Reasons I will never have a child

1) I don’t see it as an obligation or a virtue

There are already so many humans that our biomass far outweighs all the wild animals on the planet. I don’t see any reason why a world where the population falls by 90% through free choice would be a bad thing. The idea that individuals have an obligation to reproduce the species when the species is already so numerous and dominant that it threatens its own survival does not make sense to me.

2) I don’t expect to be financially secure, especially in old age

The lesson again and again from our politics is that the people who are influential right now skew the system for their immediate benefit. The people they usually harm to do so are those in the future. Our politics seems to be growing more and more dysfunctional as climate change stresses the system. If we do zoom right over the cliff edge into 4 ˚C+ of warming by 2100, I don’t expect any government pension or health care systems to still exist in Canada by the late 2040s or so, when I may really start needing them.

I have been working hard since elementary school, but I do not have stable housing or a sense of security. Nor do I expect to find either. In a life where I can barely take care of myself, it doesn’t make any sense to add someone else on.

3) They would be born into peril which we are still choosing to worsen

The kind of Earth our generation inherits does a lot to establish our life prospects. The people in power right now are behaving as though they are determined to leave a maximally impoverished planet for our descendents. We are devastating biodiversity, recklessly unbalancing the planet’s vital systems, and permanently closing off avenues toward a good life for people who can come after us because we act primarily to satisfy our desires in the here-and-now. We also have a million self-serving justifications for why our behaviour is OK, and the people who we are harming in the future can do nothing to censure or stop us.

The coming generations will be living inside the most colossal act of vandalism one group of people have imposed on another. So far, that is the chief legacy of the people alive and making policy decisions now.

4) I don’t want to devote that much of my life to any project

Whenever a friend sees me enjoying playing with a stranger’s dog, there is a good chance they will tell me that I ought to get a dog. To me, this seems like the difference between enjoying sandwiches and choosing to own a bodega. I like dogs when their owners are at hand, when I am not responsible for their care and welfare, and where someone else will take over immediately if there is a problem. Having a dog of my own which requires constant and expensive care is way beyond what I am willing to take on, and a human baby would be infinitely worse.

I already have no idea of how to plan for the future. Analytically, I have to accept that wildly different possibilities exist for the rest of my lifetime. It is very plausible that we end up in a future of climate chaos, where international cooperation breaks down and conflicts flare, and where individuals retreat from empiricism and reason into self-justifying delusions and self-serving religions. If we add several metres to sea levels and make vast areas uninhabitable, the disruption will be far greater than the world wars — and it may persist for hundreds or thousands of years. At the same time, nobody can say what the promises of advancing human knowledge and technology may be. Perhaps new energy sources and technologies like artificial intelligence and synthetic biology will not just solve our climate problem, but throw us all into a techno-utopian post-human future. It is also possible that we will muddle through into a world largely similar to what we have now (perhaps if we use solar radiation management geoengineering to push off the climate problem for another few decades). That’s the only scenario where conventional old-age planning (max out your RRSP contributions!) makes sense, and it feels to me like the least likely scenario given how all the disruption which we are experiencing today is the time-lagged effect of GHG pollution in the 1980s, and we have polluted much more since so we have much worse to expect even if we change course in the future.

To sum up, I can’t even afford a bus pass. I don’t know where I will be living in six weeks or what I will need to give up in order to get there. The future to me broadly looks terrifying and like more than I will be able to handle. Under those conditions, a determination not to procreate seems sensible and hard to dispute.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

13 thoughts on “Reasons I will never have a child”

  1. If young people were actually able to coordinate they could make a proposition to their forebears:

    No grandchildren if you vote conservative.

  2. If young people had the energy and wisdom to coordinate then not all of our political parties would serve the interests of those over 60

  3. Has it not ever been thus?

    Does not every parent know too well that there is promise of safety for neither parent nor child?

    The choice, if choice is the cause of the situation, to have a child is always a leap into the dark, an unfounded promise that a way will be found in the future even though now is all unknown

  4. I’m reading I Want a Better Catastrophe: Navigating the Climate Crisis with Grief, Hope and Gallows Humor, by Andrew Boyd. This resonates.

  5. Has it not ever been thus?

    No, it has not. During the Black Death perhaps people believed the world was ending, but people have never lived in a time when all the most learned authorities agree that we are destroying ourselves.

  6. After four days of peaceful demonstrations, climate activists gathered in Parliament Square as a deadline for the government to act to end all new fossil fuel projects was reached.

    The actions involved a wide range of groups, including Extinction Rebellion, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, as well as the Christian climate coalition, with thousands gathering for Earth Day in London on Saturday.

