NBC News recently published an article titled, “Science proves kids are bad for Earth. Morality suggests we stop having them.” Yes, really, and it’s not a parody. I’ve mentioned this before in previous posts: the brainwashing and subliminal messages about not having children combined with the continually lowering population count in western countries, meanwhile we fund other countries to have more kids than they can handle and the same people telling us not to have kids say we must import people from third world countries because our population is too low. It’s such an obvious scam and I can’t believe so many are still falling for it.
Despite any previous rebuttals to this trash, we still have articles like this one coming out, and they’re actually getting worse. Let’s also not forget that these articles aren’t telling the countries who have half a dozen (or more) children out of wedlock to not have kids–no, they’re going after the small families in developed countries with families that may not even have children yet.
But this article is different. This article is disgusting for another reason–not simply because it’s shaming people for wanting to do the most natural thing in the world: create a family. But don’t take it from me, let’s take it straight from Travis Rieder at NBC News. The article begins:
A startling and honestly distressing view is beginning to receive serious consideration in both academic and popular discussions of climate change ethics. According to this view, having a child is a major contributor to climate change. The logical takeaway here is that everyone on Earth ought to consider having fewer children.
What I personally like about this opening is Rieder is trying to state his case, he says this view he’s about to talk about has been given some serious consideration, but he doesn’t say where this view comes from (by name) or who it is being considered by who has any sort of authority. He doesn’t mention the information he’s referencing or the communities he thinks are so important. He just says, “what I’m about to say is important.”
Although culturally controversial, the scientific half of this position is fairly well-established. Several years ago, scientists showed that having a child, especially for the world’s wealthy, is one of the worst things you can do for the environment. That data was recycled this past summer in a paper showing that none of the activities most likely to reduce individuals’ carbon footprints are widely discussed.
Well, in that first paragraph he at least gives a link to whatever he’s talking about, but he doesn’t say who they are or why they’re credible. He gives no background on why we should listen to these people nor, at minimum, a summary of the study, though I doubt I’d trust whatever he’d say it says. But let me just say I have a hard time believing one of the worst things that can be done to this planet is for humans to be born. Tell me: is animal birth bad for the planet? If not, why isn’t it? If we believe in survival of the fittest and Darwinism/evolution breeding/growing what is the best for the planet and humans are at the top of evolution, then how can they be the worst thing for the planet? Were humans the worst thing for the planet hundreds of years ago? Thousands? Or, if you believe in it, millions? Tell me what’s changed. Tell me how life, which this planet has fostered, grown, and taken care of for millennia, is bad for the environment? Humans were created to be stewards of the world. Not saying every human is perfect nor that pollution doesn’t happen, but for you to tell me that something completely natural as birth is the worst thing for the planet? I’m going to need some very strong evidence.
I’d also like an explanation of why not having children is a moral thing. If we believe in evolution, it is your instinctual duty to pass on your genes and resources to your children. Whether you believe in evolution or not, isn’t it your duty to give back to society what you’ve taken? If you do not have children, then when you become older and must retire and take government benefits, is it not important that you provide the workforce with a replacement for yourself through children? Do you not have a moral duty to assist in population replacement for your generation or is that something you should leave up to someone else to do? Or, as this article specifically mentions wealthy societies, should every wealth society just die off and no society ever be able to advance?
Let’s not overlook the fact this man referenced China’s “one child policy” which murders millions of baby girls every year because families want sons to carry on the family. This man says there’s a moral obligation to not have children while saluting a policy that encourages the murder of female infants as the humane and moral thing to do.
I’d also like to question him about the ethics of population control as it pertains to being ‘better for the planet.’ One of his links reads, “Bioethicist: The climate crisis calls for fewer children.” Would anyone arguing for fewer children or smaller populations agree to bombing hole societies in order to reduce population and save the earth? What about a eugenics program where only the best are allowed to have children while others are sterilized so they cannot have children because they were not deemed worth?
How far does the control over reproduction go? If we want to go slightly less extreme, would these people be supportive of cutting all funding to poor countries and even poor families within our own countries so the children die off? The population in Africa has skyrocketed since the United States has intervened and started providing them with food and resources. We’re populating the planet in third-world countries with our own resources while our own population is dropping–yet the United States is the one with the population problem? Tell me, could Mr. Reider deal with pulling foreign aid and allowing children in other countries to die if it ‘helped save the earth’? If they can’t take care of themselves, what business do we have taking care of them, especially when it’s bad for the planet? I want to know how far their morals and ethics go for killing children and draining society of its population. How much control do they want over our individual lives and decisions?
But scientific evidence and moral theorizing aside, this is a complicated question with plenty of opponents. In what follows, I will address some of the challenges to this idea. Because while I recognize that this is an uncomfortable discussion, I believe that the seriousness of climate change justifies uncomfortable conversations. In this case, that means that we need to stop pretending the decision to have children doesn’t have environmental and ethical consequences.
