Why Telling Women To Not Procreate Is Not Going To Save The World
And a few ideas as to where our focus should really be placed
Recently I wrote a post regarding the pressures placed on people, mainly those with a uterus, on refraining from procreating to contribute towards tackling the climate crisis.
I have received many comments regarding this topic (not just on medium) replying that choosing to not procreate is the biggest contribution to the climate crisis fight we can make.
This post is not intended to dispute these comments which of course are valid opinions. But it is something I am hearing more and more discussion about, with people now feeling it is okay to tell people they should not have children, with the pressure being largely placed on women, as if they are the ones responsible for saving the planet.
Whilst decreasing the growth of population is indeed an important factor in our fight against climate change, I do not believe that it is the main answer to our problems.
And so, I wish to explore some of the responses I have received lately. It is not my intention to dispute other’s opinions, but I do feel this requires further discussion, as it appears to be a growing debate with more women being told to stop having children, which can cause a lot of difficulties for individuals, and it isn’t as black and white as it may first appear.
So, let’s dig a little deeper shall we?
Not having children is the biggest number one contribution to saving the planet that you can make
Yes and no. Of course, bringing a child into the world means another person who will consume resources and produce their own carbon emissions, so it does make sense that by reducing the amount of new humans entering the world we will put less strain on the planet, slow down population rates, and reduce the amount of humans requiring access to dwindling resources.
But let’s unpick this for a moment. Scientists are begging countries to take action to halve emissions by 2030, working towards reaching net zero carbon emissions by the middle of the century, to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.
Whilst not giving birth may help in the long run to reduce the overall population growth, the effects of this will not be quick enough to bring down emissions to meet the above targets.
The dangers of telling people that the biggest act they can make is to not procreate, not only places a lot of pressure on those with a uterus (because let’s face it, these are the people these comments are aimed at), but also risks taking the focus off of where it really needs to be placed in order for the biggest impacts to be made towards emissions cuts that we need to be seeing now.
The world is just better off without humans
This is an argument I am hearing more often, echoing that of The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEM), that the world is better off without humans, who are like a plague. I feel it is important to note here that VHEM don’t advocate mass murder or such acts to end humanity, but argue that by encouraging everyone to stop procreating humanity will end, leaving the Earth and it’s remaining creatures to be able to heal and grow without our toxic influence.
This is a valid argument, I am not disputing anyone’s feelings here, but I do personally disagree.
Firstly, there are many reasons why people are having children which are not all because it’s their choosing. So, in order to support people to be able to have a choice we first need to address these inequalities.
Secondly, forcing people to stop having children is immoral and could lead to further political unrest, wars and a whole bunch other other scenarios if countries started trying to impose this on their people, that will inevitably take away our focus from the actions we need to take now.
Thirdly, suppose we did manage this. Looking at the average lifespan of a human, children born today could be living up to 80 years or more which surpasses the time frames we need to see drastic emissions cuts. Again, this could take away the focus where we need it to be, on robust policies and swift actions.
Also, it is easy to see the bad in humanity and to see us as a plague. But there is so much good in humans, and yes, we are capable of mass destruction, but we are also capable of living in harmony with nature.
Previous generations have allowed greed and power to push through the warnings of where we were heading, but just looking at the school strikes alone, the newer generation have woken up and are forcing everyone else to do the same. They do not agree with how we have been living, and they can take humanity forward into a new era, where we can evolve into sustainable beings that can slow down the warming and start to support nature to thrive once again.
So you believe we are not overpopulated?
No I don’t. I do agree that the current population growth is beyond not sustainable, and we do need to address this. But I don’t believe that human extinction is the answer, nor do I believe in placing pressure or force on individuals with a uterus to take on this burden.
Women have not always been given the choice to not have children, or to choose smaller families, and as we move into a time where women are able to choose to focus on careers and other options, they are still pressured to feel they must reproduce.
Women who are likely to produce more children are usually from the countries that are most affected by the growing climate crisis, but have the most difficulties in accessing birth control options.
Population Matters argues that population control is needed to help save the planet, but states that force and human extinction is not the answer.
Realistically, what we need is for our Governments to place population control at the top of their agenda of climate actions, and produce robust policies that include accessible education for all women, access to birth control advice, information and contraception.
By giving women back the power to choose whether or not to have children, we will naturally see further decline to our population growth as most people are now more likely to opt to have smaller families.
But this is what women can do for the planet
I have already explained above some of the reasons why, though we need to slow down population growth for the future, refraining from having children is not a quick enough action to deal with our immediate goals. However, there is also another reason why statements like this are harmful and need to be approached sensitively.
This is a statement being told to people, mainly women, and it’s a huge burden to lay on individuals. This is becoming an attack on women who are being told that this is the only way to save our planet. This is not just women’s responsibility, I believe that the baby making process requires other parties to be involved.
Such attacks and statements are happening towards human beings. Do you think this is helpful for a person’s mental well being? We are all worried enough as it is. Let us not keep passing the responsibilities onto others, but instead work together, and most importantly support each other.
Instead of continuing to attack women’s reproductive rights, how about we create better systems to support people to move towards smaller families?
To conclude the above, there are many reasons why placing the emphasis on telling women to just not have children is problematic, as well as it not being a quick enough solution to help save the planet. But there are more useful ways we can support a decline in population growth, as well as supporting the work to reduce our emissions to meet targets.
We need robust Government policies and actions to:
- Ensure family planning support is accessible for everyone. And I do mean everyone. This is currently disproportionate across the world, and if we are to support people to be able to have smaller families if they choose to, they need to be able to access the information and tools to do this.
Alongside this we need to be enabling women to have a choice about their own bodies, and to do this we need to end strict abortion laws such as the new Texas ruling.
- Education that is accessible to all women. I can’t explain it better so please click here for why this is so important.
- End the use of coal and support corporations to switch to green energy.
- Create more robust policies and legislation to make corporations accountable if they don’t clean up their act.
- Update adoption processes. Currently adoption is still not an option for some who would otherwise consider this. Whilst more same sex couples are now able to successfully adopt, this isn’t the case everywhere, and there is currently little to no guidance for adoption agencies regarding polyamorous families. There’s already so many children in the world who deserve a loving family, and many people who could provide this for them but are currently unable to do so.
- Sustainable living lessons in schools. Before my school years my parents were taught useful life skills such as how to mend clothing. This is something that has been phased out of our curriculum. However, bringing back such lessons could teach children that they can mend instead of discard clothing as well as household items. If they learn how to live a more sustainable life then they are the ones tat will carry on these lessons to future generations.
There are so many more ways that we can help fight the climate crisis without pointing fingers at people and telling them to stop having children, but if I list them all it would make for a very long post. Perhaps these post are accidentally becoming a series. Who knows?
The truth is, as we are all realising, there isn’t just one act and one answer to solve the climate crisis.