A disturbing new opinion piece at NBC News Think authored by Bioethicist Travis Rieder. His essay states that science has proven that having kids is bad for the environment and having many children is wrong or morally suspect.
Despite being a father, Rieder made a similar point last year. What is of note is his op-ed at NBC is stronger and more abrupt than in August 2016 when he raised this issue in a philosophical sense.
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. Here are some notable excerpts of note:
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.
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.
I am certainly not arguing that we should shame parents, or even that we’re obligated to have a certain number of children. As I’ve said elsewhere, I don’t think there is a tidy answer to the challenging questions of procreative ethics. But that does not mean we’re off the moral hook. As we face the very real prospect of catastrophic climate change, difficult — even uncomfortable — conversations are important. Yes, we should discuss the ethics of making babies with care and respect; but we should discuss it.
Dr. Rieder visits universities around the country to specifically urge students not to have kids in order to protect the environment. But his doing so does not negate the fact that he not only has a moral dilemma by having a daughter but is also a total hypocrite in the eyes of the people he talks to.
It is notable and a good thing that Rieder opposes shaming parents. However, in today’s political climate, it is not out of the realm of possibility that Rieder could persuade enough die-hard Leftist students to take all of their constraints off. In effect, Rieder would be a Witch Doctor who convinces enough Atillas to do more than shame parents for having more children.
Taking into account the logic he applies with his paragraph describing the consequences of his releasing a killer from prison, would Rieder be willing to be take accountability if his words inspired others to kill?