Hey, It`s Earth Day! Please Take This Opportunity To Not Have Sex!

BlogHer Original Post

I consider myself to be a pretty eco-conscious kinda gal. I mean, I do all the right eco-trippy things: I reduce, I re-use, I recycle, I blog about same. And I`m pretty willing to adopt whatever eco-friendly practice anybody tells me might help save the planet. Turn out my lights for an hour? No problem. Stop drinking bottled water? Done. Tell people to stop having babies?

Err... what?

That`s what one environmentalist is calling for today: no more reproductive sex. Because, stop a pregnancy, save the world!

Look, I understand that overpopulation is a huge problem for the sustainability of life on the planet. I mean, the math is pretty simple: small planet + too many people - sufficient resources = trouble. So it would seem that part of the solution is a no-brainer, even for an innumerate dolt like me: planet - (x)people = more resources = greater sustainability = good. But still, I get uncomfortable when people start throwing the family-planning slash hurrah-for-childlessness argument around in the context of saving the environment. Not because I don`t think that the threat of overpopulation is overblown, but because a) the argument too often slides into anti-child absurdity (the childfree movement, in my opinion, too often uses environmentalism as a prop for what is basically just a dislike of children. People are welcome to dislike children, but turning it into a movement and insisting upon the nobility of the cause because there`s an environmental angle to be spun just strikes me as a little disturbing), and b) there are a few slippery slope edges on which that argument teeters dangerously.

As Hans Tammermagi admits in the article linked above, the problem of overpopulation is most pressing in what used to be called `less developed` countries. So me quaffing birth control pills and snarking about the Duggars isn`t going to make much of a difference, because the `developed` world doesn`t have exploding birth rates: big families are something of an anomaly in the US and Canada, where birth rates tend to be in the decline. Granted, as some have argued, a child raised in the affluent West is going to leave a much bigger eco-footprint than is any child born and raised in an economically impoverished community, but it remains that the population booms are happening in non-Western communities, and if it`s sheer numbers we`re worried about, then curtailing Western population rates isn`t going to have much effect. Which leads us in two problematic directions: 1) that people in countries where big families are the cultural norm be pressured to change that norm (which might seem reasonable, framed in a certain light, but from the perspective of cultural imperialism and what-not, it`s kinda discomfiting), and 2) if the eco-footprint of persons in the quote-unquote developed world is - as we know it is - so much a part of the problem, isn`t curtailing the birth of children in that world the least efficient way of addressing that problem? If one Western child equals the footprint of, say, 50 Darfurian children, but the footprint of one Al Gore equals that of (figuring conservatively) 100,000 Darfurian, then, um, doesn`t the math point us in another direction? Like, we either work aggressively toward reducing our own eco-footprints, or we eat Al Gore. Or something.

As I said in a post a year or two ago, in response to a story about the eco-consciousness of the childfree movement, the temptation is think along Swiftian lines: why not eat the rich instead of hating on babies? Or kill everyone over the age of 30, a la Logan`s Run? Or just legalize euthanasia already, and maybe gently suggest to all the AARPers that, you know, they could really get in good with Al Gore if they just went gently into that good night. He, of course, would lead the way, good environmentalist that he is.

But stop having sex? Where`s the fun in that?

(Psst... Want more positive ways to celebrate Earth Day? Check out BlogHers Act Canada`s list of Earth Day must-do`s. And then maybe consider taking a carbon-free trip around the world! Al Gore would approve!)

Catherine blogs at Her Bad Mother, where she's just recovered from a near-fatal impulse to quit blogging. It was close one, that one. Won`t happen again.



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