I wrote in a recent newsletter about an article that Ezra Klein published, in which he discusses how often he hears from people who don’t think it’s a good idea to have kids due to climate change. He writes that he hears questions about this topic more than anything else.
Over the past few years, I’ve been asked one question more than any other. It comes up at speeches, at dinners, in conversation. It’s the most popular query when I open my podcast to suggestions, time and again. It comes in two forms. The first: Should I have kids, given the climate crisis they will face? The second: Should I have kids, knowing they will contribute to the climate crisis the world faces?
Klein concludes that these fears are not well-founded and that those who know the most about climate change do not have the same level of concern about the issue.
In a piece called The New Malthusians by Lyman Stone, the writer and demographer focuses on climate change as a reason for not having kids.
A recent survey conducted by the New York Times found that a third of fertility-age women say climate-change fears are among the reasons why they have not had children yet. Meanwhile, groups like Birthstrike encourage women to take what might be called the “Lysistrata option”: boycott having a child until climate policy improves.
He also writes more generally about people’s concerns around having kids.
Whenever I write about fertility, someone inevitably responds on Twitter with some variation of, “But do you realize how bad the world is? Who would want to be born into this?” The source of the badness varies. Sometimes it is climate change. Sometimes it is Republicans. Sometimes it’s immigrants and sometimes it’s socialists. People of all stripes have their reasons for why it would be better never to be born, but the striking thing is how free more and more Americans seem to feel to express that life is fundamentally bad, that on the grand scale of being, nonexistence is better than existence. This is a very real cultural change; it shows movement toward our becoming a society of despair.
We may be living in a society of despair, or it may just be a society that has a great deal of reproductive pessimism. I think you can probably find ample evidence for both, but the way population replacement has plummeted in the last few years makes a forceful case for the latter.
(📷 Image Source: broombesoom on Flickr)