by Jess Beaulieu
One Voice Speaks Out for the Only Form of True Inclusivity
As a child, I was famously aware of society’s pressure on females to reproduce. I was gifted baby dolls by countless family members in the hopes that I would begin to foster a need to procreate – just as they had. And as I grew up, the pressures of motherhood were relentless. I’ll never forget the required class in my Georgia middle school that taught girls how to be fit stay-at-home mothers while boys learned business and home repair skills. Not to mention the recurrent phrases that haunted me throughout my young adult years: “how can you not want children,” “you’ll change your mind when you’re older,” and “I didn’t want children either until I had my own, and that changed everything.” Rather than taking these questions to heart and seriously considering my need to reproduce for my family, and society at large, I found myself concerned about how this pressure on females generally would impact humans, nonhuman animals, and the environment long-term.
Consider how our current systems exploit females whether human or nonhuman – and even Mother Earth. For example, in the dairy industry, female cows are artificially inseminated and upon giving birth, their calves are ripped from their side so that their milk may be preserved for the industry itself – all to make a profit. This insidious pattern is repeated throughout a female cow’s life until she is considered no longer useful by the industry and is rewarded for her life-long trauma by being sent to slaughter. Similarly, female human autonomy is under direct attack. State governments are attempting to rip a woman’s abortion right from her to directly benefit the system by producing more bodies for more labor. This pro-natal, pro-capital conviction has generated a world with massive inequities. In both scenarios we see female exploitation for economic gain and supremacy.
And concerning Mother Earth, with the largest meat and dairy companies’ impact on the climate now outweighing that of numerous developed nations, no bigger threat to the future of the planet exists than that of factory farming expansion. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that livestock operations make up 25% of all agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, and that manure management operations are responsible for 12% of overall agricultural emissions. (See David Worford, Letter Asks Congress to Give EPA Power to Regulate Livestock Emissions, Environmental Leader (Feb. 18, 2022), https://www.environmentalleader.com/2022/02/letter-asks-congress-to-give-epa-power-to-regulate-livestock-emissions/.)
And factory farming, which almost always goes unnoticed as the climate culprit within the agriculture sector, tears down forests to plant crops for animal feed, releasing carbon into the atmosphere; shatters wildlife habitats; displaces local communities; and profits from the immense suffering of billions of farmed animals each year. (See Jacqueline Mills, Factory Farming: The Real Climate Culprit, World Animal Protection (Oct. 29, 2021), https://www.worldanimalprotection.org/blogs/factory-farming-real-climate-culprit.) And yet the government does not require that factory farms obtain permits under the Clean Air Act, and it has failed to determine how to measure emissions from feedlots, barns, and croplands.
To this climate change point, Fair Start Movement’s Carter Dillard has stated, “[y]oung people are increasingly choosing not to have children, not because they don’t want them, but because they’re worried about how the climate crisis will impact their children’s future.” (See Elena Shao, More Young People Don’t Want Children Because of Climate Change. Has the UN Failed to Protect Them?, Inside Climate News (Nov. 16, 2021), https://insideclimatenews.org/news/16112021/young-people-children-united-nations-climate-change/.) We may not all have the same reasons behind our choice to not have children, but the fate of the planet is an increasingly rooted concern of many. I join both Fair Start Movement and Population Balances’ desire to see the social pressure and bias shift away from reproduction. Much needs to change for the future of all females.
The most effective way to address many impacts on our environment and other species, such as climate change, is to choose sustainable families. Putting the child first when family planning provides a human rights-based solution, ensuring the availability of resources for all. It is both equitable and sustainable and is also reflected in the worldwide trend towards families that can invest more in each child and ensure a safer future. And all of this considered will empower females in the long-term.
Taking matters into our own hands, rather than continually allowing corrupt systems to determine our futures, the future of nonhuman animals, and the future of Mother Earth, is how we will dismantle unjust societal expectations and guarantee a sustainable future for all.