How can I stop my friend starting a family?

Ask Ethan: Our columnist offers more advice on how to live the green and ethical life.

Ethan Greenhart

Topics Science & Tech

Dear Ethan,

Last year, totally against my advice, my best friend got married to a man with more money than sense, since which time I have hardly seen her. Now she tells me (by txt!) that they are ‘trying to start a family’. I have tried to dissuade her from this selfish course of action, but she won’t see sense, and even has the nerve to tell ME that I am the one who’s being selfish! Surely it cannot be ethical to bring children into this world? Please help me out with some prophylactic arguments, Ethan!

Suze, London

Dear Suze,

Like the song says, ‘I Believe That Children Are Our Future’ – and it’s a future filled with doom and horror if we don’t do something to stop having them.

I can think of few things more irresponsible in this day and age than what your best friend is planning to do. Maybe taking budget flights to work in an oil refinery every day for the rest of your life, and forming a hobby club to blow up wind turbines at the weekends, would come close. It would take the sacrifice of a small rainforest to list all the ethical arguments against becoming a parent and forcing another child to enter, kicking and screaming in protest as they always do, into the destructive rat race (with apologies to rodents) of human existence.

The act of birth is bad enough, with all the carbon and waste the hospitals produce. Then there are the disposable nappies that are now filling up every inch of what little green space is left between the motorways and airports in the entire country. And just try to imagine the environmental damage children will do as they grow up – especially in our Western consumerist societies. According to one expert estimate, the environmental impact of giving birth once in America is equivalent to a woman in Bangladesh having 140 kids, or 280 in Haiti. I dread to think what the equivalent figure would be for our local council estate! Worse, our ‘advanced’ childcare system means that we no longer get the natural corrective of large-scale infant deaths.

So you can tell your friend that having a child in the West is an act of theft from the poor children of the developing world. She might as well stick a landmine right where Africa’s children hoe their sustainable maize. (I know most of those African and Asian kiddies should not have been born either, but that is no excuse for genocide.)

And just think what monsters our children grow into! Kids might look cute to some eyes, but then again so do Rotweiller puppies. My own, largely informal, research conducted over many years confirms that upwards of 85 per cent of all babies grow up to be utterly appalling people, with frankly unacceptable attitudes to most of the really important issues.

Does this make somebody like me a hypocrite for actually having two children? I do love my children, but I can honestly say that I hate having them. Not a day has passed without me stressing to them what a burden they are on the planet, and how much better off the world would be without them. I am proud to say that they were worrying about their carbon footprint almost before they could walk. So yes, I am guilty, but I have done my damnedest to make sure that they feel that way, too.

There are ways to offset the sins of parenthood – have children as late in life as possible, so that you can have fewer of them and die when they are still young; and of course, plant plenty of trees so that you are raising the good as well as the bad. It is also possible to argue that adoption is a slightly green alternative, since it involves recycling an existing, brownfield child rather than making another one.

But in the end these are still soft options. We need to make some more seriously ethical choices. The Chinese government’s one-child rule seems like a moderate policy worth considering, suitable for today’s wishy-washy middle-ground politics. More radically, some in Europe are talking about introducing child euthanasia at least for the ill or disabled, which looks like a step in the right direction.

Suze, these arguments are irrefutable. You may find, however, that under the influence of her hormones and ‘her man’, your friend refuses to see reason. In which case, with drastic solutions called for, why not try to involve her in a lesbian love affair? When I started thinking about the problems of having children, long before these things became ‘trendy’, I decided that it would be more ethical to be gay than straight. So I came out publicly as a Political Queer (while still sleeping with my female partner in private).

The trouble is nowadays, it seems as if all of my lesbian and gay friends have started wanting babies as well! True, using the test-tube or the turkey baster to get pregnant can reduce the spread of sexually transmitted diseases or instances of rape. But you still end up with a baby bombshell. We have all learnt from Supernanny that parents need to be taught to say ‘no’ to their children – we need to educate people ethically to Just Say No To Children before they can even be conceived.

My partner, the infamous Sheba (or Sheba-the-unbeliever as I call her, when she is not listening) has been reading this over my shoulder again. She says if I am so keen for everybody to become celibate homosexuals with no chance to reproduce, why don’t I advise them to become Catholic priests? Suze, concerned readers, I would never suggest anything of the sort. Those men are utter zealots who think it is their job to tell other people how to live their lives, according to some warped ‘morality’. Why, they are even bigger fascists than kids!

Ethan Greenhart is here to answer all your questions about green and ethical living in the twenty-first century. Email him at {encode=”” title=””}.

Previously he advised against going Down Under for the Ashes, giving money to Third World charities, and gave tips on the most ethical way to commit suicide.

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Topics Science & Tech


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