    The former archbishop John Sentamu was refused access to the Shell headquarters in London as he tried to deliver a letter to its chief executive, Wael Sawan. Police were present as he tried to hand over his message.

    Lord Sentamu said it was the most arrogant experience he had ever had. “Climate change is the greatest insidious and brutal indiscriminate force of our time. The people suffering the most have done the least to cause it,” he said in a message in support of the climate protests taking place over the weekend.

    “That is why continuing to search for new sources of fossil fuels, despite explicit warnings against this from the International Energy Agency, is such an offence against humanity.”

  7. “That’s the only scenario where conventional old-age planning (max out your RRSP contributions!) makes sense”

    Don’t old people need money in the “techno-utopian post-human future” too?

    It’s only if climate change kills us all or makes the concept of money irrelevant that saving serves no purpose.

  8. The trust fund that pays for hospital insurance for patients of Medicare, the health-insurance scheme for the elderly, will run out of money by 2031; that is actually a reprieve from the previous estimate of 2028, because of the deadliness of covid-19. The fund that pays old-age benefits for Social Security, the state pension scheme, will be exhausted by 2033 (see chart 1). These mandatory programmes are the behemoths of federal spending, costing $2.2trn (8.6% of gdp) in total in 2022. This eclipses the total of the discretionary spending approved in the federal budget—including on housing, education and even defence—that causes so much argument on Capitol Hill (see chart 2).

    Both programmes would not exactly implode upon the exhaustion of their trust funds, which are built up by payroll taxes on workers. But their benefit levels would drop to match current receipts. The latest projections point to an 11% haircut for Medicare and a 23% one for Social Security when their trust funds run dry. Yet the politics of entitlement reform are so unpalatable that there is little appetite to tackle the problem. Not talking about it “is the one thing these guys can agree on”, says Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (crfb), a non-partisan outfit that does find budget matters thrilling.

  9. The youth of today are facing many issues like economic instability, mental health and dealing with lingering disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic.

    These compounding factors have added pressure to the roughly 7.3 million Canadians aged 15 to 29 and lowered their overall quality of life(opens in a new tab), according to a new report by Statistics Canada. It’s also making them less likely to have children.

    “Affordability concerns and lack of access to suitable housing were more recently cited as factors influencing the fertility intentions of Canadians, in particular among those aged 20 to 29,” the report released Wednesday reads.

    According to StatCan, about 38 per cent of young adults now don’t believe they can afford to have a child in the next three years, whereas 32 per cent don’t believe they can have suitable housing to start a family in the same timeframe.

    Factoring in where they can afford to live, young adults are questioning whether they should have children at all. This, StatCan says, is “expected to influence Canada’s long-term demographic and geographic composition.”

    StatCan’s report also notes recent surveys point to Canadian youth being less satisfied in general and less hopeful of the future. One of the common issues indicated is the increased cost of living.

    “For example, in 2022, 32 per cent of youth said that they wanted to buy a home or move to a new rental but decided not to because of price concerns,” the report notes.

    “These challenges do not disappear once youth turn 30. Rather, these challenges are ongoing and may permanently hinder their access to a standard of living in adulthood that they may have expected while growing up.”

  10. Opinion: Why I’m not going to have children
    Opinion by Anna Lee

    If temperatures weren’t rising, I’d choose the name “Athena” for a girl. If the rivers were safe, I’d choose “William” for a boy. If I could breathe clean air on my morning commute, I’d paint the nursery a warm yellow. If I could see hope for a sustainable future on this planet, I wouldn’t be spending time mourning the children I’ll probably never have.

    If things were different, I’d be honored to become a parent — indeed, I think there is no greater privilege or responsibility. But each day, the current state of the world dissuades me more and more from having children. Like many folks in Gen Z (those born between 1997 and 2012), my main concern is climate change. And, as climate catastrophes are already well in motion (coupled with a host of related socioeconomic and equality issues), I feel as if I would be doing an increasingly irreparable injustice to any children I would bring into this world with my inability to offer them a future.

    Climate anxiety knows no national borders — according to a study from the University of Bath, nearly 40% of 16- to 25-year-old participants from several countries stated that they were hesitant to have children because of climate change. Other organizations, such as the Canadian “No Future No Children” group, have gained considerable traction among teens, many of whom are pledging not to have children until their government takes climate change more seriously. Among them, then-18-year-old Emma Lim stated in 2019 that she was “giving up [her] dream of having a family” until she could be assured her children “will have something to live for and a healthy family to live on.”

    As these testimonies illustrate, building a family — and particularly, raising children — isn’t so much a matter of preference, anymore. It’s also a matter of feasibility and, more importantly, ethics. How do we justify bringing children onto a planet where the future feels more indeterminate than ever?

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