Antinatalism in its common usage these days describes the belief that continued human reproduction is morally wrong. Some people believe it should remain a personal choice and some people believe nobody should reproduce, but I’ve yet to encounter anybody personally advocating this be done by force. This widely unpopular view has merit but it flies in the face of some of our most powerful emotional addictions, and so it draws extremely harsh and emotional criticism.
I could never deliberately cause a new person to exist in this world because of the current state of it and because of our climate crisis. I think children born today will be “lucky” to reach adulthood. I think we’ll see dramatic changes that we associate with collapse continue to pile up on our societies year to year until it gets so bad we face mass violence and war. People are capable of pretending a great many things but the sources of our biologically driven emotionalism and suffering cannot be denied. Without enough food we become violent. This is a widely documented aspect of humanity.
There is also the social shift ongoing in our societies toward regressivism and fascism. These changes are in rejection of the real problems of our climate crisis, however complicated and indirect it may seem, at times. This is unlikely to change except to worsen as people continue to double down on their false beliefs, increasing the harm they cause with their mistakes, each time. People’s beliefs will become crazier; people’s behaviour will become more unpredictable and violent. We’re already seeing the beginnings of this Mayhem phase of collapse. In the headlines this week were at least four cases of people being shot over trivial transgressions, like ringing the wrong doorbell or pulling into the wrong driveway. This kind of pointless violence will continue to escalate as the people who value hate and fear become more hateful and afraid. This is no place for a child, even if my country is next door and “not quite as bad, yet”. What kind of world would they grow up into? What kind of life could they have under those circumstances?
People think about “having a child” but what we’re really doing is causing a new person to exist – a person who didn’t have to exist but for our choice to compel them to exist – and so parents are primarily responsible for the suffering their children endure. They wouldn’t have to suffer at all had their parents left well enough alone.
A new person caused to exist in this world is compelled by the same forms of suffering we are to do their best to continue to survive for upwards of 70 years, on average. Nobody I’ve talked to has considered this when planning their families. Nobody thinks “What will the world be like when the baby I want to have is a 65 year old person?” and this is a terrible oversight.
There are still aspects of humanity I find confusing. I don’t understand why virtually everybody else seems to believe the world must have more people in order to be acceptable. No matter how many people there are, we must have more people. It makes no sense to me. Or rather, it’s clear to me this is one of the main reasons our climate crisis is accelerating so bloody fast.
In the year 1800 there were approximately 1 billion people alive in the world. 220 years later we just passed 8 billion. For most of the 70,000 years since the cognitive revolution our global population could be measured in millions, if that.
The ways in which we are forced to live due to our burgeoning population are completely new to the human experience, with each generation experiencing life differently, and each generation’s experience being largely forgotten by the next. How many of us remember being told stories of WWII by our grandparents, who were there, and how many of us passed down those stories in their absence? Not me, because I had no children, and perhaps some people do continue oral storytelling traditions like this, but I suspect most of our ancestors and their plights have been forgotten entirely.
We pretend what we were born into is “normal” and “expected” because we don’t know any different, initially. By the time we’re old enough to learn that other possibilities exist we are normally shackled by the system into spending the vast majority of our waking life thinking about and performing labour and the recreation we use to offset the suffering of our labour. Most people think they have no time for philosophy or personal growth and if they do, they’re compelled by their expectations to try to indulge themselves perhaps on a weekly basis for a couple of hours. It doesn’t work very well and the base reason for this is we cannot hear ourselves, our real selves, while our minds are filled with the chatter of expectations.
More people make this worse, not better! However, the idea that there must be more people can be very emotionally rewarding depending on one’s values. It’s license to have more sex and more procreative sex. It’s protective of one’s own right to choose to reproduce. It’s compatible with the expectations of most major religions, and this is one of the defining causes of our population crisis. Religious beliefs are all about using emotionalism to drown out conscience in favour of dogma, and so the emotions religious people expect to feel regarding reproduction are usually very strong, proportional to the strength of our libidos.
Personally, I think a billion people in a world this size is still excessive. I think humanity could have survived and developed just fine had we stayed below this threshold. I think we would still be facing ecological and health crises on global scales if we developed similarly to how we actually developed, but I don’t think our climate crisis would be happening, certainly not with the rapidity we’re experiencing. Perhaps we’d have had the additional 300-400 years to work things out that the Boomers in my family imagined us to have when I was a child.
The way I now see humanity, we are completely enthralled with our own emotionalism to the selective exclusion of what is real. I believe this condition to be terminal for our species if left untreated. I also believe our climate crisis has advanced too far for us to significantly slow its rate of acceleration, now. Short of 90% of the world’s population dying overnight, anyway.
This means everything continues to gradually get worse every year. Some years and in some locales we may lose a little or a lot of our quality of life, but the overwhelming trend in the years to come will be one of loss. Loss of our ability to provide for ourselves and our families. Loss of the things we value. Loss of our last chances to make better choices with impact.
I would never cause a person to experience this. It would be morally worse than murder, as when somebody is murdered they usually only suffer briefly. Causing a new person the ongoing heartbreak of having to accept the facts on these pages is wrong when we know in advance what to expect, from our own life experiences and those of the people around us. Not to mention the physical suffering they’re sure to endure as our agriculture continues to fail due to droughts, floods, excessive heat and cold. It’s just wrong.