To judge by the many articles on the topic that keep appearing in legacy media outlets, environmentalists, neo-Malthusians, and anti-humanists are in the throes of a new obsession: that having “too many” children is going to cause a climate change Armageddon.
The latest article making the rounds is an NBC News website piece by Travis Rieder of the Berman Institute of Bioethics at Johns Hopkins University, titled “Science proves kids are bad for Earth. Morality suggests we stop having them.” This view, says Rieder, “is beginning to receive serious consideration in both academic and popular discussions of climate change ethics.”
You see, people are pretty carbon intensive. The more people there are, the more carbon they produce. The more carbon they produce, the closer we get to a doomsday that approximates trash metal band Slayer’s “Raining Blood.” So, to avert this, it is everyone’s moral responsibility to have fewer kids, preferably just one — especially if you’re Occidental and more carbon intensive because you fly in planes, drive cars, use electricity, and generally partake in the benefits of the Industrial and Market Revolutions. At least that’s what the aforementioned rogue’s gallery of climate alarmists says.
I’ve written before on why these arguments are specious, so I won’t get into them here. (Let’s just say Rieder adds credence to Orwell’s bon mot that some ideas are so stupid that only a member of the intelligentsia could believe them.) What strikes me the most about this argument is not the absurdity of it, but its incredible selfishness.
For the upper middle class bobos who lap this stuff up with a ladle (so long as it’s organic, locally sourced, and farm-to-table) and didn’t plan on having more than one child anyway, this entails no sacrifice at all on their part. It does, however, afford them another opportunity to do some quality moral preening and vent their spleens at the knuckle-dragging, fecund Neanderthals who are in the process of rutting this planet into the eschaton.
Take, for example, this collection of commenters to stories on the subject in the Guardian. Some are heavy on the moral preening. Delatona writes, “We as a species have to ‘manage,’ if that means restricting birth rates all good, especially to breeders who just keep pumping out babies for cultural reasons but do not raise them properly.”
“Have fewer children? Don’t have any children,” says user ClareLondon. “They’re going to go through a nightmare. Anyone under the age of 40 today will experience terrifying, off-the-scale planetary heating.… Voluntarily to bring [sic] a new baby into this world is an act of cruelty. You don’t have to do it. They will live in a world in which the planet begins to burn.”
Some expressed concerns about rising populations outside of the West. “The African continent is expected to QUADRUPLE in population by the year 2100,” says offgridcanadian. “This is a serious concern because there will be warring over limited resources.”
“Raise the standard of living, especially women’s education and the broth [sic] rate falls. Not likely to happen in Africa or India any time soon,” says Lindisfarn.
Others like to partake in a bit of greener-than-thou humblebragging. One commenter with the extremely clever nom de plume PimpmasterFlex writes, “My partner and I have decided a definite ‘no’ to children and I’m a vegetarian of seven years. I can’t give up my vehicle but I think I’m doing my bit so far.”
“I’m reasonably happy with our rooftop PV powered, LED lit, low travel emissions retired lifestyle now,” commented Roland Paterson-Jones, “[but] I have no idea what we could do to offset our lifetime emissions.” Fortunately for Mr. Paterson-Jones, I do.
If Mr. Paterson-Jones, Mr. Rieder, and Mr. Pimpmaster truly believe that climate change will be as horrific as they say it will be, that we are within a hairsbreadth of time before it’s curtains for human life on the planet, and that just by living our normal lives all of us in the West are steering the Titanic into the iceberg, then they should stop piddling around with LED bulbs, hybrid cars, vegan diets, and voluntary one-child policies. Pick up stakes and head to the Third World.
By doing so, they’d be helping to save the planet in the most altruistic way possible, short of killing themselves and eliminating their carbon footprint altogether. (I’m sure that modest proposal from bioethicists like Rieder will be coming shortly. Give it time.) What’s more, it will be conspicuously altruistic. Like the Anglican missionaries headed to the heart of darkest Africa or the far corners of the Raj during the glorious, sunsetless reign of Her Britannic Majesty Queen Victoria, the true believers can give up the trappings of Western decadence and proselytize the gospel, albeit one of salvation through sub-replacement birth rates and light carbon footprints, instead of through faith in the Nazarene. You know, “Onward Gaian Soldiers” and all that.
Of course, to do something so radically selfless, radical environmentalists would truly have to believe the words coming out of their mouths. Do the doomsayers truly believe their words? I suppose we’ll see.
Timothy Benson (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a policy analyst with The Heartland Institute, a free-market think tank headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois. He writes from an undisclosed island location somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean.