When Blythe Pepino attended an Extinction Rebellion last year, she realized she had to do something about climate change, according to Business Insider. Extinction Rebellion is an activist group that seeks to stop climate change and biodiversity loss and minimize risks of human extinction and ecological collapse. They use education and nonviolent protests as their tools. Pepino said the lecture was “very blunt about how nightmarish this could get and how quickly.”
This lecture was the catalyst for Pepino’s Birthstrike movement. The movement is a group of people who have chosen not to have children due to the threat of global warming. The movement is small, but growing. It began with 60 members, and now boasts 200.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently echoed the movement’s philosophy when she said that it was no longer a given that people should have children. "It is basically a scientific consensus that the lives of our children are going to be very difficult, and it does lead young people to have a legitimate question: is it OK to still have children?" she said.
AOC’s message boosted media attention for Pepino’s movement. Two weeks ago, Pepino publicly announced the BirthStrike movement.
"We're too afraid to bring children into the world with future that's forecast," Pepino said. "This is a really powerful way of communicating the severity of what's going on."
The movement began when Pepino, who had just decided not to have children, reached out to friends on Facebook to find others who may feel the same way.
"I know that sounds calculated, but I made this decision [to not have children] personally first and then realized it was a great way to get more people, especially the right wing media, on board with the climate change crisis," she said.
Although the movement is new, the idea is not. The idea of not having children because of climate change has been around for years.
"I think it's seen as such a massive decision to make, especially for the younger women like myself," Lydia Dibben, a BirthStriker said. "Children are seen to be the ultimate goal in life, something that everyone wants, and so promising never to have them seems extreme to a lot of people."
A bioethics professor at Johns Hopkins University, Travis Rieder, lectured about the morality of continuing to have children. "Here's a provocative thought: Maybe we should protect our kids by not having them," Rieder said.
Conceivable Future, another non-profit, began on the notion that “the climate crisis is a reproductive crisis.” The group, founded in the U.S. in 2015, asks for an end to U.S. fossil fuel subsidies by “telling the stories of climate change’s impact on our reproductive lives.”
The New York Times reported on more than a dozen women aged 18 to 43 in 2018 who voiced concerns about having children in today’s world. Some raised ethical questions, as having a child today is one of the most environmentally costly decisions someone can make. A 2017 study found that having even one less child is a more effective way to reduce a carbon footprint than recycling, driving an electric car, being a vegetarian, or using renewable energy.
Birthstrikes argue that climate change has become such a large problem that collective action is now more important than individual actions. One such collective action is controlling the human population. The current population of the world is 7.7 billion, and the United Nations expects that number to grow to 9.8 billion in 30 years and 11.2 billion by 2100.
Yet, the BirthStrike movement isn’t about population control. Hannah Conduit, a BirthStriker, says that “nothing in the movement demonizes having children.”
"The idea of a sort of mass movement against having children is damaging to society," Conduit said. "But BirthStrike highlights that some women see [having children] as a choice that they might not be able to make in good conscience."
The BirthStike movement has experienced severe conservative backlash since the announcement of the organization. But that is not a deterrent, as some of the women believe that having a child in today’s world is the worst thing they could do.
"It would break my heart to bring children into the world and have it collapse around them," Conduit said.