Here’s a major social phenomenon that seems a direct outgrowth of our corporate and political leaders’ refusal to acknowledge and address issues of climate change … citizens taking the future into their own hands. While western nations and japan are all experiencing declining populations, this trend may have an even greater impact on our futures.
• • • • • •
‘How could I bring
a child into the world?’
More women say climate change
means they won’t have kids
March 28, 2019
Though Laura Formisano says she never felt a huge desire to have children, she used to presume that would change. But climate change could make the planet so uninhabitable, she says, she’s not sure she can ever bring herself to become a parent.
“It almost feels like a con, to bring a child
into the world when it’s probably not going
to be a place we’re really going to want to live,”
… says Formisano, 30, who manages a co-working space in Los Angeles and has been married for seven months.
Is the future simply too horrific to bring children into? Some couples, frightened by the prospect of droughts, wars, famines and extinctions brought on by climate change, are making that decision.
A Facebook group for women to discuss the idea launched this month, and it’s winning over supporters in Europe and the USA. Conceivable Future, a U.S.-based group, has held more than 50 house parties in 16 states in recent years where women worried about global warming discuss forgoing motherhood.
“There are around 70 new
signups in the last seven days,”
… says Blythe Pepino, who helped create the Facebook page #BirthStrike.
The reasons women come to that decision are many and varied, but they tend to focus on what they call a clear-eyed view of the changes a warming planet are likely to bring.
For some, the consequences are all too easy to imagine.
Eight years ago, a tornado devastated Christy LeMaster’s hometown of Joplin, Missouri. The monster storm was 22 miles long and at times a mile wide. It killed 158 people, injured 1,150 and destroyed almost 7,000 homes. LeMaster’s family was OK, but she knows many people who weren’t.
“The reality is, they’re still rebuilding. Tornadoes
on that scale are only supposed to happen every
50 or 60 years. When catastrophes on this scale
start happening more often, what does life look like?”
… says LeMaster, 38, who lives in Chicago and curates public programs at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.
Though LeMaster says she’s not someone who has “a deep drive for child-bearing,” she’d long thought she would have children. But as climate change stokes the prospect of serious economic dislocation and fights over resources, “I feel even more scared now,” she says.
“If I’m honest with myself, I don’t
know what water will look like
in 10 years, what temperatures
will look like in 15, or even
A congresswoman asks: Is it OK to have kids?
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., 29, who pushed for a Green New Deal to help fight climate change, broached the topic last month on Instagram. She says in a video streamed from her kitchen …
“There’s scientific consensus that the lives
of children are going to be very difficult,
and it does lead, I think, young people
to have a legitimate question:
Is it OK to still have children?”
Newlywed Luci Kade of Atlanta says her friends don’t talk about climate change much, which she attributes to the shift “happening on a larger and slower scale than we can comprehend.” But the trends are clear to her, and she says she can’t ignore them. Kade, 28, says …
“It’s really important to respond to the
climate change crisis by actually treating
it like a crisis. One way you do that is
you don’t go on with business as usual.”
The forest fires, hurricanes and other catastrophic weather events in recent years give her pause about what kind of world humanity will live in 30 or 40 years from now. Because of that, she and her wife decided to adopt. Kade works in the foster care system, so she knows how many children there need families. She says …
“It just feels morally and ethically
irresponsible to have my own children.”
Climate change poses a real danger
There’s growing concern over the dangers climate change poses. People in 13 of 26 countries polled by the Pew Research Center last month said it is the top international threat.
Women more than men are worried about it. In the USA, 66 percent of women cited global climate change as a major threat to the nation, and 51 percent of men did.
Last October, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that mankind has 12 years to act to avoid “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” Even in the best scenarios, it said, the world will face more extreme weather events – more wildfires, more droughts, more floods, rising sea levels and the loss of almost all coral reefs.
Whether that affects women’s family planning isn’t known. The U.S. birthrate has been falling for years, and in 2017, it was 60.3 births per 1,000 women – the lowest fertility rate since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began keeping records in 1909. Causes such as women marrying later, worries about the economy and the difficulty of finding affordable child care have all been suggested.
No one has polled American women to ask whether climate change is a part of their decision. In Australia, a survey of 6,500 women released last month found that 22 percent of respondents in their 30s said they were considering having no more children, or not to have children at all, because of climate change.
“It would break my heart having this child
that you love, that you nurture and raise,
and then you’re leaving them behind with
a ‘Well, good luck! Things aren’t going to
get better … you’re on your own.’ ”
… says Formisano of Los Angeles. Her husband agrees, she says.
“He always says, ‘We’re too many. We don’t
need to have this many people on Earth.’ “
Feeling like ‘part of the solution’
In 2014, Meghan Kallman and Josephine Ferorelli met at a concert in New Hampshire. Both 30 at the time, they began talking about climate change and “within five minutes” came to the topic of not having children because of their worries about how bad things seemed likely to get, they say.
They had never found a place to share their fear. After talking most of the night, they decided they couldn’t be the only ones wrestling with such concerns. They launched house parties where people could talk about the ethics of family planning and climate change.