QUICK NOTE: There is no proof that climate change is killing the Earth or that the Earth will be destroyed in even 1000 years. There is only proof that the Earth does, and always has gone in hot-cold cycles. There is no agreement that what this man is staying is 100%, but what he’s doing is creating a doomsday ultimatum based on his personal values.
The argument that having a child adds to one’s carbon footprint depends on the view that each of us has a personal carbon ledger for which we are responsible. Furthermore, some amount of an offspring’s emissions count towards the parents’ ledger.
This pisses me off so much. Personal carbon ledgers? What this guy, and people like him, are doing is creating a standard, the only standard, by which people live. He’s creating a universe of his rules and applying them to everyone and because you must live in his universe with his rules and because it’s a universe he’s created, he’s going to give you the rules to live by: reject nature to preserve nature.
Most environmentalists accept this sort of ledger view when it comes to recycling, driving, and flying, but support begins to decrease when applied to family planning. The opposition is typified by Vox writer David Roberts, who argues that “such an accounting scheme is utterly impractical” because it seems to entail that one is never responsible for one’s own emissions. Because “we don’t want to double-count,” as Roberts says, this means parents are really only responsible for their kids’ emissions.
The flaw in this objection is the plausible-sounding caveat: “we don’t want to double-count.” Because why wouldn’t we want to double-count? If moral responsibility added up mathematically, then double-counting would be a serious problem. But I think it’s clear that we should not accept a mathematical model of responsibility.
I love that Reider picks someone from his own side to go after–Vox is a highly leftist publication. Interesting he’d pick a lowball from Vox who would probably agree with him on many other things, but didn’t actually go to his political opponents: conservative or libertarian scientists. Or scientists at all. He goes after a writer at Vox rather than scientists anthropologists or anyone that has anything to do with his claim.
Now I’m going to be honest, I don’t understand Reider’s response to the rejection at all. We shouldn’t care about double-counting because we shouldn’t care about math at all? So if stuff equals out to his liking, then nothing else matters? Is that what I should take away from this? Reider doesn’t care if there are too few people to work a society. He just cares that there are fewer people in general so the math shouldn’t matter? If someone can explain this reasoning to me, I’d appreciate it… Reider then continues:
Consider a different case: If I release a murderer from prison, knowing full well that he intends to kill innocent people, then I bear some responsibility for those deaths — even though the killer is also fully responsible. My having released him doesn’t make him less responsible (he did it!). But his doing it doesn’t eliminate my responsibility either.
Something similar is true, I think when it comes to having children: Once my daughter is an autonomous agent, she will be responsible for her emissions. But that doesn’t negate my responsibility. Moral responsibility simply isn’t mathematical.
Reider just did what no person should ever do with a clear conscience: he put having children on the same moral line as letting a known murderer go. There are at least two problems with this: One, leftists don’t care about letting murderers go as we saw in the recent Kate Steinle case. Will any of the people who let her killer off be punished? No. Yet, Reider wants to shame and punish parents for having children as if they had murdered someone by having children, a natural animal and human behavior that has been going on for thousands of years. This guy talks about nature while trying to fight nature.
If having children is like murdering someone, then, from an evolutionary standpoint, what is the point of living? From a Christian standpoint, the purpose of living is to glorify God and multiply across the earth. As far as I am aware, the purpose for life in evolutionism is to multiply and conquer–become one of the strongest and pass on your genes, yet these same people who believe in evolutionary theory, I can only imagine. Reider is free to correct me if I’m wrong and fill me in on his scientific beliefs, then what is the purpose of life? No wonder so many of them become nihilists that live a YOLO life. They have no purpose. They have no desire and if they do, they shame the purpose and desire out of themselves until there is nothing left. They’ve jumped through so many hoops to create their ideology that they have zero purpose in their lives.
Side question: If Reider believes having a child is as bad as letting a murderer go free to murder, does that justify him murdering his own daughter? Better yet, how is a murderer a bad guy if he is removing high carbon emission creators from the world? Would Reider see a murderer as a good guy or a bad guy? Does he see his daughter as a evil for simply existing? Does he recognize himself as evil for bringing a human into the world?
If you buy this view of responsibility, you might eventually admit that having many children is wrong, or at least morally suspect, for standard environmental reasons: Having a child imposes high emissions on the world, while the parents get the benefit. So like with any high-cost luxury, we should limit our indulgence.
You read that right. This author just said having children is a high luxury, and indulgence, kinda like owning a $60k sports car or an $800k RV. He just said there’s no benefit to having children except for whatever benefit parents scrape off them–but also, having children is just a luxury, not a necessity. Hello? Do you want a continually growing society? Do you want a family line? You know, in the old days, people used to have children out of necessity in order to run the farm. If they didn’t have kids, when they reached old age, they’d starve and die. Having children is natural, it’s a human desire that almost every human on the planet feels, with a minority of exceptions, and it’s a necessity for the individual and society at large. With how much this man hates children, I wonder how he could ever allow himself to have one and I must wonder what he tells her.
The rebuttal to this argument is that individual actions simply don’t make a significant difference, and that institutional action is how you actually have an impact. Do everything you can to minimize your emissions, and the “earth won’t give a damn.”
