Home > Politics > A green future for whom?

A green future for whom?

I accept the reality of anthropogenic climate change, and think it is something that international organizations need to address. We need technological solutions more than anything else, as well as a Pigovian carbon tax. Humans, particularly in the West, are having an impact on the climate of the planet and people’s lives.

But at the same time, ultimately speaking, we shouldn’t forget why we care. There was climate change before people were around, and it was not something that worried us. Equally, the changes in climate that affect the life on some far distant planet don’t concern us. While there is some concern for the effect on animal life, and our responsibility in that regard, it is human life that matters to us. It is about the world we want to leave to our grandchildren.

Unless we hold that as our motivation, there is little hope that we will see support for changes in policy. While it is more of a possibility for those of younger generations, the greatest impact will be on the condition of our planet for those to come. One of the best fruits of selfishness is the love people show for their own children and an interest in their future. This is why an article which I notice from Alex Renton in The Observer is misguided. He calls on the Copenhagen Conference to address the question of population control, particularly in the West, provocatively beginning his article,

The worst thing that you or I can do for the planet is to have children. If they behave as the average person in the rich world does now, they will emit some 11 tonnes of CO2 every year of their lives. In their turn, they are likely to have more carbon-emitting children who will make an even bigger mess. If Britain is to meet the government’s target of an 80% reduction in our emissions by 2050, we need to start reversing our rising rate of population growth immediately.

This is the sort of rhetoric that gives environmentalists a bad name. It gives fuel to the sort of conservatives who would describe environmentalism as a religion. To think of children primarily in terms of the environmental damage they inflict is far from how most of us think that it is completely ineffectual. While it does make sense to encourage birth control in the developing world, this is for a variety of reasons, mainly based on the significant positive social and economic change in a country that comes from gender equality.

It is not on the agenda at Copenhagen because they would not be listened to if it were. It would be yet another target that would never be achieved. But ultimately, discourse of this nature ignores the fact of our own human nature and the desire to raise children. How few of us would wish to live in a world where even this were to be discouraged.

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