MY aunt was telling me about some of my cousin’s close friends. A couple in their early thirties, they had decided that they were not going to have children.
Environmental concerns, apparently, were behind this decision. There were so many people on the planet and so much harm being done that it was simply better to let the bloodline go extinct.
‘How noble!’ was the anticipated response, I believe. Instead I thought ‘Selfish, boring buggers.’
There have been a number of recent articles on a similar theme by eco-bores. To such people, ‘net zero’ refers to reproduction rates as well as carbon emissions. Call me a cynic, but I don’t buy it. My (admittedly hyperbolic) response to this thoroughly modern trend is to inquire: ‘Why don’t you just top yourself, then?’ I mean it only half in jest: if the threat to the environment from mankind is really so acute, and you’re so deeply afflicted by the idea of temperatures increasing one degree in a century, why continue to contribute to such a heinous process?
The answer, inevitably, would be that a life already started has family, attachments, hobbies and work that would all be snuffed out by putting one’s moralising where one’s mouth is. What they are in fact saying, however, is that life has intrinsic meaning and value.
Life is rarely given up willingly by those that still have it. The aged and infirm will cling to it as fiercely as their bodies allow. The seriously ill rarely shrug their shoulders and say ‘Oh, all right then, at least I’ll be reducing my carbon footprint.’
It’s much easier to deny someone else life. Save them from the trouble of being born, growing up, finding meaning, love and happiness. Having been made so pessimistic and thoroughly cynical, the young cannot see through the myopic haze shrouding their eyes after years of indoctrination by the ideologues who have so successfully permeated through every sector of society.
While cloaked in the language of self-sacrifice – oh, they’re doing it for the polar bears – it is instead the natural end-point of liberalism’s solipsistic fetishisation of the self. Whenever I hear those who dismiss the idea of having children, all I can hear in their voice is the unmuttered claim that existence itself has reached its apex in their being. Stuck in the eternal present and shorn of any commitments to future or past, they see no problem in jacking it all in.
Many moons ago, an ex had lofty dreams of saving society and the world. She was less keen, however, on me using the hot water; the few pence a shower might cost too much for her to countenance. As ever, laying the foundations of the great utopia never starts at home.
But I digress: when she wasn’t berating me over putting the kettle on, one of her many stated claims was the desire to remain childless: children were, to her mind, merely a hindrance preventing her from taking holidays (as was possible in the pre-Covid world), indulging in theatre trips and dining out at the finest restaurants on offer. A smorgasbord of tiresome self-indulgence, which in recent years has found the selfless justification of environmentalism.
But it is more than that. No doubt the vast majority of self-righteous non-childreners are well-heeled white people. So deeply imbued with the idea of racial guilt, they find spurious reasons to terminate their progeny. Were concerns really about the environment, we might hear something of the massive population growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Naturally we never do. Instead, it is the already shrinking white demographic who are encouraged to opt out of humanity, leaving the spoils to whoever had the motivation to reproduce.
This sense of being at the end of the chain of human existence is nowhere better seen than in the childlessness of much of Europe’s ruling elite. In recent years, Europe has been governed by a host of progeny-less leaders: including Jean-Claude Juncker, Germany’s Angela Merkel, France’s Emmanuel Macron, Sweden’s Stefan Löfven and Holland’s Mark Rutte. Not to mention our own Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon.
This is a sign of the wider civilisation. We fail to reproduce our culture in the minds of the young, instead allowing them to fall prey to the self-hatred and nihilism of the cultural Left. We have allowed the young to believe that our culture exists in a terrible present, wedged unhappily between a uniquely barbarous history and a hopelessly bleak future.
Perhaps those opting out are doing us a favour: by making themselves extinct they will be removing the possibility of influencing the future. That they will leave the world to those unlikely to share their concerns seems hardly to cross their minds – a tactical gaffe if there ever was one.
After all, the world can belong only to those who are still around. Cultures with greater confidence recognise this. Whether we’ll get our self-belief back in time is the question.