Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. In the same vein of thinking: greenhouse gases don’t kill the planet, gas producers kill the planet! And who’s a bigger producer of gas than a human child?
Climate change (and let’s just assume for a brief, happy moment that its existence is something everyone agrees on) is caused by excess carbon dioxide and greenhouse gasses filling the atmosphere. Something that people use to determine the amount of said gasses is called the Kaya identity. This is a math problem that multiplies several factors together to determine how much CO2 is heading into the air. Some of the factors include how carbon-heavy fuels are, how much energy the economy needs to produce GDP, GDP per capita, and population.
“Population” is the one factor that Travis Rieder, bioethicist and moral philosophy professor at John Hopkins University, takes a close look at. Professor Rieder argues that a good way to slow down and lessen the effects of climate change would simply be for people to stop having babies.
Bloomberg interviewed Prof. Rieder recently. Here’s a few excerpts:
Q: So. What seems to be the problem?
A: There are 19 million adoptable orphans, and there’s catastrophic climate change on the horizon. Contributing a child to the world both makes climate change worse and, if we don’t get our act together, it might actually not be all that great for the child either.
You have two tracks. You could say climate change is a big structural problem, so it requires a structural solution; that’s a policy question. Or you could say a problem like climate change requires that we change our culture of individual obligation, and everybody needs to think about having small families.
Q: That seems like a pretty heavy ask. People don’t even want to think about having small bags of movie popcorn.
A: Well, the argument goes like this: Okay, humans have shown me that they’re just not willing to give up their toys. And so we need another option on the table. You want to continue to live in your 10,000-square-foot house? You know, fly private jets around, and that kind of thing? Well, that would mean a lot fewer people on the Earth.
I get more stuff and there are fewer people around? Gosh, I hardly see a downside at all!
But why not take Professor Rieder’s argument a few steps further? As a species, let’s all just agree to not reproduce anymore. Let humanity go extinct, and then we won’t ever have to worry about climate change! We won’t have to worry about “stealing from future generations” either, since there won’t be any.
Who knew that my being single my whole life was good for the environment? You’re welcome, everyone! I’m going to go light a few trash fires to celebrate a job well done!