Laura Wood at The Thinking Housewife points out an article from the Guardian, called “I decided not to have children for environmental reasons.” The author, Lisa Hymas, says among other things:
Population growth tends to get blamed on other people: Africans and Asians who have “more kids than they can feed,” immigrants in our own country with their “large families,” even single mothers in the “inner city.”
But actually the population problem is all about me: white, middle-class, American me. Steer the blame right over here.
The attitude of this woman reminded me of an anecdote, reminded me of the attitude of another woman I know.
In February of last year, the New York Times ran an article about a 93-year old woman, a Hasidic Jew, who died with something like 2,000 living descendants. She had 15 living children, over 200 grandchildren, and no one is exactly sure how many great- and great-great-grandchildren. Her name was Yitta Schwartz and you can read the article here.
Coming into an office where I was doing work last February, just having read about this matriarch, I started showing the story to some people I work with. They were all amazed. We were all exclaiming, “Can you imagine?”
In walked another woman, an acquaintance of mine. She’s white, wealthy, in her late-40’s, fashionable and politically correct. She often makes comments about the stupidity of religious people, and the manipulative nature of religious authority. (I still remember her eye-rolling skepticism when I corrected her impression that my ancestors, the medieval Scots, must have been converted to Christianity by the sword. She didn’t want to hear about great, peaceful men like St. Columba.) I’ve never been in her house when NPR news was not playing in the background. She’s got a lot of great qualities too, but I want you to understand where her political and philsophical sympathies lie.
“What? What is so amazing?” she asked as she came into the circle of people as we marveled over the story of Yitta Schwartz.
“Oh, look here,” I said, showing her the article. “This woman in New York died with over two thousand living descendants.”
Without hesitating, she snorted with disdain. “Ugh. How selfish.”
I knew immediately what she was thinking. Someone else, confused, asked, “What do you mean?”
“Think of all the resources all those people will use. Some people are just incredibly selfish.” I wish I could convey to you the cold, lifeless, disdainful tone she used.
We let the conversation die awkwardly.
The woman who made that comment about selfishness has a child of her own, an only son about 12 or 13 years old.
Later I thought about what she had said. The act of having 15 children is “incredibly selfish.” Presumably having 10 would be less so, 4 would be even less, and 2 would be less selfish still.
The act of having one child would then be less selfish than all of the above; but still selfish. To this person — as to Lisa Hymas — the only truly moral thing to do would be not to procreate.
I feel for her son. Presumably she feels him to be an evil presence on the globe, but one she allows herself as an indulgence. She wanted to have a child, and she loves him, but really having a child is a black mark against her, and the presence of her child is a constant reminder of her sin of procreating.
It’s a breathtakingly bankrupt philosophical position. If we must conserve resources to protect the “environment,” presumably we must do so because many of those resources are finite and we want to act to protect the quality of life of future human beings. The whole point of environmental responsibility is to make humans happy.
But these women want to take the human out of the equation entirely. A “clean environment” (scare quotes because, though I support conservation and sane policies about toxic chemicals, habitat preservations, etc, I also associate the use of such terminology with unthinking doctrinaires of the kind I am attacking here) is a moral good to be sought for its own accord.
You know, if the human race — especially Westerners — were to die out forever, the Earth would be a lot “cleaner.”
But still, if you look at things on a galactic level, presumably the Earth is one of the “dirtier” planets. There are no worries about global warming on Pluto. Really, the Earth is a sick little globe that deserves to be destroyed by a comet, so as to preserve the pristine nature of the rest of the solar system.
Of course, if we want to have a world with no pollution and no humans, perhaps it would be better to not have a universe at all. Really, when you think about it, this is all the fault of the Big Bang. If that pesky universe-birthing moment had never happened, we wouldn’t be in that mess.
It was really rather selfish of the Big Bang to Bang. Think of how much cleaner everything would be if it had never happened!