Saving The World From Climate Change Requires Not Fewer Children, But More

Saving The World From Climate Change Requires Not Fewer Children, But More

Becoming custodians of youngsters can make us better custodians of our planet, with a power and to a degree to which nothing else compares.
Michael Salemink
By

Global climate strikers confirm the sanctity of human life. We can thank Emma Lim for making the connection.

Lim attends university in Montreal. During last month’s event involving youth in various parts of the world, the 18-year-old initiated a public protest called “#No Future, No Children.” At www.nofuturepledge.ca, she not only proclaimed her intention not to have children until her government takes serious steps to battle climate change, she also invited other young people to do the same. Five thousand have endorsed her petition so far.

We ought to affirm her humble reverence for childbearing. She expresses a deep appreciation for both the vocation of motherhood and the privilege of children: “I’ve always imagined I would be a mother…I love children so much that I worked as a nanny over the summer between eleventh and twelfth grade.”

Even as she confess the fears climate alarmists have stoked within her (“the loss of ecosystems, the loss of fresh water, the loss of clean air,” “food shortages,” “mass migrations”), her profoundest concern remains for her children: “What kind of mother would I be if I brought a baby into a world where I couldn’t make sure they were safe?”

Lim deserves our thanks for her selflessness, especially her regard for the least of these. We have to admire her courage and compassion in safeguarding the lives of every one of our planet’s precious creatures. We can’t help but share her sense of the sanctity of all human lives.

And we ought to share her apprehension. The struggles of raising children in a world with so many afflictions and so much wickedness terrifies everyone who has a hint of wisdom or a trace of maturity. Pollution and political negligence are actually far from the worst threats to human flourishing. In fact, the root cause of both the ecological irresponsibility and the civic complacency she laments is the real problem: selfishness.

Our Almighty Maker created humankind to inhabit relationships. This includes presiding over creation as benevolent caretakers and guardians. We may receive (and treat!) nature with all its entities and resources as a sacred inheritance to be shared with all generations.

We must acknowledge with Lim our shortcomings and sins in abusing these treasures. So great is our trespass that even addressing climate change cannot atone for it. Only our Creator’s direct intervention, incarnate presence, and restorative forgiveness can redeem us and our environment.

Faith in His graciousness can overcome both fear and failure. It does and it will, because it has. Humankind has survived climate change before. Our race has confronted even graver dangers than this—and transcended them, at least in part, precisely through procreation.

History testifies plentifully how community supplies the solution to predicaments like pollution. Note well that the nation that currently operates the strictest population control regimen in the world also contaminates our air and water more than any other.

Two heads are better than one, and many hands make light the work. Previous generations have raised their descendants to do better, and we have progressed manifold because they did. They succeeded with us; why shouldn’t we believe ourselves able to do the same?

Can Lim envision the impact of five, eight, 12 activists just like herself? Couldn’t their arms reach even higher upon her shoulders? Her children may learn from her example, follow in her footsteps, amplify her convictions, and multiply her efforts.

If she and her generation sow rather than mow now, they will reap the culture change we cannot yet engineer. Maybe we cannot entirely insulate our little ones against all the hurt on earth, but we can prepare them not only to endure it but to improve it. It isn’t the pen that signs the deals but the hand that rocks the cradle which rules the world.

Children deliver a dose of exactly the antidote Lim’s after. Offspring draw us outside of ourselves. They administer the needed remedy to greed and gluttony as they move us to care about, to work toward, and to live for someone other than me alone and something more than only right now.

Becoming custodians of youngsters can make us better custodians of our planet, with a power and to a degree to which nothing else compares. In this way they alter not just our future but also even our present. And they enhance not just our surroundings but our very selves.

You see, children don’t just show up with needs and weaknesses. They bring a mysterious and miraculous comfort and encouragement to us and to others. Millions of mothers and fathers assure us that these new lives have the uncanny ability to reconfigure the shattered bits of parents’ broken dreams into wonders we never could have asked or even imagined.

We must leave a livable planet for our children, but we must leave a livable planet for our children. It is the joy and hope they know and the beauty they work—in personal relationships and in public policies—that will cut through much more than mere greenhouse gases to drive away afflictions and sorrows of all kinds.

The darkest possible future is the one with fewer children. Ask involuntarily childless couples whether they would willingly choose such a fate for themselves and their world. Almost as bleak is the apocalyptic tomorrow in which we wield our kids as rhetorical human shields, pawns, and hostages for bargaining with the next sensationalized spirit of the age. We get richer as a species and a society with every single individual added to our number, whatever his or her faults.

So if we are to suffer diminishment or extinction, let us at least not do it willingly. Let’s not go gentle into the night ahead, be it good or gloomy. Rage, but not against the arriving of another life; rage rather against the dying of the light. Let us fight climate change with our greatest strength, our secret weapon: the unique light of humankind, us and more of us!

Pastor Michael Salemink is executive director of Lutherans For Life.

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