In a desperate bid to save the planet from the dire effects of climate change, the idea that women should not become mothers in order to prevent their children from further polluting Mother Earth has moved from a fringe environmentalist talking point into the mainstream.
While the movement to forgo childbirth for the sake of the environment has been a popular notion within radical environmental groups for some time, it has recently gained more traction among mainstream progressive politicians, celebrities and even prominent environmental organizations.
The anti-natalist cause has long been championed by radical environmentalist groups like Earth First! and the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. Earth First! is an environmentalist group that believes that any and all methods to save the planet from further damage by humans are valid and should be undertaken, from protests to voluntary extinction.
Similarly, the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement advocates that all humans should abstain from procreation and that the total elimination of humanity, not just a reduction in its population growth, is necessary to truly protect the Earth from the harmful effects of climate change caused by humans.
British musician Blythe Pepino founded BirthStrike, an organization dedicated to convincing would-be parents not to have children because of the impending “ecological Armageddon,” in late 2018. Primarily based in the UK, the organization is made up of people, numbering around 350 members in June 2019, who have voluntarily decided not to have children for the sake of the environment. (RELATED: Here Are All The ‘Last Chances’ We’ve Had On Climate Change)
In the U.S., Conceivable Future also seeks to raise awareness of the environmental impacts of having children. Conceivable Future fights for what it calls “reproductive justice,” and campaign to end the use of fossil fuels. Conceivable Future’s members have pledged not have children until climate change is adequately addressed by the world’s governments. Conceivable Future’s primary policy goal is the elimination of subsidies to fossil fuel industries.
While anti-natalism has been a staple in relatively small, radical environmental groups for some time, organizations that are considered mainstream are beginning to echo many of the same ideas.
Camila Thorndike, co-founder of the environmentalist organization Our Climate, testified before the DNC 2016 Platform Drafting Committee during the 2016 presidential election and told Chairman Elijah Cummings, “Plenty of my peers, including myself, have questioned whether the world is safe to have children. And I think we all need to really consider our priorities if that’s what this generation of Americans is asking ourselves.”
The Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting endangered species through legal action and activism, has over one million members, and it has recently unveiled a new tactic to convince people to reduce population growth in order to save endangered species.
A new project by the Center for Biological Diversity has developed special endangered species-themed condoms. The condoms come in wrappers that bear phrases like “Wrap with care, save the polar bear” and “Don’t go bare … Panthers are rare” to remind people that every time they use one of the condoms that they are saving an endangered species by not bringing another human into the world. The Center for Biological Diversity partners with museums and zoos across the country to gives these condoms away at special events and educate people on the environmental impact of having children.
On its website, the Center for Biological Diversity says, “The rapid growth of our human population is pushing other species off the planet in what most scientists are calling the sixth mass extinction crisis. Yet this population explosion is too often ignored by the public, the media and even the environmental movement, while it continues to drive all the major environmental problems that plague our planet — including climate change, habitat loss, ocean acidification and resource depletion.”
Population Action International is another nonprofit organization that also advocates for a reduction in human population growth. Like the Center for Biological Diversity’s condom project, PAI primarily focuses on providing access to reproductive health care, and describes its mission as “Population Action International advocates for women and families to have access to contraception in order to improve their health, reduce poverty and protect their environment.
Population Matters, a U.K. based environmental organization, also advocates for the gradual reduction of human population growth by increasing women’s access to birth control products. It has attracted prominent sponsors like noted filmmaker and environmentalist David Attenborough and primatologist Jane Goodall.
The advocates of environmental anti-natalism often cite a study from Environmental Research Letters published in 2017 that concluded that having one less child would eliminate the equivalence of 58.6 tons of carbon emissions per year. For comparison, refraining from using gas-powered vehicles like cars would eliminate only 1.6 tons per year, exclusively using green energy would eliminate 1.5 tons and recycling would only eliminate .2 tons. (RELATED: ‘End Of Discussion’: Bernie Sanders Says We’re Going To Stop Using Coal, Gasoline)
Celebrities have also joined in the call for women to not have children. Singer Miley Cyrus recently commented that she would refuse to have children until climate change was properly addressed. She told Elle magazine, “We’re getting handed a piece-of-shit planet, and I refuse to hand that down to my child. Until I feel like my kid would live on an earth with fish in the water, I’m not bringing in another person to deal with that.”
Politicians who have made fighting climate change a major part of their platform have also weighed in on this movement. Democratic New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently brought up the issue during a live stream to her nearly 3 million Instagram followers. “It is basically a scientific consensus that the lives of our children are going to be very difficult, and it does lead young people to have a legitimate question: is it OK to still have children?” she asked.
Ocasio-Cortez’s comments caused a firestorm within the media and brought the anti-natalist movement out of the fringes of debate on climate change and squarely into the realm of public discourse. After Ocasio-Cortez’s comment, numerous media outlets published stories on the growing anti-natalist movement and gave even more attention to the groups that currently advocate for it, with groups BirthStrike and Conceivable Future gaining particular media attention. (RELATED: The Green New Deal Would Cause ‘Significant Environmental Damage,’ Report Finds)
A New York Times survey found that 11 percent of women surveyed delayed having children because of concerns about climate change.
The growing anti-natalist movement within the United States has begun to enter the mainstream of political discourse on climate change, and it could have significant effect on the U.S.’s declining birthrate, which the CDC recently reported was at a 32-year low.