Better World

Adults (and Children!) Debate Whether To Start Families During the Climate Crisis

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The urgency of addressing climate change has been simmering in the headlines, with waves of protests and activism taking place around the world. Part of the debate lately has been the question over whether or not to have children. High-profile people including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Miley Cyrus, and even Prince Harry have brought up the issue.

Some environmentalists have vowed not to procreate at all. 

Established in late 2018, BirthStrike is a group of people who have decided against having kids because of their concerns about the state we’re leaving the Earth in for the next generation. The group’s founder, Blythe Pepino, is a 33-year-old British musician who told CNN, “I really want a kid. I love my partner and I want a family with him but I don’t feel like this is a time that you can do that.”

And in September 2019, 18-year-old Emma Lim of Canada started the #NoFutureNoChildren movement. The movement currently counts over 5,000 teens and young people who have pledged “not to have children until I am sure my government will ensure a safe future for them.” In Lim’s statement on the movement’s website, she says, “Even though I want to have children more than almost anything—what kind of a mother would I be if I brought a baby into a world where I couldn’t make sure they were safe?”

Raising children raises multiple concerns for some.

Besides the concern about the future planet not being safe—and using the decision to not have children as a tool for political change—there’s also the concern about more children generating more consumption, leading to increased carbon emissions that will serve to worsen climate change. 

But as Meghan Kallman, co-founder of Conceivable Future, a network of women who are sharing stories about climate change’s impact on their reproductive lives, said to Vox, “We’re not going to fix climate change by pressuring people to have more or fewer children. We’re going to fix climate change by going off fossil fuels.”

Some view the issue differently.

In an opinion piece in the New York Times, writer Gracy Olmstead discloses that she has two children but she doesn’t believe that takes away from her ability to fight climate change. In fact, she says, if we raise children to be stewards of the Earth, they represent greater hope for the future. “When we are creators and stewards, we become aware of the infinite series of threads connecting us to the world around us … eager to seek to regenerate and heal our planet, and more likely to teach our children to do the same.”

The discussion about climate change and reproduction is a complex one to which all of us will have varied personal reactions. However, whether we have children or not, we all have the power to make changes to our family’s lifestyle, to advocate for a more sustainable world, and to help educate children to be aware of the environmental issues that will most certainly touch their lives in some way.



Joanna Eng is a freelance writer and editor, Lambda Literary Fellow, and co-founder of Dandelions, a parenting and social justice newsletter. She lives with her wife and child in the New York City area, where she is constantly seeking out slivers of nature. You can find her on Twitter @joannamengland.