem her life as another carbon criminal by helping to solve the global environmental crisis. Young Miss Lewis will grow up in a never-ending loop of the last scenes of “Saving Private Ryan”, where the dying Captain Miller badgers the saved Private Ryan to “earn it”.
The truth about the whole “think globally, cross your legs locally” strategy is that, apart from being the ultimate virtue signal of righteousness and self-sacrifice, it doesn’t actually work. It would if millions – nay, hundreds of millions – of others, similarly petrified by the greenhouse future, likewise decided not to burden Mother Earth with their offspring. Whether that would actually help Mother Earth depends on what you think about the man-made (shouldn’t that be human-made? women have carbon footprints too, you know) climate change, but that’s beside the point for the purpose of the current discussion. Suffice to say that even had Dr Lewis decided to spare our planet the indignity of supporting yet another life, and if there were hundreds and thousands of others environmentally conscious non-breeders, it would still achieve absolutely zilch in the face of the great silent (though not necessarily silently) procreating majority.
In fact, since demography is destiny, Dr Lewises of this world are heading for extinction. People who choose not to have children so as to save the world from humanity are outweighed by the great mass of people who (according to a voluntary extinctionist world-view) don’t give a shit about the planet and keep on popping out the kids. To borrow the evocative “Blade Runner” phrase, the non-breeders’ sacrifice is like tears in the rain.
But Sophie Lewis and the radical decarbonisers are not the only ones. Consider this:
- Religious people (or as Scientific American cutely calls them, “God’s little rabbits”) have more children than atheists and non-believers.
- Pro-life advocates have more children than pro-choice advocates.
- The wealthy and educated elites have fewer children than the poor white (and other colour) trash.
But lest you now think that the left is going the way of the dodo and the future belongs to Trump voters, consider also that:
- Immigrants have more children than the native-born in the US, in Europe, and in Australia.
- Muslims in Western countries have more children than non-Muslims (though at a declining rate).
So if you’re a Sophie Lewis and worry about the future, don’t – you and your Environmental Justice Warrior ilk won’t be there to see the “Mad Max”-like scorched Earth dystopia where the red MAGA-hatted rednecks battle it out for the control of the last water well and the last petrol station with migrant gangs. In fact, let’s call it it “Mad Apex”.