I’m one of those millennials who thinks climate change is a reason to not have kids

Zoya Patel 21 October 2020 44
Bushfire at Braidwood

Is it fair to raise a child in a world to face the challenges of climate change? Photo: Jarrah Knowles.

A few years ago, a couple in my social circle split up. They had been together for years, becoming a fixture at our catch-ups and events. Then all of a sudden, they were no longer together. The word on the street was that they broke up because he was adamant that he wouldn’t have children because of the impacts of climate change – the risk to their future safety and ability to live happy lives was too great, in his view, to justify it. She did want kids, so they parted ways.

Hearing this story, I could relate to fear that climate change sparked in this friend.

I, too, worried that bringing more children into the world when we know that the impacts of climate change are only going to worsen over time, would be irresponsible.

My partner disagreed. He could see the nuance of the issue.

Specifically, he pointed out that middle-class people like ourselves living in first-world countries could actually be part of the solution for climate change, and raising smart, ethically minded children wasn’t irresponsible at all.

Now I’m in my early 30s, and the question is becoming more urgent. I know that I want children, but I’m plagued by fears about their long-term prospects in this world. Is having children now, when experts increasingly warn that we’re unlikely to be able to avoid 1.5 degrees of global warming, a fair proposition to the child in question? Is it justifiable to consign a child to a life of natural disasters and extreme weather events and the resulting economic insecurity?

Or are these the questions that every generation grapples with when it comes to having children, and the world that they will live in? I know that a generation or two ago, similar fears were held about nuclear power, or war, or any number of other pressing world events. Is this just the issue that my generation has to grapple with in our time?

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It’s likely that for the most part, my child would have a fairly ordinary life for their childhood, and the worst effects of climate change wouldn’t emerge until I was dead and they were fully functioning adults. As some would say, it’s presumptuous and perhaps unfair to assume the worst and not allow their lives to unfold as my own has, with the same degree of uncertainty we all live with.

My parents had four children in Fiji, a country plagued by political unrest and violent coups, where both had been raised in poverty by their families. They didn’t question the validity of having children because they loved their lives despite the challenges, and wanted to experience them fully, which means raising a family.

Is it a marker of my privilege that I assume that any life less secure and easy than mine is too terrible to consign a child to?

There are plenty of valid reasons to choose not to have a child, including this one. Similarly, there are many, many excellent reasons to have a child, and I know from the experience of watching my nieces and nephews grow up what a joy it is, and also the uniqueness of each child which suggests that no one experience will be the same for all kids born from my generation.

But I still find myself flushed with anxiety when I think about living through a bushfire season like the one just past with the added fear of protecting my children; or watching the global economic downturn from the pandemic, and wondering whether our children will have to live with even worse job insecurity and economic uncertainty because of the changing climate.

Am I being too paranoid, or is there just cause to choose childlessness in the face of climate change?

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44 Responses to I’m one of those millennials who thinks climate change is a reason to not have kids
Queanbeyanite Queanbeyanite 5:29 pm 29 Oct 20

Good for you luv, keep up the good work…

russianafroman russianafroman 3:34 pm 25 Oct 20

Very nihilist piece, lol. Having kids is your personal choice. It’s definitely a conundrum, nowadays people are so busy that it’s a huge derailment. But yeah the world in general is overpopulated, especially in developing countries. But having kids is a great thing, I have no negative thoughts towards people who have kids.

franky22 franky22 4:58 pm 23 Oct 20

And your point is ?

Milenko-Slavenka Jovanovic Milenko-Slavenka Jovanovic 7:44 am 23 Oct 20

And I am one of those who are indifferent to their thinking.

Acton Acton 7:23 am 23 Oct 20

Trees in Canberra survive temperature variations of over forty degrees between winter and summer and will not be affected by a slight increase or decrease in average temperatures. If people prone to irrational fears and faulty logic had less children that would raise Australia’s average IQ.

Steve Hosking Steve Hosking 6:06 am 23 Oct 20

You only have so many breaths in this life, folks - why waste any of them reading nonsense like this!

Jeffrey Brown Jeffrey Brown 11:31 pm 22 Oct 20

"The word on the street was that they broke up because he was adamant that he wouldn’t have children because of the impacts of climate change – the risk to their future safety and ability to live happy lives was too great, in his view, to justify it"

Sounds like his excuse not to have kids by pulling the climate change card....

John Elliott John Elliott 8:50 pm 22 Oct 20

Zoya Patel there is no such thing as Climate Change. The world will be cooling down over the next 30-50 years as the Solar Minimum kicks in. Soon you might be starving due to lack of world food supply. The sun is having a snooze.

A Nonny Mouse A Nonny Mouse 6:03 pm 22 Oct 20

The commentators who disregard and/or distain climate science are being especially grumpy today! Could it be they have not got over the recent election result in the ACT?

Jason Ezra Jason Ezra 4:49 pm 22 Oct 20

These folks aren’t worried about what could potentially happen to their kids. They’re worried about how it actually will impact their lifestyles and how they may decline.

It’s just another excuse for selfishness.

    Stephen Matthews Stephen Matthews 6:57 pm 22 Oct 20

    Jason Ezra cop out answer

    Bilzo Healy Bilzo Healy 8:15 pm 22 Oct 20

    Jason Ezra nope, cause it’s their children’s generation who will be affected more, not theirs.

    Jason Ezra Jason Ezra 8:16 pm 22 Oct 20

    Bilzo Healy they actually say in the article that some of them are motivated by the impact on their life. Did you read the article?

    Bilzo Healy Bilzo Healy 8:17 pm 22 Oct 20

    Jason Ezra yes. But you are saying they’re NOT worried about their kids. They are.

