The Most Selfless Decision A Person Can Make in Today’s Society Is Not To Have Children
Why I worry about the future that we have destined our children to endure.
Whatever you think of Greta Thunberg, whether you think she’s a force for change or nothing more than a fearmongering, hormonal teenager, you can’t deny that she brought climate change to the very top of the World’s News Feed. In a speech to the UN, she furiously told world leaders that they had stolen her dreams and her childhood with their failure to act on the issue of climate change. Her words moved me, and now I sit contemplating the decision I made so many years ago to become a parent.
Like any father, my children are my world. I would move mountains, go through hell and back for them, there is not a thing I wouldn’t do to make them happy. I love them with all my heart. Just like any parent, I want nothing but the best future for them. But sometimes, when I stop and think about their future, I wish that their mother and I had never brought them into this world. That thought fills me with sadness, yet I stand by it. Why? Because this world as it is today is absolutely screwed.
The number of reasons that I worry about my children’s future is almost so vast that it might be quicker to list the things I’m not worried about. I’ll start with the one that in my opinion is the most serious, but it is also a problem wherein the power is in our hands to limit the damage. We as a species have the tools and more importantly the time and the opportunity to do something about it. I’m talking of course about…
Any climate change deniers in the room, feel free to leave and be sure to let the door hit you on the way out.
You’re probably already aware of climate change and the threat it poses to our planet. I’m no David Attenborough so I won’t go into too much detail, but for anyone that isn’t aware of what climate change is, below is an outline of the key points:
- Human-use of fossil fuels has led to unprecedentedly high concentrations of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. The extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere traps more of the sun’s heat, resulting in rising global temperatures. Fossil fuel usage causes a decrease in the quality of the air we breathe.
- Rising global temperatures cause the polar ice caps to melt at an increasing rate, resulting in increased sea levels, which in turn pose a threat to the globe’s coastal and low-level land regions. NASA estimates for every inch the sea levels rise, the ocean moves between 50 to 100 inches further inland.
- Global food production is impacted by rising temperatures. Different crops require different temperatures in which to grow, any change to the climate could have a negative impact on crop yields, and many plant species could be at risk of extinction due to not having suitable conditions for their growth.
- An increase in global temperature results in the planet becoming drier, leading to water shortages. Parts of the planet already suffer from droughts, but a UN report suggests that by 2050, almost two-thirds of the global population will live in areas that are water-scarce at least once-a-year.
The points above are the tip of the figurative iceberg, to list every single effect climate change has on the planet would have me typing all day. If you’re interested in learning more, you could certainly do worse than checking out this website.
Not the prettiest of pictures, is it? However, is leads quite nicely onto my next concern…
What do you get when you take one planet, decrease the food and water supplies and the landmass available for habitation, but continue to increase the number of mouths to feed? A problem.
The graph above shows global population growth over the last 12,000 years. In 1800, the Earth’s population was approximately one billion. Today, that number has increased by almost eight times. Eight times. The UN estimate that the global population will reach 9.8 billion by 2050 and reach 11.2 billion by 2100. A ten-fold increase in 300 years. This information combined with a potential future where the planet has lessened food production, water shortages and gradually decreasing landmass does not fill me with optimism for future generations. I remember as a child I received a Magic 8-ball for Christmas. If I had asked ‘What does the future look like for the human race?’ I’m pretty sure the answer would be something to the tune of ‘Outlook is bleak’.
So what’s the answer?
Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting we take a leaf out of Thanos’ book on making the world a better place to live. I just have to hope with every fibre of my being that the powers that be wake up smell the coffee, or potential lack of, if estimates that wild coffee could become extinct by 2080 come to pass. Now if that isn’t a reason to be worried, I don’t know what is.
There is still time for us to do something about climate change. The Paris Agreement is a good start, but is it enough? It’s difficult to feel much optimism when the world’s second-largest contributing country to carbon emissions, the United States, is led by a man who in 2012 posted the following tweet:
He also refuted a report conducted by his own government on the impacts of climate change, saying “I don’t believe it.” He goes on to claim the US is “the cleanest we’ve ever been”, even though fossil fuels accounted for 80% of total energy consumption in the United States in 2018, a 4% increase on the previous year. His withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement was done as part of his “solemn duty to protect America and its citizens.” Well done, I’m sure Americans will all thank you when they run out of food Donald. And you wonder why I’m worried about the future?
I’m not telling anyone not to have children. I’m asking people to be conscious of the world you are bringing that child into. I don’t have a crystal ball and I can’t see what the future holds. But if somebody had told me before my children were born that they would spend their lives on an overpopulated, polluted world stricken with food and water shortages, I can’t be certain that I would have made the decision to be a parent. Can you?
Children can bring unparalleled levels of joy into your life. My children have provided me with my happiest memories, which I will cherish for the rest of my days. But it is not my days that I worry about. I worry what the world will look like when my days are up, and it is my children and the rest of their generation having to face the consequences of those who came before them. What will the world look like for them? Will the memories we make with them now, be worth what the future might have in store for them?
Jon Peters is a 28-year-old writer from the UK, who can spin a basketball on his finger (willing to provide proof upon request) If you made it this far down the page, then thank you! Thanks for taking the time to read. If you’d like to read more from me, you can get to my profile super quickly by clicking…here, or check out some of my other articles on Parenting below.