Words by Dinithi Perera Art by Serena Ang
Single use plastic bags, thrift store shopping and veganism. Choice has become an important aspect of climate change solutions as millions of people have become more aware of their environmental impact. It has become increasingly normal to make various lifestyle changes in the name of sustainability. But would you choose not to have children because of climate change?
BirthStrike is a movement of people who have declared not to have children due to “the severity of the ecological crisis” and the government’s subsequent inaction. It is a small but growing movement with 450 people across the globe officially part of the group.
We already know the effects of global warming. We know about the melting and glaciers, rising sea levels, severe extreme weather events and shifting wildlife populations and habitats. As the earth continues to warm, these damages will intensify. It is under these conditions that BirthStrikers have publicly declared their choice to not have children. It is a decision based on a fear for the kind of world future generations will be living in.
More and more millennials choosing to go childless out of fear for the future. U.S. congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez addressed the topic in an Instagram live to her 2.5 million followers. She stated, “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?” It may sound a little bit extreme, but considering what climate science is telling us, it is perhaps quite a valid question to be asking.
It comes down to the environmental impact a potential child would have in an already overpopulated world. Population factors into climate change in terms of our use of resources and production of emissions. Currently, we are using up the renewable resources of 1.7 Earths. In countries such as the US and Australia, a single person emits about 16,000kg of CO2 a year. The world’s current population of 7.7 billion is projected to reach 11.2 billion in 2100, leading some people to believe that bringing another child into the world would only be contributing to the problem.
However, population control has proven not to be the best solution. It is a problematic strategy with historical legacies of classism and racism. Developing countries are often at risk of becoming scapegoats as fertility rates are the highest in Asia and Africa. But in reality, developed nations are the largest carbon emitters despite their lower fertility rates. Carbon emissions are the problem here, not the number of people we have.
Overall, the BirthStrike movement does not advocate for depopulation or individual responsibility for our climate crisis but rather for systemic change. The next couple of years will be crucial for making changes that will determine our future. Instead of having children, those who have joined the movement believe activism is the way forward. Activism to ensure a future in which they may be able to have children without damaging the Earth further.
Having children is an intrinsic part of human life. The radical decision these people make to not have children is representative of just how bad the climate crisis has become. People are now prepared to go against what is typically considered natural, instinctual even.
Deciding not to have biological children does not mean you have to give up on parenthood altogether. Adoption and foster care are two alternatives that fulfil the parental desire and creates zero environmental impacts. There are plenty of children who need and deserve homes, according to UNICEF, there are nearly 140 million orphans globally.
It is also important to consider the potential that these new children could be the solution we need. Who’s to say a child born tomorrow won’t one day invent a solution to our climate problem? Children embody a profound hope for the future.
The decision of having children is not one we take lightly. For many, creating new life comes with added concerns for our planet. With political inaction still defining Australia’s climate solutions, the BirthStrike movement offers a way to take action into your own hands. Taking to the streets and demanding change is, for many, the only way forward for climate solutions.