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Why a generation is choosing to be child-free
We are in the middle of a mass extinction, the first caused by a single species. There are 7.8 billion of us, on a planet that scientists estimate can support 1.5 billion humans living as the average US citizen does today. And we know that the biggest contribution any individual living in affluent nations can make is to not have children. According to one study, having one fewer child prevents 58.6 tonnes of carbon emissions every year; compare that with living car-free (2.4 tonnes), avoiding a transatlantic return flight (1.6), or eating a plant-based diet (0.82). Another study said it was almost 20 times more important than any other choice an environmentally minded individual could make. Such claims have been questioned. After all, does a parent really bear the burden of their child’s emissions? Won’t our individual emissions fall as technologies and lifestyles change? Isn’t measuring our individual carbon footprint – a concept popularised by oil and gas multinational BP – giving a free pass to the handful of corporate powers responsible for almost all carbon emissions? The only thing that isn’t up for debate is that we all know that we are living in ways that can’t continue.
Coronavirus isn’t likely to give us coronababies – but a pandemic isn’t the reason that having children has shifted from an inevitability to a choice, and now, a moral question. A long time ago, “Do we have children?” became “Should we?”
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