A recent article in British Vogue shocked many with the headline, “Is having a baby in 2021 pure environmental vandalism?In this article, writer Nell Frizzell questions whether having children is irresponsible because of the effects other people have on the climate.
“For the scientifically engaged person, there are few more troubling questions when looking at the current climate emergency than having a baby,” writes Frizzell. “Whether your body throbs to reproduce, you passively believe that it is on the cards for you someday, or you actively seek to remain childless, the declining health of the planet can only take into account your reflection. “
Frizzell raises many concerns about the future of the planet, including the idea that humans will run out of clean water and that air pollution now kills more people than smoking. All of this adds to the fear that children in rich countries are contributing significantly to greenhouse gas emissions.
Concerns about population growth are not new. In 1968, environmentalists Paul and Anne Ehrlich echoed 18th-century economist Thomas Malthus when predicting massive famine and widespread upheaval from overpopulation.
“In the next 15 years the end will come”, Paul Ehrlich told CBS News after the publication of the book. “And by ‘the end’ I mean a complete disruption of the planet’s ability to support humanity.”
The problem? These predictions never came true. Despite all the concerns, access to food and resources increases as the population increased. People need to spend less time working today for these resources, than at any other time in history.
Do Frizzell’s concerns hold up better? Not really. The HumanProgress organization tweeted in response that deaths from air pollution are actually on the decline. The only reason they have exceeded tobacco deaths is that they fall more slowly.
Air pollution may be on the rise in some developing countries, but it’s not surprising. Pollution by suspended particles (SPM), the deadliest air pollutant which is in the smoke and soot, peaked in London in 1891.
As countries develop they tend to pollute more to get out of poverty, but as they get richer they can afford to have even cleaner air than before development. . (This trend is known as the Kuznets curve after Nobel Prize winner Simon Kuznets.) In fact, the above data shows that there is less air pollution in London today than in 1700.
So how is it that despite a growing population, resources ranging from food to metal are more accessible than ever? To answer that question, look at the late Julian Simon. Unlike alarmists, Simon argued that our world is getting cleaner and more abundant. because of population growth rather than in spite of it.
How is it possible? Simon admits that population growth can cause problems in the short term due to increased scarcity, but it sows the seeds for solutions that leave us better off in the long term. He explains:
“More people and higher incomes cause short-term resource scarcity problems. The increased scarcity drives up prices. The higher prices present opportunities and encourage inventors and entrepreneurs to seek solutions. “
For Simon, children are not just mouths to feed (or mouths that expel CO2, for that matter); children are not just a game of hands either. Rather, they are spirits and more human creativity. And according to Simon’s estimate, “spirits matter economically as much or more than the hands or the mouth.”
Unfortunately for the world, Simon passed away suddenly in 1998 at the age of 65. However, its work is continued by many, including HumanProgess who compiles the Simon’s abundance index which recounts the increasing improvements in the material conditions of mankind.
So while some fear that having children is environmental vandalism, my fear is the exact opposite. I fear that those who discourage having innovative and creative children for environmental reasons are harming the very environment they want to protect.
As Simon said, “Our cournacopy is the human mind and heart, not a natural environment of Santa Claus. It has been so throughout history and therefore is likely to be so in the future ”.
So parents, give yourself a pat on the back. Another spirit is a great contribution. Pay no attention to the Thanosians of the world (see below):
This piece was originally posted on FEE.org under the title, “Is having children in 2021 really “environmental vandalism”?“