Good news! Apparently Miley Cyrus and her husband Liam Hemsworth have announced that they have decided not to have any children because they “know that the earth can’t handle it”. Which I think shows amazing self-awareness.
But this power couple aren’t the only ones forsaking having children in the future for the future. It seems that there is a growing trend in “birth striking”: couples abstaining from procreation to raise awareness about “climate breakdown and civilisation collapse”. This trend is becoming so widespread that a New York Times survey of young adults in the USA last year found a third had or were expecting to have fewer children than expected because they were worried about climate change. According to a study published in Environmental Research Letters, the greatest impact individuals can have to lower their carbon footprint is to fewer child: each child you choose not to have saves 58.6 tonnes of carbon a year. Which you could use instead on a few overseas holidays perhaps…
It appears that this birth strike movement has hit New Zealand as well: couples here in prime child bearing years are making the decision that they are going to do their bit for the planet by not having any children. Auckland man Bevan Read and his partner are concerned about climate change, overpopulation of the planet, the scarcity of resources and climate-induced migration. He didn’t know if he wanted to bring a child into the world where humanity would be “treading on each other”. Although they still wish to have children, the couple have decided to make the sacrifice for the sake of the planet.
Irene Read was influenced by the words of Stephen Hawking. His warnings on the effects of climate change upon humanity moved her to decide that she didn’t want to bring children into “such an environment … into a place where you have to just survive and suffer.” For Sam Hendriske, the problem is that it is so hard to feed and clothe children sustainably. Without growing your own food in a collective or being able to find sustainable-sourced clothing, Hendriske was unprepared to place another strain on the environmental system.
Presumably the numbers of people choosing not to have children solely on account of the feared environmental consequences are small. So far. But those who are having their childbearing decisions at least influenced by the fear of climate change are growing, and their numbers will swell while stories like this one continue to gain popularity.
One does hope that the couples choosing to “birth strike” are not going to live to regret their decision in 20 years or so when the world perhaps discovers that threats of climate change are not as cataclysmic as currently feared. Further, one hopes that one of the children not born is not also an inventor that contributes to the reduction of environmental degradation in the future.
After all, each new baby is not only a carbon producing, resource-consuming polluter but also a potential contributor, inventor or entrepreneur. And above all, a beautiful little baby that I hope the couples on baby strike will not miss having in the years ahead.
Marcus Roberts is co-editor of Demography is Destiny, MercatorNet's blog on population issues.