Human procreation is a custom so deeply ingrained in our society that rarely are its ethical implications questioned.
Yet, when studies show that climate change threatens between 15 and 37 per cent of known plant and animal species with extinction by the year 2050, it is immoral to continue to bring increasing numbers of human children into this world.
Our planet’s biosphere cannot sustain the ballooning human population, and to place one’s individual desire for a biological child above the well-being of every other human and non-human living species with whom we share this planet is to condemn future generations to inherit a planet that is damaged beyond livability.
A person can “flick off” their light switches and turn off the tap when brushing their teeth all they want, but these minute changes are insignificant in the fight against climate change when the world’s human population is projected to reach nine billion by the year 2050.
It is unacceptable that the recent trend toward all things “green” has convinced so many people that averting a climate disaster is as easy as switching to energy-saving light bulbs.
It isn’t the popular position to advocate, but saving the environment requires far more drastic lifestyle changes, including choosing locally-sourced products, adopting a vegan diet, eliminating our dependency on oil and, most importantly, choosing not to procreate.
A 2009 study from Oregon State University concluded that in the United States, the carbon footprint of a woman will increase by 20 times upon the birth of a child, even if that woman already employs environmentally friendly practices like recycling and using energy-efficient appliances, thereby negating the benefits of these practices.
In short, the best way to reduce one’s carbon footprint is simply to not have the child.
There are some who would advocate not only for a reduction in the human population, but for our complete voluntary extinction.
One such individual is Les Knight, founder of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT), whose motto is, “May we live long and die out.”
According to Knight, “It’s either us or millions of other species going extinct ... it’s not a really complicated thing to realize that Earth’s biosphere is being disrupted by one species, and that one species is us.”
While human extinction is far likelier to be caused in the distant future by some natural disaster as a result of climate change than by voluntary means, the goals of VHEMT are admirable and its message that people should stop breeding should be taken to heart.
Another reason why human procreation is unethical, aside from environmentalism, is the fact that it is estimated that there are currently between 143 million and 210 million orphans worldwide.
Every day, between 5,000 and 6,000 children become orphans. Each year, approximately 250,000 children are adopted, but 14 million orphans become adults without ever having been adopted.
This is why it is especially offensive that so many women have been beguiled into believing that it is noble to give birth to a child for whom they are unable to provide for or whom they do not want, rather than choose abortion.
When there are so many children already in existence who lack parents to care for them, the moral thing to do is to adopt.
There are many reasons why people prefer to produce their own biological offspring rather than adopt; the desire to continue their bloodline and pass on their genes, the desire for pregnancy and childbirth life experiences, the desire to see a little version of themselves, religious or spiritual reasons, etc.
These reasons focus entirely on the desires of parents and have nothing to do with the well-being of children.
If a person really loves children, they should save an existing child from the misery of being an orphan.
It is unethical to bring another child into a world where war, poverty, disease and environmental degradation call into question what kind of future that child will have to experience.
That is why sex should be for recreation, not procreation. It really is a matter of life and death.
Katerina Tefft is a second-year politics student at the University of Winnipeg.
Published in Volume 65, Number 17 of The Uniter (January 27, 2011)