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.