Life&Style’s Emmie Lyon questions whether we should make the personal decision to abstain from having children given the current state of the planet

Written by emmboop
Tree-hugging feminist modern languages student with a lot of hair.
Images by Bessi

Every morning upon waking up, I open the news app on my phone and scroll through the endless articles about the ongoing effects of the climate emergency. The anxiety stemming from the uncertain future of the planet plays on my mind daily, the unavoidable nervous chatter of how the planet is possibly heading towards being 3°C warmer, a whole 1°C past the 2°C threshold before change is irreversible. Since my parents were born in the 1960s, within their lifetimes the size of wild animal populations has plummeted by 60%, half of the world’s rainforests have been ransacked and the number of people on the planet has doubled. The colossal damage done to the planet’s once rich biodiversity might be propelling us towards a mass extinction event within our lifetimes and those of our children.

These days, we are aware the future relies on our conscious decisions to help our planet

So, that poses the question – with the growing world population and its demands in mind, would it even be right to bring another generation into this? As a woman, I have questioned myself and have been questioned on the subject of whether I would like children. I don’t eat meat, I shop sustainably, I don’t drive. These are considerable lifestyle changes I have made, but the question of having children still sits at the back of my mind as something which would affect me, and others considering becoming parents, on a much more personal level. Guilt accompanies the question of choosing whether to act ‘selfishly’ or act ‘ethically’. The lives of these hypothetical children would arguably not be a full one; while the effects of the climate emergency are already detrimental, the tragic reality is that they will probably worsen dramatically. And would it really be responsible to bring more and more people into this world considering the inevitably considerable impact they will cumulatively have on the planet throughout their lifetimes? Facing a future with more natural disasters, more illnesses and fewer resources indicates that we should stray away from the lifestyles of our parents and their parents who saw the planet’s assets as rightfully inherited, instead of something which they could be borrowing from their children.

#Birthstrike (founded by Blythe Pepino), a Faceboook group confronting this very question, takes the personal decision of having children and publicises the modern decision we might have to face in the 21st century. For many in the movement, their choice to abstain comes from a place of anxiety and fear. For others, it stems from wanting to limit their carbon footprint. Either way, the publicisation of such a private, personal and difficult life choice shows the urgency of the situation and just how far Mankind’s entitlement has spiralled out of control. The fear of what our descendants will face is a very real one that our ancestors never had to consider. For them, having children came without guilt. This climate-induced anxiety can even lead to us questioning our parents. Why did you have me? Why must I have to deal with the mess you made? Why must our generation suffer? Previous generations had the privilege of being able to reproduce for their own pleasure, their own gain, maybe to fulfil a lifelong dream of becoming a parent. These days, we are aware the future relies on our conscious decisions to help our planet.