NBC News recently published an opinion piece claiming that for those that want to save the planet, it is their moral imperative to not have children.
Travis Rieder writes in an opinion piece published by NBC News titled, “Science proves kids are bad for Earth. Morality suggests we stop having them,” that readers need to “stop pretending kids don’t have environmental and ethical consequences.” According to Rieder, a recent study has shown that having children leads to a significant increase in carbon emissions. Rieder believes that the “logical takeaway” from the study is that “everyone on Earth ought to consider having fewer children.”
Rieder calls his suggestion “culturally controversial” but claims that the scientific benefits of fewer children are well documented. Rieder then cites an article from the Boston Globe titled “Here’s Why China’s One-Child Policy Was a Good Thing,” before linking to his own work, including an essay titled, “Population Engineering and the Fight against Climate Change.” Rieder states that while this may be an uncomfortable discussion to have, “we need to stop pretending the decision to have children doesn’t have environmental and ethical consequences.”
Rieder then compares having a child, who may contribute to carbon emissions, to releasing a violent murderer from prison. “Consider a different case: If I release a murderer from prison, knowing full well that he intends to kill innocent people, then I bear some responsibility for those deaths — even though the killer is also fully responsible,” writes Rieder. “My having released him doesn’t make him less responsible (he did it!). But his doing it doesn’t eliminate my responsibility either.”
Rieder then refers to children as a “high-cost luxury” and argues that humans should “limit our indulgence” of them. “Having a child imposes high emissions on the world, while the parents get the benefit. So like with any high-cost luxury, we should limit our indulgence,” writes Rieder.
Rieder admits that individual actions have very little real-world effect on climate change, citing a Vox article which states that you could do everything possible to minimize your own carbon footprint and the “earth won’t give a damn.” Despite this, Rieder brings the conversation once again back to an emotional level, asking, “But does this mean my individual actions are morally permissible? I think the answer is clearly no.”
Rieder states that if families having fewer children reduces their contribution to carbon emissions, then they should do so even if that emission has no real-world effect in order to satisfy Rieder’s “morals.” Despite Rieder’s claims that having a large number of children is essentially immoral, he claims that he is not suggesting that parents be shamed or forced to only have a certain number of children; he simply wants to “discuss the ethics of making babies with care and respect.”