Climate change already has an impact on a number of decisions that are made around the world every day, ranging from how government agencies allocate their budget dollars to how companies shape their long-term business strategies. According to The New York Times, it also affects a more small-scale decision that individuals make all the time: whether or not to have children.
The Times interviewed more than a dozen people between the ages of 18 and 43 and found that among many, there’s concern about having children in a world that’s increasingly vulnerable to floods, fires and other dangerous weather-related phenomena. One woman says she’s on birth control because of climate change; without it, she’d go off of it tomorrow. Another says her Mormon faith expects her to give birth, but she’s rebelling because of climate change and adopting instead. Across the board, people are concerned.
“Animals are disappearing,” Amanda PerryMiller of Independence, Ohio, told the Times. “The oceans are full of plastic. The human population is so numerous, the planet may not be able to support it indefinitely. This doesn’t paint a very pretty picture for people bringing home a brand new baby from the hospital.”
There’s some evidence that concerns like PerryMiller’s are widespread among Americans. The birthrate in the United States has been declining for 10 years, reaching an all-time low in 2016. Many thought this was because of the economy, but even in the relatively strong economic climate of 2017 and early 2018, people are still not having children, so births have kept going down.
We may be witnessing a paradigm shift in how people think about having children. In a previous generation, many who chose not to have kids were labeled as “selfish.” Now, however, abstaining from adding to the world’s population might be a way to support the greater good.
“[Kids are] something that I want,” Elizabeth Bogard of DeKalb Ill., told the Times. “But it’s hard for me to justify my wants over what matters and what’s important for everyone.”