Kallman, a professor of international development at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, and Ferorelli, a climate activist in Chicago, acknowledge that whatever happens, as two white women in the USA, they won’t find things as difficult as women elsewhere in the world. Even so, they’re consumed by “the knowledge that what we’re facing is so much worse than we imagine,” Kallman says.
Ryanne Hoogeboom, 38, attended one of the early events. She lives in Albuquerque with her 4-year-old daughter, Kit. Though she loves her daughter dearly, she and her partner decided not to have any more children. “He’s in the same camp I am,” she says.
Hoogeboom says she made many changes in her life, including traveling less and moving into a smaller home, as she realized she “was part of the problem.” She has gone back to college to earn her bachelor’s degree while she works as a file clerk and tries to raise her daughter “so she’ll be part of the solution.”
When Hoogeboom explains to relatives why Kit doesn’t have any siblings, she gets confused looks if she mentions climate change.
“People don’t really understand what I’m so freaked out about. ‘It’s going to get figured out’ is their attitude,” she says. Hanna Scott, 23, says it won’t get figured out. She says.
“We’re on a trajectory toward a real hellscape.”
A resident of Bicester, England, she heard about #BirthStrike in early March, finally finding common ground on a topic gnawing at her. At 23, she can’t see things improving in her own lifetime, much less a child’s. Even the idea of a quiet retirement is inconceivable to her. She says …
“The climate will have changed, sea level
will be rising, people will be migrating.
It will cause huge geopolitical issues.”
Although she’s not seeing anyone, she’s clear this would be something she’d bring up if she started a serious relationship.
“I fully respect that my partner might have
a different perspective. If my partner really,
really wanted a child, then I guess adoption
is potentially in the cards. But more likely, I
don’t think the relationship would continue.”
On Facebook, #BirthStrike is a closed group. To join, women must agree to a declaration that they won’t bear children “due to the severity of the ecological crisis.” Participants must state they are in compassionate solidarity with all parents, celebrating their choices and not judging those who do bear children. There were 225 women signed up.
Pepino, one of the founders, says she wishes her vision of the future wasn’t so full of famine, violence and global wars over resources.
“I’m 32, and I absolutely love my partner,
and I want his kid so badly. But I just
can’t figure out how I would do that.”
For some, that vision of the future comes as their biological clocks are ticking the loudest. Jen Witts, 38, in Bristol, England, says …
“Up until about two years ago, I said
I didn’t want children anyway. Then
I started to be drawn to the idea of
motherhood at the same time I was
becoming really aware of what was
going on in the world.
“I thought, ‘How could I bring a child
into the world knowing what we face
and how bad it’s going to get?’ ”
The discussion didn’t go well with her family. Witts says …
“My mother is absolutely devastated. She
says it’s the worst thing I’ve ever done
because she simply can’t understand it.”
Lori Day, 55, in Newberry Port, Massachusetts, has come to terms with her 27-year-old daughter not having kids, even though she had been “so looking forward to having grandchildren.”
Mostly her daughter just “doesn’t have that biological clock ticking, but she also doesn’t believe it’s going to be a world to bring a child into,” Day says.
Day sees her daughter’s point. “I have solar panels on my house, I drive a hybrid car. But deep down, I think it’s too late. I don’t know what the speed is at which things are going to unravel – but I believe it will affect the end of my life, and it will affect her when she’s my age,” she says.
Not population control
To be sure, the decision to not have children isn’t a full-on movement; it’s more a discussion beginning to bubble up in people’s consciousness. Organizers are clear that it’s not about population control. Kallman says …
“It’s not like my choosing to have a kid or
not is going to solve the climate crisis.”
The goal isn’t to get women and men to pledge not to have children but instead to provide a place to talk about a topic that most people don’t want to discuss. Ferorelli says …
“It’s not anybody’s answer to this ques-
tion that matters; it’s the fact that
people are even having to ask this
question. That’s what’s messed up.”
• • • • • •
As many of you readers know, my wife, Trina, has been clairaudient since 1008. The entity, whom we address simply as “D” – and with whom we have constant ongoing dialogue – has made a profound difference in our lives. On some occasions, I ask D for comments. This is one such instance.
Dialogue is important. Each individual must look to the future and make decisions that are appropriate for themselves.
What are the decisions you need to make?
Stuart was having a conversation with a friend about the oil & gas pipeline going through western Virginia. Stuart’s comment to his friend was “People are complaining about the pipeline and not wanting it. And yet they still drive gas-guzzling vehicles and do not put solar panels on their roof.” Stuart’s friend is an active member of Sierra Club and considers herself an extreme environmentalist.
Stuart’s comment stopped her in her tracks.
She is now going to put solar panels on her roof. It took looking the concepts and then asking, “What are all the things I can actually do?” And some may not be easy.
So, dear reader, we ask again, “What decisions do you need to make?”
The women cited in the article are taking definitive action, but in response to what they see as a dismal future for which they see no solution … no light at the end of the tunnel. And surveys suggest these feelings of despair are quite widespread. What we may need is a widespread movement to actually take corrective action.
The awareness and the technology exist. In my vernacular, it’s simply saying that D is right; it’s time move from “awareness” to action … to walk the talk … now … each and every one of us.
(If you haven’t already done so, you can download my “Challenge of Change” book from our web site. It’s a free pdf loaded with “how-to” detail that address all manners of sustainable living.)