@dajbelshaw this. And not only climate change but also use of any resource you can think of (ground water, wild or farmable land, food, ...).

The reason goes something like:
1. Obvious fact: each extra human means extra emissions.
2. Another obvious fact: High-emission-per-capita countries (Western) make a hugely bigger impact per extra human.
3. Right wingers, looking at (1) and pointedly ignoring (2): There should be fewer black and brown and yellow people.
4. Lefties, looking _only_ at (3): The only possible conclusion is that this is a false racist narrative and actually the planet has infinite capacity, and even talking about this makes you a fascist (Rejects (1), making (2) something not relevant anymore)

Throw in the "infinite growth" economic model, a social model that pins pensions on future taxes (requiring a larger population of working-age people in the future), old-fashioned climate denialism, stubborn "fix my bugbear first" politics... the idea of encouraging high-emission countries to have a lower fertility rate isn't on anyone's playbook.

@seachaint @dajbelshaw the obvious flaw in what you're saying is that you're reframing the problem from "individual" to "societal".

Maybe that's an intentional thing, and you're presenting a bad argument from those people, or you yourself are misunderstanding the issue, and view it as something else than a personal altruistic choice. I don't know.

However over generalizing with labels like "right winger" and "lefties" is not conducive to reasonable argument.

@mariusor @dajbelshaw The issue is more that, right now, there is a societal pressure to create more babies. Everything from tax incentives, to political discourse, to media representations.. it's all about the two-parent, two-to-four child family. And the budget decisions and plans all also assume a growing population.
So it would be foolish to ignore this, and try to talk about individual responsibility.. that's the sort of sop that neoliberalism falls back on to avoid problems.

At the same time, a social-level discourse shouldn't ever mean something coercive like a one-child policy, and that's anathema to me. We need to be adults and have adult conversations, while respecting autonomy and culture.

But, plenty of cultures are, even against all that aforementioned messaging, now choosing to have smaller families: Greece, Japan, China are examples I have recently read about. Many EU countries are (IIRC) slightly below replacement fertility already, and even some mild changes to messaging and offering appropriate support could push this a little further.

This is a necessary part of de-growth or circular economy, or sustainability, or whatever you want to call it. We can design sustainable systems if we can agree on some kind of expected boundary on the consumption end. And the biggest variable is, bluntly, how many people are we talking about in 50 years?

@mariusor @dajbelshaw But to add to this, something that can't be oversaid: this is not the same as the far-right narrative. This isn't about picking people you don't like, and asking for there to be less of them.

This is about demanding that everyone, of every nationality and ethnicity, have a dignified and safe standard of living. And accepting that many of us (chiefly westerners) need to cut out the shit we're doing which makes that impossible, and to agree to share this planet responsibly.

@seachaint @dajbelshaw the high emission countries already have low birth rates. With the exception of Japan, all of them have immigration making up the difference.

Wealthy people have fewer kids but more carbon emissions. We need to make drastic improvements in energy efficiency and production for the biggest sources that even wealthy people want if we are going to fix the problem. Going carless or limiting flights isn't going to do it.

@seachaint Indeed. Here in Norway — most definitely a high emission country — our Prime Minister was publically lamenting that people are not having *enough* children, specifically with reference to future work force, tax base, and economic growth. @dajbelshaw

@fgraver @dajbelshaw This is the whole liberalism-thing. The economic agenda around things like pensions and 'desireable' economic growth, all kind of assume a growing, increasingly-specialised workforce. Which can then produce enough to pay for a growing population of elderly citizens. While also paying off bad private-sector debts incurred through neoliberal policies.
The only country I'm seeing explore other ideas instead of "make moar babies for capitalism" is Japan, and their whole "robots will save the oldies" theme is.. well, huh.

(edit: smaller sentences good, more full stops good)

@dajbelshaw As a parent of three this is an argument that rubs me sooo much the wrong way.

First of all: what the hell does "one less child" mean? I have one less child than four, and a whooping two less than five. Yay?

Secondly: the western lifestyle is the problem, and the number of people living it. Don't blame the kids.

Thirdly: who the hell are we saving the planet for, if not the next generation? Earth is indifferent to which or how much life is on it. We want to save humanity, right?