    Jason Ezra Jason Ezra 8:23 pm 22 Oct 20

    Bilzo Healy they claim they are. I disagree. If they were concerned about the future they’d be doing everything possible to change it. Not just resigning themselves to living a first world luxury lifestyle without children.

    Nyssa Miller Nyssa Miller 6:42 am 23 Oct 20

    Actually, choosing not to have children because you're happy with your lifestyle is less selfish than having kids and ignoring them. Not that that is the point of the argument. There is actually a large number of men and women in my generation who are choosing not to have families at all, or to only have 1 child specifically because of the environmental impact each child has on the planet. As we know overpopulation is one of the issues facing our society, they are making a conscious decision not to contribute to it.

    You seem to have bought into the media drivel that millennials are selfish, ignorant airheads. However the reality is we were no different to any other generation in our teens and 20s, and now entering our 30s and 40s we are more socially and environmentally conscious then the generations before us, looking at the nonsense we are inheriting and trying to work out what we can do to fix it for the generations following behind.

    We are doing what we can, its difficult though as the 'people in charge' are still the baby boomers, (if you want to discuss a selfish generation, I'd start there) and they care more about the economy (read 'money') then they do people or the environment, as evidenced by the handling if the pandemic.

    Jason Ezra Jason Ezra 7:26 am 23 Oct 20

    Nyssa Miller I’m GenX so I share your frustrations with regards to entrenched older generations dominating politics and the levers of social power. The ideas you espouse are just a modern iteration of Malthus’.

    Ultimately demography is destiny. If you don’t propagate your own ideals through your own children then they’ll disappear with you. Which is odd because you mention fixing stuff for future generations. Why? Your altruism extends that far? I don’t see Millenials choosing voluntary poverty to ensure environmental sustainability and helping generations of the current poor and disadvantaged. So how genuine is the concern?

    Nyssa Miller Nyssa Miller 7:57 am 23 Oct 20

    Interesting. Are you choosing voluntary poverty? Can you not be genuinely concerned and still live your life? Isn't choosing not to have children an active demonstration of their concern? Your argument is extreem and a tad absurd?

    Jason Ezra Jason Ezra 8:13 am 23 Oct 20

    Nyssa Miller any more extreme or absurd than choosing to not have children because of the possible effects in the uncertain future?

    Jason Ezra Jason Ezra 8:15 am 23 Oct 20

    Nyssa Miller I’m not choosing voluntary poverty because I’m not necessarily advocating that there is going to be an environmental disaster of the magnitude to justify not having children.

    And another issue in relation to selfishness is that by not choosing to have children with similarly enlightened views you’re choosing to abandon those who choose otherwise.

    Bilzo Healy Bilzo Healy 8:15 am 23 Oct 20

    Not possible, proven by science.

    Jason Ezra Jason Ezra 9:41 am 23 Oct 20

    Bilzo Healy yes. Science suggests that this is the most likely outcome for the future. But science can’t actually prove a historical event before it occurs. Please consider that.

David Jackson David Jackson 3:45 pm 22 Oct 20

I wish all the millennials parents had adopted the same attitudes

James Savoulidis James Savoulidis 1:52 pm 22 Oct 20

Don’t have kids, we have enough Greenies in this city, let us irresponsible Liberal voters outbreed you. 2040 is our year!

Emmac Ph Emmac Ph 12:49 pm 22 Oct 20

I’ve thought that my whole life and I’m 53.

Rosemary Braiuka Rosemary Braiuka 12:44 pm 22 Oct 20

They’re really going to suffer when it goes up a degrees every 5 years ffft!

    Kir Rin Kir Rin 11:01 am 25 Oct 20

    Not to mention the impact each 1 degree will have on ocean levels.

    Rosemary Braiuka Rosemary Braiuka 2:56 pm 25 Oct 20

    You DO realise you are misinformed don’t you?

abstract44 abstract44 12:41 pm 22 Oct 20

It’s a complex topic – having children or not is a deeply personal choice. Climate change is a real and serious issue, and there’s multiple lenses to look through.
1. I think there is a real ethical (?) conundrum of those opting out citing future doom, and raising an eyebrow at parents, whilst continuing to live a first world lifestyle into the future.
2. Child born now will hopefully be active in an innovative and productive society that may adapt to their circumstances, and are a necessary prerequisite to the retirement of those of child-bearing age now.
3. As the author touches on, throughout history many have been born into far more grim and immediate circumstances, including catastrophic levels of infant mortality. This is not to say “don’t worry about it”, but for general perspective on the human condition.

chewy14 chewy14 9:55 am 22 Oct 20

The fact that this is an article is testament to the fear mongering about climate change that has infected younger generations.

Climate change is real and it is a serious issue but the people that talk about it as an existential issue are just as bad as those who say it doesn’t exist.

We need to control and adapt to climate change as much as possible, but it’s not going to end human life on this planet and it’s an anti-science position to extrapolate the potential worst outcomes as if they are a given.

switch switch 9:53 am 22 Oct 20

Wonder if they thought that way when the ice age ended? You know, everything was warming up so fast, the east coast of Australia retracted 50-100km in a generation with sea level rise, lots of animals went extinct…

Shane Westmore Shane Westmore 9:49 am 22 Oct 20

there's plenty of reason not to have kids... when there's a lack of arable land & food shortages, the world will sort it out

gooterz gooterz 9:15 am 22 Oct 20

The children of those parents that denied kids never protest, never change the world or do better.

This is all kinds of silly

Tara Murray Tara Murray 8:24 am 22 Oct 20

Theres alot of people that shouldnt have kids in the first place anyway

    Michael Duggan Michael Duggan 3:45 pm 22 Oct 20

    Yes but they are the ones that usually do and plenty of them too

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