Childbearing vs. Child-Rearing
Madeline Ostrander asks, “How do you decide to have a baby when climate change is remaking life on earth?” and essentially answers, “With hesitation” [April 11/18]. While making a significant personal issue public, and by making a significant public issue personal, she also glosses over an opportunity to do exactly the same for an issue that progressives do not address nearly enough: adoption of waiting children in this country.
Adoption is referenced just once, quoting Paul Ehrlich in 1970 (advocating voluntary sterility in the same sentence). Ostrander cites many examples of child-rearing hopes, fears, thoughts, and emotions, but does not always distinguish between childbearing and child-rearing, just as she melds together concern with the personal welfare of her future offspring on the one hand, and concern about that individual contributing to climate change on the other. The latter pairing is appropriate; the former, not as much.
I was born in 1955, but had little use for Ehrlich and Zero Population Growth when I made a firm decision as a teenager to never procreate. I didn’t know about climate change then, but my own list included a world facing environmental degradation and nuclear annihilation, and full of incessant war, poverty, racism, imperialism, injustice, oppression, and exploitation. I feared that future offspring might be a) victims, b) inadvertent contributors to the problem, or even c) possible perpetrators.
Like Ostrander, my wife (who had her own reasons for deciding against procreation) and I noticed that we weren’t “baby people” when our peers began reproducing. I actually had a “no-children” inclination (for lifestyle reasons), right up there with the more philosophical “no-procreation” rule. But that changed over time: We’ve adopted four kids (arriving at different times, at ages 8, 10, 14, and 21), and our Saturdays with all 10 grandkids are a treasure in our life like no other.
Am I fearful, like Ostrander, that a destabilized world with rising seas and killer storms will eventually ensnare my loved ones? Absolutely! Am I concerned that their own carbon footprints may exacerbate the problem rather than mitigate it? Absolutely! But I also feel I can hold up my hands and say, in effect, “Not my fault!” for either dilemma—existential or environmental. (Of course, that’s not a completely legitimate perspective.)