Guest essay by Eric Worrall
According to The Guardian, having children is a moral dilemma, if you are concerned about Climate Change. But does the author really believe that the future is going to be such a bleak and horribly place, or is he simply rationalising a personal decision not to have lots of kids, in terms of his “environmental conscience”?
Does climate change make it immoral to have kids?
Bringing children into a disintegrating environment used to be a theoretical fear. Now it’s a very real one.
The awfulness seems to be getting worse, especially now that climate change has sped up – sea level rise that was supposed to take centuries has recently been projected as taking just decades. This complicates the already difficult decision of whether to have a kid.
We’re living through what scientists call the “Sixth Extinction”, an era of precipitous decline in the number of species able to live on the planet. The last mass extinction, the fifth, happened 66 million years ago, when a giant asteroid crashed into Earth and 76% of all the species on the planet perished.
This time, we’re doing it to ourselves.
“Climate scientists agree that humanity is about to cause a sea level rise of 20 or 30ft, but they have tended to assume that such a large increase would take centuries, at least,” the New York Times’s Justin Gillis reported. But a recent study led by retired Nasa climate scientist James E Hansen, published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, indicates that the negative effects are happening a lot faster than we’d thought, perhaps feet of rise within the next 50 years.
“That would mean loss of all coastal cities, most of the world’s large cities and all their history,” Hansen told Gillis, adding, “We’re in danger of handing young people a situation that’s out of their control.”
Was I complicit in the damage? I remember every extra paper towel I’ve ever unspooled from the roll, and think about a tree falling in the Amazon, and then think about my son growing up in a gray, dying world – walking towards Kansas on potholed highways. Maybe while trying to protect his own son, like the father in The Road. Will he decide to have a kid? I have foisted upon him a decision even more difficult than my own. It’s all very depressing.
People who truly believe that most of their children won’t survive, tend to respond by having lots of children. The fact that this primal urge to procreate appears to be largely missing, in the face of what greens claim is an existential threat, makes me wonder just how much people who say such things truly believe in what they are saying.
There seems to be a growing disconnect, a rising tendency for people to give lip service to green causes, but not to practice what they preach. I know a kid who gets deeply upset about rubbish in the school garden – her teachers have taught her that dropping rubbish on the ground kills all the sweet little animals. But its not the rubbish on the ground which most upsets her – its the fact that the teachers aren’t out there every evening, ensuring all those little animals are safe, by meticulously picking up all the rubbish.
The messages are still flowing, but the sincerity seems to have gone.
Update (EW) – David Hoffer points out that the author ultimately comes down on the side of having kids. … perhaps someone who is not yet born, perhaps not yet conceived, is the one super-genius to figure out the invention that could save the planet? … There’s always maybe. And that’s enough to persevere for.