All of these claims are true. Most individual actions won’t matter in the context of a trillion ton, all-time anthropogenic carbon budget. And indeed, policy and collective action are important for seriously mitigating the harms of climate change.
But does this mean my individual actions are morally permissible? I think the answer is clearly no.
His argument here is, “Yes, your actions, the changes you make don’t matter… but you should still obey us.” If someone was told they should lose weight, however, every piece of advice they were begin given wouldn’t make a difference, why would anyone change their behavior? If there’s no difference in whether someone acts or doesn’t act, then I would assume yes, their actions are permissible. There is no different if someone turns off a light in a room no one is in, so if they turn off the light without asking? It’s no big deal.
How is it not insane to demand people do what you say, despite you saying obedience/compliance doesn’t mean there will be a change? And here’s his example:
If morality only applied to meaningful change, then morality would rarely recommend actions of symbolic integrity or defiance. We would not, for example, praise the activist who stands up for what she believes in until there was evidence that her tactics work. And those who sacrifice their own interests in order to contribute minuscule amounts of time, money, or labor to alleviating global hunger or poverty would look like suckers rather than saints.
Praising an activist, or anyone, for any action, does make a meaningful difference. It releases the good feeling chemicals in your head. It provides a sense of comradery and encouragement. For some, words of encouragement is their language of love, so you make someone feel loved through your actions. Reider is thinking the only way to be impactful is to see a physical difference like a bomb explodes — > hole in the ground and destroyed things, but there are much subtler ways to make a difference.
I don’t think these judgments sit well with our moral sensibilities. On reflection, many of us believe that it is wrong to contribute to massive, systematic harms, even if each individual contribution isn’t causally significant. This explains why many of us think you are obligated to do things like recycle, especially when it’s easy. Your recycling doesn’t matter much to the environment — the earth doesn’t give a damn — but you should do it anyway.
So I think it’s made clear here that this isn’t about doing what’s right or what’s believed to be right, but about doing what some power says is right and pressures other people into doing. But more importantly, I want to know where Reider gets his sense of morality. So he claims the earth doesn’t care. As a Christian, God told humans to be stewards of the earth and take care of it, so that’s a reason to take care of the planet, but where does he get his morality that says take care of the planet by recycling? If the earth doesn’t care, then it’s not telling him to recycle. Morality is defined as, “conformity to the rules of right conduct; moral or virtuous conduct,” but where does he get his rules of right conduct? Is he making them up? If so, who gave him the power to decide what is right and wrong? If this moral obligation is just created by individuals, then why can’t I just make up my own moral obligations that say creating life is more important than stifling it out of existence?
The confusion around this sort of moral claim is understandable. Our moral psychology has not yet evolved to solve the problems of today. Humanity grew up in relatively small groups; Rules like “don’t harm others,” or “don’t steal and cheat” are easy to make sense of in a world of largely individual interactions.
If our moral psychology hasn’t evolved yet, then how can we have morals? Also, again, please tell me where ‘don’t harm others’ and ‘don’t steal or cheat’ come from? Because evolutionarily speaking, your job is to get the most and be the most powerful by any means necessary. The animal kingdom sees no problem in killing and taking from weaker packs. If humans are just animals, where does this so called ‘natural morality’ come from about not killing others? We are the only creatures who choose not to murder others for their resources… most of the time.
That is not our world any longer, though, and our moral sense is evolving to reflect that difference. Moral decisions are no longer about math; Being a part of the solution matters.
The importance of this argument for family size is obvious. If having one fewer child reduces one’s contribution to the harms of climate change, the choice of family size becomes a morally relevant one.
What does he Rieder mean by this world is no longer ours? Humans are at the top of the food chain. Evolutionarily speaking, if the earth dies at the hands of humans, doesn’t that mean it has failed survival of the fittest? The strong don’t give up the power for the weak. The strong conquer and maintain. Even if you believed this bull of, “You just need to die so the earth can be saved,” give me one good reason that I, as the dominant species, should kill myself for something weak that can’t beat me? The earth doesn’t take care of itself and if the earth belonged to itself, it’d rid itself of the pesky Untermensch.
I am certainly not arguing that we should shame parents, or even that we’re obligated to have a certain number of children. As I’ve said elsewhere, I don’t think there is a tidy answer to the challenging questions of procreative ethics. But that does not mean we’re off the moral hook. As we face the very real prospect of catastrophic climate change, difficult — even uncomfortable — conversations are important. Yes, we should discuss the ethics of making babies with care and respect; but we should discuss it.
Alright, Travis, if you’re so keen on having uncomfortable conversations about procreation, life, and the natural order of having children and a family, then I’d like you to answer some of the questions I presented earlier. What about eugenics and selection of the best humans to exist? What about letting the poor and unable die without assistance? What about murdering your children? What about killing yourself? How far does it go if you say humans (but only those in wealthy countries, right?) are damnable just for existing?
What are you willing to do to correct the problem of the daughter you had? Or the son your parents apparently had? Because right now, if you believe what you say, you should be ashamed of yourself for every breath you take.