Activists go on birth strike over climate change
The founder of a British climate change activism group says she’s making the choice not to have children because she fears the droughts, famine, flooding and extreme heat of the world they will have to live in.
Blythe Pepino, who lives in London, went public with her pledge not to have biological children at the end of 2018. BirthStrike has since amassed more than 450 similar vows, with 80 per cent coming from women, says Pepino.
“For me, personally, it’s about me being able to put my time and resources into activism at the moment,” she told CTV’s Your Morning on Monday.
“I’m lucky enough to have a certain amount of power in this world. I’m white and privileged and I don’t have any children. I don’t have any dependents. And really, this next few years is really, really important in terms of trying to put pressure on our governments to make the big changes that we need for our survival.”
Pepino says she made the difficult decision not to give birth after the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change warned last year that the window to prevent catastrophic climate change on Earth is just 11 years.
She said when she fell in love with her partner two years ago she wanted to have children with him. But when she learned about the UN report and did more research on her own, she found there was “something bigger and more important to do than being a mother at this time.”
Pepino, a 33-year-old singer and activist, says she’s been surprised by the number of people who have joined her movement and how international the support has been.
“Some people will think it’s not a huge number, 450 people, who’ve signed up so far, but if you take into consideration how much of a taboo this kind of thing is and how political a statement we’re making, then I think it’s reflective of a much larger number.”
While some in the BirthStrike movement want to prevent bringing children and their descendents into the world to offset the emissions they would add to the climate change crisis, Pepino says BirthStrike’s platform is not about reducing human population.
Climate change will lead to “billions of deaths” all on its own, she says.
A 2014 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America found that even a rapid transition to a worldwide one-child policy would result in a population similar to today’s by 2100. In other words, population control will not solve climate change by itself.
Pepino says she fully supports that view.
Instead, Pepino says she fears bringing children into a world of wildfires, drought and food shortages that scientists warn is coming without “massive change in all aspects of human life.”
She says that will require systemic and widespread political change to unite humanity to fight climate change.
“Really, what we need is a change of our ideology. You know, the world of humans is being run by people who believe in constant growth and believe in ignoring the limitations of the natural world. And that’s why we’ve reached this point.”
There are 7.3 billion people on Earth now and the UN estimates that will reach 8.6 billion by 2030 and 11 billion by 2100.
On its website, BirthStrike declares: “BirthStrike stands in compassionate solidarity with all parents, celebrates their choice and doesn't seek to judge anyone intending to bear children. BirthStrike disagrees with prioritizing population control over system change in regards to tackling the environmental crisis, disagrees with any enforced population control measures and recognizes the colonial violence of such measures having been proposed in the past and present.”
Researchers at the University of British Columbia concluded in a paper published in 2017 that having fewer children is the single best decision an individual in a developing country can make to reduce greenhouse gases.
The researchers found that having one fewer children drastically outweighed other choices – eating a plant-based diet, avoiding air travel and giving up personal vehicles.
Author David Wallace-Wells warns in the terrifying 2019 best seller “The Uninhabitable Earth” that rising global temperatures will bring unbreathable air, famine, unbearable heat, extreme weather, uncontrolled wildfires, and cities under water. The effects could be felt by today’s teenagers, he says.
His book opens: “It is worse, much worse, than you think.”