@tinyrabbit @dajbelshaw """

First of all: what the hell does "one less child" mean? I have one less child than four, and a whooping two less than five. Yay?



Secondly: the western lifestyle is the problem, and the number of people living it. Don't blame the kids.

The kids didn't choose existence, nobody is blaming them. This diagram literally is about your CO2 footprint, that's why your child is on it.

I'm a parent too. I don't think choosing to be a parent is an unproblematic choice, for this and other reasons, and we live a standard high-resource lifestyle where we are, so that bar looks about right for my family.

@mariusor @dajbelshaw In most of the rich western world the average is less than 2 children per family already.

@tinyrabbit @dajbelshaw that is indeed true, but until the whole world possess the same reproductive education and contraceptive means as the western world, the burden of altruism is on the ones that do. At least that's how I view it. :)

@mariusor @tinyrabbit @dajbelshaw maybe there should be an asterisk next to it like "one less child if they're going to grow up and live like an American no matter how much they dry their clothes in the sun"

@tinyrabbit @dajbelshaw

> Earth is indifferent to which or how much life is on it. We want to save humanity, right?

I think that the people that possess the altruism of following through with these more extreme ways of helping the environment, do so for the people that can't (or won't) do it themselves.

So to answer your specific question: people that choose not to have kids are making a better world for people that chose to have them, or weren't able to not have them.

@tinyrabbit "Given my life choices, here is why I feel attacked by the science" isn't a great look.

@dajbelshaw This is true. I probably wouldn't even look twice if I wasn't a parent; I'd just look at it and think "yeah, I'm doing my part!"

My points still stand, though. It's an inane idea. "Less" without any "more"? I myself have parents -- does that mean my own footprint is on them? And if we just don't have kids, then why are we trying to solve climate change at all?



"Cumulative emissions from descendants; decreases substantially if national emissions decrease" just sounds like a different way of saying "This bar is 99% made up of things you as an individual *do not* control".

When you say "the most effective individual steps to tackle climate change aren't being discussed" you've chosen to include one statistic that casts those providing the world with a new generation of humans as villains.



What's there to "discuss"? Are you willing to tell someone they should or should not have kids?

Meanwhile the super rich are flying private jets and consuming vast amounts more than you or I, and the top 20% richest account for more than 50% of emissions from lifestyle choices.

"Individual choices" only goes so far, mate. We need structural change, and this chart is just a sideshow.


@dajbelshaw Did you just pretend that none of my points mattered because I'm a parent? :)

@dajbelshaw They *are* opinions. I'm not saying that the statistics are wrong; I'm saying that they're presented in a haphazard and stupid manner, rendering them pointless.

What's the timeframe? How many generations of descendants are we talking about, and how does that compare to the bar about hang-drying your clothes?

As someone else mentioned, there's nothing weird about "more people living like we do is bad".


You say this isn't being discussed; I've seen stats like this floating around for years, without context, without clarification, and without meaning. We're not willing to tell people they shouldn't reproduce. Right? So what's the point of that particular bar?


@tinyrabbit My point is that this is post-hoc thinking. You are in the position of having 3 kids. If you had 2, 1, or 0 you might think differently. That's all.

@dajbelshaw Definitely! As I said, if I didn't have any kids I probably wouldn't think much about it. I'd just look at that bar and feel content that it didn't apply to me. But when I *do* look at it, I find issues :)

@tinyrabbit Yep, this is something I'm really grappling with at the moment. Given I've made these life decisions (and I can't un-make my kids!) what am I going to do? What *can* I do?

@dajbelshaw Same here!

I've come to the point where any more I'd like to do would compromise the well-being of my kids. That's a hard limit.

There's so much I already do; we hang-dry clothes, we eat a lot of locally produced food, we don't travel by plane unless we have to (my kids have never been abroad at all because of this)... but whatever we do as individuals is just never going to be enough.

@dajbelshaw Please don't train SkyNet that "one less human is better"


> have one fewer child

But what if that child is the next Greta Thunberg? 🤔

@waterbear Relying on individuals to save us is kind of the reason we're in this mess.

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