A new mini – documentary series was recently published by The Guardian – in the first episode of which I had the honor to participate!
Regarding the number I mention in the documentary (it is more than 70 times better for the environment not having children than going vegan) it is based on this scientific publication.
On the occasion of this documentary I would like to share some of my thoughts that I shared with the journalist during the filming but they could not be included:
- When I say that I do not oppose parenthood, I obviously mean that I am in favor of adoption (even if I do not intend to adopt myself).
- Wanting to be a parent is perfectly normal and respectful. But why do you need to have your own children and you can’t adopt instead? Aren’t there already enough children born by sick or irresponsible people and raised in hospitals / orphanages? As wrong as it is to buy a pet or let your pet mate, while there are billions of strays (or non human animals who live in shelters for a lifetime – in the cage all day – and many of them are eventually euthanized), that wrong it is to procreate while orphaned children are in institutions waiting to be adopted.
- Obviously in order to procreate, you want to perpetuate your own genes, so this is the ultimate selfish act (and not the opposite as it’s usually said, that we the child-free people are selfish who want to live our amazing life – what amazing life in the midst of the 6th mass extinction?). Att least some people admit it. But few.
- It is a pity and very unfair that the adoption system is so rusty internationally (clearly in purpose). The previous government (SYRIZA) went to give a solution to this problem by creating a platform that could speed up the process, but the current government (New democracy) “froze” it and instead; now gives 2000 euros to every woman who will give birth. Let me comment a little on this now: What exactly do these 2000 euros represent? The expenses one has to pay when giving birth in private maternity hospitals? Or the first expenses after the baby is born in a public hospital? In serious countries they give a monthly allowance for 18 years, to women who give birth (while they should give to those who do NOT have children since they are giving a break to the planet – wondering now, if they subsidized women not to have children, would they think about it?). Frankly, I find the 2000 euros something totally ridiculous.
- This Hope Genesis organization – instead of investing in procreation, couldn’t they invest in helping the adoption system? Do you want to bring the world back to remote areas in Greece? Bring children from institutions to be adopted by local families.
- The fact that I find the motivation of this organization nationalistic is explained by the question of dozens of people under the video: “why don’t you bring refugees to these remote areas?” and leave them instead locked up in horrible ghetto camps to live in miserable conditions…
- And obviously it is capitalist because more people will consume more and bring more (how much more though?) development to these places. It’s all about money. After all, he says it himself, in the end, about the economy of the isalnd…
- According to some scientific publications, a sustainable human population is one that does not exceed 2 to 3 billion [Daily et al. (1994), Pimentel et al. (1994), Pimentel et al. (2010)].
- I am NOT in favor of enforcing the number of children one has the right to have, nor do I, of course, support practices that have already taken place in the past, such as forced sterilization in India – without even the consent of women. I would like people to think profoundly before they decide to have a child. I would like people to live consciously, with awareness. And as a result, to have children only with awareness of what that means.
- The problem of overpopulation and how it affects the planet is not based primarily on the “underdeveloped” and “developing” countries, where people actually give birth to many children, but on the “developed” countries. To explain what that in numbers, the carbon footprint of the average person in United States is as many as the one of 172 Somalis and the carbon footprint of the average person in Greece is as many as 71 Somalis (Source).
- Another reason I find it immoral to have children today is the fact that we are already experiencing the climate crisis with its effects (see what is happening in Texas these days or let us remember of the snow in Attica that left people without electricity for many days and the next day was sunny with 15 degrees), there are already climate refugees, we know about the 6th mass extinction of species which has already begun and sooner or later it will take us too, so is this a world to bring a child? If the child in 20 years comes back and asks why they brought them to life, what will they tell them? Personally, I would not have the guts to answer – unless I could find the strength to admit my selfish need (I always refer only to educated people).
