Bioethicist opinion: Science proves kids are bad for earth; morality suggests we stop having them

travis rieder

Travis and his child in his Twitter profile picture

The author of this opinion piece, Travis Rieder, PhD, is the Assistant Director for Education Initiatives, Director of the Master of Bioethics degree program and Research Scholar at the Berman Institute of Bioethics. He is also a Faculty Affiliate at the Center for Public Health Advocacy within the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

From NBC News: A startling and honestly distressing view is beginning to receive serious consideration in both academic and popular discussions of climate change ethics. According to this view, having a child is a major contributor to climate change. The logical takeaway here is that everyone on Earth ought to consider having fewer children.

Although culturally controversial, the scientific half of this position is fairly well-established. Several years ago, scientists showed that having a child, especially for the world’s wealthy, is one of the worst things you can do for the environment. That data was recycled this past summer in a paper showing that none of the activities most likely to reduce individuals’ carbon footprints are widely discussed.

The second, moral aspect of the view — that perhaps we ought to have fewer children — is also being taken seriously in many circles. Indeed, I have written widely on the topic myself.

But scientific evidence and moral theorizing aside, this is a complicated question with plenty of opponents. In what follows, I will address some of the challenges to this idea. Because while I recognize that this is an uncomfortable discussion, I believe that the seriousness of climate change justifies uncomfortable conversations. In this case, that means that we need to stop pretending the decision to have children doesn’t have environmental and ethical consequences.

The argument that having a child adds to one’s carbon footprint depends on the view that each of us has a personal carbon ledger for which we are responsible. Furthermore, some amount of an offspring’s emissions count towards the parents’ ledger.

Most environmentalists accept this sort of ledger view when it comes to recycling, driving, and flying, but support begins to decrease when applied to family planning. The opposition is typified by Vox writer David Roberts, who argues that “such an accounting scheme is utterly impractical” because it seems to entail that one is never responsible for one’s own emissions. Because “we don’t want to double-count,” as Roberts says, this means parents are really only responsible for their kids’ emissions.

The flaw in this objection is the plausible-sounding caveat: “we don’t want to double-count.” Because why wouldn’t we want to double-count? If moral responsibility added up mathematically, then double-counting would be a serious problem. But I think it’s clear that we should not accept a mathematical model of responsibility.

Consider a different case: If I release a murderer from prison, knowing full well that he intends to kill innocent people, then I bear some responsibility for those deaths — even though the killer is also fully responsible. My having released him doesn’t make him less responsible (he did it!). But his doing it doesn’t eliminate my responsibility either.

Something similar is true, I think, when it comes to having children: Once my daughter is an autonomous agent, she will be responsible for her emissions. But that doesn’t negate my responsibility. Moral responsibility simply isn’t mathematical.

If you buy this view of responsibility, you might eventually admit that having many children is wrong, or at least morally suspect, for standard environmental reasons: Having a child imposes high emissions on the world, while the parents get the benefit. So like with any high-cost luxury, we should limit our indulgence.

Read the rest of this opinion here.

DCG

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15 responses to “Bioethicist opinion: Science proves kids are bad for earth; morality suggests we stop having them

  1. Since adults are bigger than babies and, therefore, do more harm to the environment, common sense dictates that Travis Rieder should set a good example by conducting an after-birth abortion on himself.

    Liked by 7 people

  2. Progressives for ya…

    Liked by 4 people

    • Otherwise known as white genocide, and in view of the welfare handed these and other minorities, it’s the official policy of the federal government, and has been for decades. Since congress, including the Republican establishment, does nothing but abet this indirect, middle-class and mostly white genocide, we need to face the fact that representative government in America is dead, Trump or no Trump.

      Because most members of congress are themselves whites with children and grand children, it follows these individuals MUST be compromised stooges like Flake, Corker, McConnell, McCain, Graham, ad nauseam, and not of big business or the Chamber of Congress or some fanciful MIC, but stooges of an alien elite that’s conquered us by financial parasitism and the outright subversion from Hollywood that could have been stopped by overriding the Supreme Court itself and never was. Would these cowards literally sacrifice their own children and grand children to avoid exposure? It’s pretty obvious at this point they surely will.

      Like

  3. And lo and behold, a photo with him and his daughter. Man speaks with forked tongue.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Everything he says is based on the lies of global warming/climate change. God made the earth to be inhabited.

    Liked by 5 people

  5. The current crop of faux-academicians are totally twisted. Their theories have progressed from illogical to asinine. They’re all trying to outdo each other in the quest to stay in line with the proselytization of thieving maniacs like Bill Gates and other globalist Foundations who keep feeding the research coffers of the Institutions they represent. What a crock of crazy, and people call this education?

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Pingback: Bioethicist opinion: Science proves kids are bad for earth; morality suggests we stop having them — Fellowship of the Minds – NZ Conservative Coalition

  7. I think the one in charge said go forth and multiply. And the last time I checked his retirement plan is out of this world but its the only one that has a plan in place for us. So I defer to his authority and in my book supersedes the scientist 10000 fold. Every knee shall bow

    Liked by 1 person

  8. he is encouraging people to embrace communism/satanism through the lies of global warming…
    he has the type of mentality of a person who will bless those for creating environments where rights and reproduction are hindered/limited like with vaccines, plastics, soy, chemicals, homosexuality, transgenderism…
    he has the sado-masochistic mentality of the slave who thanks the slave master for whipping him then runs and tells on other slaves for their ‘bad doings’ and watch them get whipped as well.
    his title as “bioethicist” is an oxymoron and proves “science” can be used as a tool to promote evil.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. The real question is, is he a fool or a tool? Notice that these individuals never consider any religious aspects of anything. No, to them we are all aberrations. Not having a God allows them to disregard a higher plan.

    Just look at the colossal arrogance. He and “they” are going to manage the world. They don’t understand the simplest aspect of Creation. But, mark my words, just like their bolshevik brothers, they can’t wait to take their seats in the Ministry of Planning and decide the future for everyone.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Science didn’t prove diddily squat, this is one person’s justification for not wanting children and passing it off as good. Just, pray tell, do they think will happen if no one ever gives birth again.
    How can anyone hold their newborn baby and declare it wrong?

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Guess what? Internal combustion is actually bad for a cars engine, we should start pushing them. Cell phone omit low level radiation, let’s go back to smoke signals. Congress is bad for individual liberties, every man for himself!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. On his degree the PhD has an asterisk: After the “B.S.”, he amassed more—-and it was “Piled Higher and Deeper.”

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Pingback: Don’t Have Children, They Increase Your Global Footprint | The Power Hour | Nation Radio Show

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