Stop at Zero

When Paul and I were seniors in college, we roomed together along with a friend who was a year or two younger than we were. One day our roommate turned up sporting a button that said “Stop at two.” Paul and I were puzzled. We tried to guess what it might mean, but finally gave up. Our roommate explained that it meant not having more than two children, for the sake of the environment. As I recall, neither Paul nor I was impressed, although having children was then the farthest thing from our minds.

It turns out that our roommate was ahead of his time. Just days ago, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced that they would have only two children, in order to combat global warming. As in so many other areas, what once would have been considered lunacy has entered the mainstream.

The London Times reports that Harry and Meghan are moderates, compared with some in the U.K.: “‘Birthstrikers’ refuse to have children for sake of planet.”

Meet the Birthstrikers: women and men who have chosen not to procreate until action is taken by governments to halt the impending ecological disaster.

I’ve got a feeling they will wait a long time.

A “birthstriking” couple

Pepino, 33, came to her conclusion last year after attending a lecture by the direct action group Extinction Rebellion. “Having children is a personal and emotional decision, I would need to feel like the severe changes being predicted by the scientific world will be averted to change my mind,” she said.

“We need big changes to agriculture systems, no fossil fuel expansion, no third runway at Heathrow. But until I see the action, I am not going to have children.”

No third runway at Heathrow! The movement exists in the U.S., too:

Similar movements have sprung up across the world. In the US, the women’s network Conceivable Future believes that the climate crisis is “a reproductive justice crisis”. They say: “Some of us look to the future and can’t imagine bringing children into such a hot, troubled world.”

I am inclined to respect the “birthstrikers” for putting their money, so to speak, where their mouths are. And I think they can judge best whether their offspring are likely to be net contributors to, or detractors from, human welfare. But, as with so much that climate justice warriors do, forswearing children seems destined to be futile. The population of Africa is expected to grow from 1 billion in 2010 to 2.5 billion by 2050. Not a lot of birthstrikers there, and as always, the future belongs to those who have children.