Having a child in this day and age may be a form of “environmental vandalism,” Vogue magazine UK suggests in a Monday article, with the author detailing her own struggles with having children who she “hopes” won’t destroy “future humanity.”
The piece, penned by author and journalist Nell Frizzell and titled “Is Having A Baby In 2021 Pure Environmental Vandalism?” begins by asking, “Is having a child an act of environmental vandalism or an investment in the future?”
In this week’s Bringing Up Baby column for British Vogue, @NellFrizzell considers whether it’s ever sustainable to have a baby. https://t.co/WKkCHi0BSR
— British Vogue (@BritishVogue) April 25, 2021
Frizzell then expands on her question, asking, “Is it possible to live an ecologically responsible life while adding yet another person to our overstretched planet? Can I get away with it if I just never learn to drive, never get a dog and keep wearing the same three pairs of jeans for the rest of my life?”
Calling the question of having a child “troubling” in light of “the current climate emergency,” Frizzell says, “The declining health of the planet cannot help but factor in your thinking.”
Frizzell then describes her own struggles with the issue.
“Before I got pregnant, I worried feverishly about the strain on the earth’s resources that another Western child would add,” she writes. “The food he ate, the nappies he wore, the electricity he would use; before he’d even started sitting up, my child would have already contributed far more to climate change than his counterpart in, say, Kerala or South Sudan.”
“But I also worried about the sort of world that I would bring my child into – where we have perhaps just another 60 harvests left before our overworked soil gives out and we are running out of fresh water,” she adds.
Frizzell questions how she could possibly have a baby “knowing that by the time he was my father’s age, he may be living on a dry and barren earth.”
Even while pregnant with her son, “and probably every day since,” Frizzell describes how she has pondered whether having children is “ecologically sound” or not, before claiming the answer is complex.
“Like so much in this life, it’s not a simple binary,” she writes.
Frizzell then attacks economically developed countries for the “disproportionately” high impact on the world.
“But even just people living regular lives in economically developed countries like me are having a disproportionately high impact on the world,” she writes. “The way our food is farmed, the amount we buy, the way we dispose of our waste – all are far worse for the planet than those living in less consumerist and less economically developed societies.”
Claiming that pollution kills more people than tobacco and various illnesses, Frizzell writes, “Even here in the UK, where our wealth and geography has so far largely protected us from the effects of climate change, children are already dying from pollution-related respiratory problems.”
Despite Frizzell’s predicament, she describes her decision to have a child, attributing it to “perhaps” selfishness.
“And yet, like millions of others, I did it anyway. I had a baby. I’d have another if my partner agreed,” she writes.
“Is that because I am selfish, myopic or greedy? Did I simply learn to compartmentalise my thinking, choose to listen to the arguments that supported what I wanted to do anyway, or ignore what was right in front of my face? Perhaps,” she adds.
Frizzell then attempts to compensate for the potential “environmental vandalism” she caused when having a child, by claiming children can be raised with an “awareness of ecological inequality” and live within “environmental means,” refuse consumerism and “overturn” a political system that “rewards a tiny rich minority” at all else’s expense.
“But I also believe that when it comes to the future health of the planet, the question is not one of whether or not we continue to have babies. People will always have babies. Here, there and everywhere,” she writes.
“Instead, it is a question of how we raise those babies, of learning to live within our environmental means, of turning away from the fever of consumerism and overturning a political system that rewards a tiny rich minority at the expense of everyone else,” she adds.
Many online are aghast by the essay.
“This seems insane to me,” writes one Twitter user. “I’ve realized that the ‘woke’ have a completely different way of thinking and reasoning and no matter how I try, I can’t understand the craziness.”
“Yes, some really want the West to die off,” writes another.
“Every time I see an article like this I vow to have another kid,” writes yet another. “So far I’ve got to have like 93.”
“Vogue loathes life,” writes another.
Vogue loathes life. 😕
Is Having A Baby In 2021 Pure Environmental Vandalism? | British Vogue https://t.co/JNQ0VCEgfO
— Miz Thatcher (@MizThatch) April 28, 2021
“Do you hire mentally ill people to write articles?” asks another.
“This article is just intellectual vandalism,” wrote another.
No, it isn’t. But this article is just intellectual vandalism.
— Julio Mario Espinosa (@JulioMarioEspi2) April 27, 2021
“O.M.G!” writes yet another.
Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein.