The idea of legitimizing childlessness as an ecological act dates back to a study at the universities of Lund and British Columbia (Wynes and Nicholas, 2017). According to this, an additional child in the USA generates at least four times more CO2 per year than a child in China and even 24 times more than one in Nigeria. For comparison: Anyone who flies across the Atlantic and back again has already caused more CO2 emissions than an African child during a whole year.
Isn’t that a question of lifestyle rather than birth rate?
I agree. “It’s not the population, but the lifestyle that makes the difference,” commented the German geobiologist Reinhold Leinfelder on the Swedish-Canadian study back in 2017. And aside from the numbers, he said it was cynical to compare children to cars.
Is it also a question of the image of man?
Yes. Some representatives of the child-free trend obviously do not count on the ability of humans to solve ecological problems through innovation and technical progress. As the French philosopher Fabrice Hadjadj recently said in an interview with the magazine “Melchior”, they consider humans only as a “predatory parasite, as an enemy of nature”. Hadjadj, a Catholic with Jewish roots and Arabic name, on the other hand, recalls the basic assumption of classical occidental anthropology, according to which man is a natural being “that goes beyond nature at the same time”. He was the only living thing that could worry about other species, “even without self-interest”.
What should such care be based on in concrete ecological terms?
According to the French, it doesn’t help much to indulge in the “illusion of a perfectly harmonious nature”. Real nature is different: there are species that disappear and others that come; there were always catastrophes. The idea of a pure return to nature is not just a delusion, but also a completely individualistic vision, it is ultimately the problematic dream of a world in which you yourself remain the center. Specifically, the philosopher advises ecology not so much as a theoretical system, but rather from where nature shows itself in the first place for people: “in family life”. Human love, whether that between the parents or that of the parents to the children, is on the one hand very spiritual, “because it is about dedication, gifts, sacrifices, the relationship to beauty, everything, which elevates us and exceeds its usefulness. ”On the other hand, human love is also deeply material and natural, which is already evident in the act of conceiving children. And as a result, people have to take care of those they love – which would have brought us “in the middle of the environmental issue”.