- In my almost 35 years, I have not met a single couple who had children because they really wanted to have children but I have met dozens of people whose baby was born by accident (and yes we are talking about recent years where abortion is safe and legal) or it just happened and “since we were together and at some point it would happen, why not?”. Most of the time, these are couples who were already facing problems and who eventually separate and people whose children’s grandmothers do the parenting job more than themselves – or people who wouldn’t be able to raise a child without their parents’ help. I even know people who procreated despite the fact of having a serious mental health problem that this will be inherited to the child. As a person with a similar mental health problem to the person I have in mind, I find it highly irresponsible to have children knowing that you can transmit a similar problem to the child. You bring it to life with the certainty of suffering. With all that I have seen and with the divorce rates in Greece reaching 37% in 2014 according to M. Yosafat and having an upward trend to 50% which is the divorce rate worldwide, how exactly could I be in favor of procreation? The only beneficiaries of these childbirths are psychologists and psychiatrists (of course there are also some in this fields who are ethical such as George Lagios with the book “Would you choose yourself as your parent?” who prefers to see a healthy world instead of getting rich). However, I have met at least one woman who wants deeplu and with total awareness to procreate, but she has never met a man good enough for her and with the same values, to do so. Unjust world. A paranoia …
- In his book, G. Lagios wonders why in order to adopt you go through so many tests and such a buraucracy but in order to procreate there is no control at all. It’s normal and necessary to assess the ones who want to adopt, but why the others should not pass any assessment? The chances of hurting the child are not the same in these two cases? On that note, I would like to say that I agree with him when he says that the people who want to adopt (and especially those who choose it while they can procreate) are the only ones who want to become parents consciously because they have really give it a thought.
If people had children and lived with mindfullness, instead of living a superficial life ticking all the boxes that society has put in their minds, we would not have gotten this far, I would not have gotten to the point where I feel that having children is immoral.
Of course the conclusion that Homo Sapiens is inherently a destructive species is not a pleasant conclusion and I wish I had not ended up there. But history shows this. And we didn’t start destroying the world after capitalism came, we do it from the beginning of our species, every time we reach a place, just a short time after, species begin to disappear one after the other (Source). Based on this conclusion, even the 2-3 billion which is a viable number according to the aforementioned publications, will do harm. Because as long as we live like we do today, demanding energy, even if it is renewable, its production will never be environmentally friendly. If you are wondering why, you can watch the documentary The planet of the humans which even if it has some outdated numbers, it is not wrong. That’s the way it is.
You will think now, then why do you do what you do? The answer comes from this excellent article by an environmental professor who even has children. In the end she says:
“Inevitably, the climate will warm; whole ecosystems will be lost; and someday, there will be a last generation of humans on Earth. But the years we can postpone each loss, and each wild place and creature saved, are incalculably valuable. And so I keep teaching, and processing, and working to stave off the inevitable. I don’t know if any of those things will truly prevent catastrophic changes on Earth; I suspect not. But I give these gifts freely, hopefully, and in the knowledge that they are all I have to give. Nothing we can do will prevent the Earth from being deeply transformed. Maybe the next generation, my children or grandchildren, will be the last to live in large-scale human civilization. Or, maybe the efforts of me, my students, and millions of other like-minded folks will push back the inevitable collapse for another 100 years, or 500 years, perhaps allowing us to coexist longer with the wonder of wild places and creatures. There is no preventing the inevitable, but the delay is precious. It is all we have.”
Finally, I would like to say that my heart goes to all the people who are already parents. I cannot imagine the stress they experience whenever they think about the world their children will be living in, after they are gone … For these children and for all the non-human children who come to life in this difficult times, I will continue to fight and try to inspire other people to start fighting too.
P.S While I am writing these lines, a Greek psychotherapist is looking for women who have decided not to have children – in Greece – in order to send him their testimony, for a relevant book he is preparing.
Daily, G., Ehrlich, A. H., & Ehrlich, P. R. (1994). Optimum human population size. Population and
Environment, 15(6), 469–475.
Pimentel, D., Harman, R., Pacenza, M., Pecarsky, J., & Pimentel, M. (1994). Natural resources and an
optimum human population. Population and Environment, 15(5), 347–369.
Pimentel, D., Berger, B., Filiberto, D., Newton, M., Wolfe, B., Karabinakis, E., et al. (2004). Water
resources, agriculture and the environment. BioScience, 54(10), 909–918.