Earlier this week Vox founder Ezra Klein wrote a piece titled “Your Kids Are Not Doomed” for the NY Times. Klein’s argument was that people who decide to not have children because of fear about climate change need to put things in perspective.
No mainstream climate models suggest a return to a world as bad as the one we had in 1950, to say nothing of 1150. Was the world so bad, for virtually the entirety of human history, that our ancestors shouldn’t have made our lives possible? If not, then nothing in our near future looks so horrible that it turns reproduction into an immoral act.
But as I pointed out, the commenters on his piece were not pleased. Nearly all of them argued against having children and some argued for discouraging others from having them. Despite that, Vox published a piece today which takes up the same argument. It’s titled “Stop telling kids that climate change will destroy their world.”
As I’ve written about before, climate change is going to be bad, and it will hold back humanity from thriving as much as we should this century. It will likely cause mass migration and displacement and extinctions of many species.
What it won’t do, however, is make the Earth unlivable, or even mean that our children live in a world poorer than the one we grew up in. As many climate scientists have been telling us, the world is a better place to live in — especially for people in lower-income countries — than it has ever been, and climate change isn’t going to make it as bad as it was even in 1950.
But that’s not the message being delivered to children by climate change activists like Greta Thunberg.
Unfortunately, the latter message is the dominant one in Our House Is on Fire: Greta Thunberg’s Call to Save the Planet, a beautifully illustrated picture book aimed at ages 3-8.
“There might not be a world to live in when she grows up. What use is school without a future?” one page describes Thunberg as thinking. Even as a setup for Thunberg’s rise as an activist, I’m not thrilled about that message. Some kids might hear that and be inspired to speak before the United Nations, but most kids are going to hear that and be scared and disempowered.
That pessimistic message seems to be sinking in for the young. A 2021 study funded by the campaign and research group Avaaz polled 10,000 people between 16 and 25, and found that over half thought that humanity was “doomed” because of climate change.
The author, who is a mom herself, concludes, “I have yet to find a children’s book that frames the climate crisis that way: as a challenge, but one like the many that humanity has overcome, and one that our kids can overcome by learning about the world and inventing new solutions.”
Two points about this. One, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these articles are coming from people who have children. People with children actually have some skin in this game. Granted it’s not their own skin exactly but parents do care about their kids and their future. It’s one thing for a childless couple to say the world is doomed by 2100 (or whenever) because it’s really academic for them. They won’t be around to see it and neither will any of the childless couples they hang out with for climate change discussions. It’s something else to say that about a world your kids or grandkids will see. It’s no longer just idle talk.
The other thing I’d say is that the relentless doom and gloom from activists (people like Greta Thunberg) is extremely tiresome to those of us who know the end is not near. Progressives really seem to love listening to a 16-year-old sneer at adults or to take advice from hypocrites who own beach front property and have a carbon footprint the size of Godzilla. If the left really wanted to make some kind of common cause with the right on this issue, they could start by telling the truth. Instead of we’re all going to die if we don’t change everything by next year, it would sound something more like this:
We face some real challenges moving forward, as we always have. We’re bound to make some dumb and costly mistakes along the way. Despite that, there’s a very good chance the world will be a better place for a larger percentage of people who are alive 50 years from now. There’s a great future ahead for our children but science and engineering will matter a lot more to getting us there than sneering teenagers or self-appointed harbingers of doom.
If climate change activists sounded more like that, they’d have a lot more support from kids and adults. People who refuse to have children because of climate change have already given up on a better future. No trace of them will be around when that better future arrives.