What would you do to save the planet?
Apparently some people are so distraught over the condition of the environment that they’re considering making the ultimate sacrifice and remaining childless.
The New York Times recently interviewed more than a dozen people who plan to have fewer children, or to avoid childrearing altogether, because they think procreating is one of the costliest actions one can take environmentally.
It’s not that the people interviewed by the Times don’t want to have kids. They say they do. But they see their decision to eschew parenthood as a necessary sacrifice, even a moral imperative.
One woman told the Times, “I don’t want to give birth to a kid wondering if it’s going to live in some kind of ‘Mad Max’ dystopia.” Another person said, “I know that humans are hard-wired to procreate, but my instinct now is to shield my children from the horrors of the future by not bringing them to the world.”
The idea that the best way to protect children from a cruel world is not to have any sounds eerily like the argument some liberals make for abortion, especially abortion of unborn babies with genetic conditions. Pro-choicers sometimes argue that it would be more humane to abort an unborn child with a disability than to force him or her to have to live with the condition. Of course, in both cases the children have no say in the matter.
This type of environmental scare mongering has been going on at least since the 18th Century, when Thomas Malthus gloomily predicted that population growth would outstrip food production, leading to mass starvation. To put things simply, Malthus failed to factor in human ingenuity and that the more humans there are, the more ingenious we become, including in our approach to farming and food production.
The overpopulation hysteria hit its height in the 1960s and ‘70s, when Paul Ehrlich echoed Malthus in predicting that a “Population Bomb” (the name of his best-selling book) would result in widespread famine. That prediction also proved false.
In 2006, Al Gore predicted that man-made climate change would cause sea levels to rise as much as 20 feet in the “near future.” Twelve years later and the seas have barely risen at all.
It is difficult for me to believe that people make perhaps the most consequential decision of their lives—whether or not to have children—by assessing its marginal impact on the environment. It seems more likely that people are declaring their intention to make this sacrifice as a way to broadcast their ethical superiority and high-mindedness. It’s the grandest form of virtue signaling there is. An 18-year-old student named Elizabeth Bogard told the Times that while parenthood is “something that I want…it’s hard for me to justify my wants over what matters and what’s important for everyone.” (I hope the Times follows up with Ms. Bogard in 20 years to see whether she’s followed through on her intention.)
The Times acknowledges that “few, if any studies have determined the role climate change plays in childbearing decisions.” That’s probably because there is no reason to believe that a correlation, let along a causal effect, exists between the two phenomena.
The movement to avoid childbearing to save the earth comes at a time when America could use more babies, not fewer. The birthrate has been falling for a decade and reached a record low of 1.8 babies per woman in 2016. That’s below the 2.1 babies per woman needed to keep a population from declining, and almost every country in the world is experiencing plummeting fertility rates.
Intelligent people can disagree on whether and how much human activity is harming the environment, and what is the best way to address it. But here’s an idea for those who want to do something noble for the planet: how about raising your children to be conscientious people who are good stewards of the environment.
Gary Bauer is president of American Values and chairman of Campaign for Working Families.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.