Facing a Climate Crisis, Is It Wrong to Have Children?

Gracy Olmstead writes:

Many would-be parents in the millennial generation worry that bringing a child into this world might, in its effects, serve as a choice for more consumption, waste and damage to the planet. Others wonder whether the children conceived now might face a fate somehow worse than nonexistence in future years — a fate involving planetary apocalypse or catastrophe — and they don’t want to bring children into that future….

The act of creation is opposed to the act of consumption: The latter suggests that everything exists to serve our needs and appetites, but the other reminds us of the value and goodness inherent in things themselves, and how creation encourages stewardship and responsibility….

Our culture’s individualism can often cultivate a very solipsistic posture toward life on our planet — and having children has showed me how often I automatically act out of a desire to serve myself. But parenting slowly turns that impulse on its head, and over time, responding to the needs of my children, I am learning to embrace patience and delayed gratification in the interest of a greater good and fostering the health and happiness of my daughters….

My daughters and I are part of this world and ought to be seeking the health of the whole, even as we seek to cultivate health and wholeness in ourselves. Christianity makes this literal, as God in Genesis ties humanity and soil inextricably to one another: “For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” I want my daughters to grow up with this vision: one which sees the world not as something to use or abuse, but as a precious creation of which we are a part.

When we are creators and stewards, we become aware of the infinite series of threads connecting us to the world around us — aware of the fragility and beauty of life, the preciousness of it. That is not an instinct, in my mind, which makes us less likely to fight climate change — but rather, more eager to seek to regenerate and heal our planet, and more likely to teach our children to do the same.