When I first saw an article about BirthStrikers, I meant to share it and praise them after reading the title, then changed my mind completely and considered them another facet of what’s wrong in the world when I reached that part about not wanting to discourage people from having children or condemn those who do. At the time, after a brief moment of anger, I shrugged it off and moved on. But when I recently saw an article about this on a Romanian environmental news site, I ended up posting a lengthy comment about exactly why that’s wrong and shows nothing but hopelessness, and how that need not be true at all for those who are militant antinatalists for environmental reasons, and to some extent for reasons having to do with human society and the lives any potential children born now or in the foreseeable future are likely to have. And since I wrote all that, it would be quite a waste not to translate it, with a few edits, and post it here as well.
The problem with BirthStrikers is that part about them not considering this to be a solution, and showing solidarity with parents and not judging those who still choose to have children. Yes, not having children won’t in itself solve things, it’s far from sufficient on its own, but not creating any more humans until and unless we fix both the environment and human society is absolutely necessary in order to have a chance to solve any major problem.
A few hundred people who make the strictly personal choice not to have children because they’re terrified about the future prove only hopelessness, basically surrendering to the inevitability of that bleak future. It’s a message that’s pretty much the opposite of that sent by those, unfortunately extremely few, who say that overpopulation is a huge problem, the worst one as far as I’m concerned, and it needs to be solved in order to have a chance to solve the others, and for this to happen people must be stopped from having children, because it’s obvious that the other method of reducing population, increasing mortality, is not desirable.
Any human, whatever else they might do, has an environmental footprint, consumes resources and generates pollution. Usually, the better off the family and the more developed the region, the greater the footprint, but that footprint can and should also increase for those who are now poorer, as the very fact that they exist should grant them the exact same right to a decent standard of living. So, at the moment, the consumption patterns may actually make the overpopulation problem worse in countries with lower populations, including those experiencing a population reduction, since the drop is nowhere near fast enough, but this problem is constantly worsening in the rest of the world as well, as the standard of living improves. And, either way, the problem is global, no country being an island floating through space on its own, so that stance according to which this is only a problem elsewhere, for other nations, other ethnicities, other “races”, can’t in any way be justified.
Past that, yes, you obviously also consider the life those born now are likely to have, which is bad even if things won’t get even worse, especially if you compare humanity’s potential and what’s actually happening, how good things could be, considering our level of knowledge and development, and how they really are. And after that you may also add the fact that, seeing as future generations are likely to need to have environmental footprints that are a small fraction of current ones, ever harsher restrictions will be forced upon any children born before these problems are solved, making them in effect serve life sentences for the crimes committed by those who came before them, for which they’re not in the least to blame.
And then you have that idea that perhaps some of those children will come up with the solutions, which is a problem on the one hand because it takes the responsibility off our shoulders, away from those of us who are already here, and on the other because it marks a return to that search for miracle cures and messiahs which would still allow the rest of us to continue more or less as usual. But we already know the solutions, we just don’t like them, and even striving to find others would imply efforts and resources directed away from real improvements and development and wasted instead on mitigating the effects of problems we ourselves create, including simply because of our numbers.
So, as I was saying, to say that some hundreds of people created a movement to say that they won’t have children because the future is too bleak, but don’t consider that to be a solution and won’t judge others, shows nothing but hopelessness and surrender. Those are simply people who don’t think things could get better, who aren’t driven, or at least not anymore, to fight for that to happen.
On the other hand, claiming that a major part of the solution is to not have children, judging others based on this and demanding measures to be taken, stating firmly that nobody should be allowed to have children just because a necessary, albeit far from sufficient on its own, condition to have a chance to solve the problem is drastically reducing the population and you’d much rather not have that happen by killing people or allowing them to die unnecessarily, such as due to lack of access to needed resources or services or due to worsening conditions, is just the opposite. It states that you still have some hope that such a bleak future may yet be avoided, and that we, just those of us who are already here, have the responsibility to do everything in our power to achieve that. And it also shows that you truly care about a potential future generation, and you wish for it to exist only if and when the life it’ll be offered will be much better than the one we have, and the one those who came before us had, as it should be; only if and when it’ll no longer be asked to fix the damage we and those before us caused, pay for the crime while carrying none of the blame.