The BBC recently reported on who might be held responsible for the climate crisis and why that matters. Writer Jocelyn Timperley acknowledges that human activity causes climate change and argues that identifying the prime sources is essential to proposing solutions. She examines the blame that might be assigned to fossil fuel companies, rich people, or wealthy countries.
But the article never mentions family planning and population, even though that is a fundamental driver of the climate crisis, with larger families in wealthy countries creating 20 times the impact on the climate by having children than they do with their other choices or behaviors such as energy consumption. Every one of the causes the article cites depends on population and related factors such as consumer demand. And population, or who we are and who we will be, ultimately flows from universal norms we create. In other words, we exist before we consume, and who we are flows from the norms that surround procreation. So who is fundamentally responsible?
In the mid- to late 20th-century, world leaders including environmental organizations gambled that rising population would bring economic benefits without unacceptable ecological costs and evaded family-planning interventions like a human-rights approach to family planning. Whether someone has one child or five is the personal business of the parents, they said. It’s private, they said. They chose to ignore the increasing impact on equity and our ecologies, the impact that all along was leading to the interrelated crises we face today, such as the impact of the climate crisis on pregnancies, especially those of Black and Hispanic expectant mothers.
They were wrong, having failed to account for greenhouse gas emissions. rising inequality, and the decline of democracy.
We are paying the price of that mistake, and our kids will have it worse.
Why does it matter to know this? World leaders and many nonprofit organizations are making the same mistake today and are exacerbating the situation. If we want to protect our kids, we will do what is most effective and change the way we plan families. What most matters in a degraded future is the quantity, social qualities, and relative positioning of the people who occupy the world.
TAKE ACTION: Contact the head of the BBC, or find and engage him in person, and urge comprehensive reporting regarding a threat as serious as the climate crisis.