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Feature - Issue #13

Children of the Anthropocene

Illustrations by Zhigang Zhang

Instead of questioning the ethics of having children in a climate crisis, is it time we focused on creating a loving society and shifting our attitudes on care?

When I speak about having children, I don’t want to talk about tipping points, but I can’t help it. When people ask me, “Do you want kids?”, I try to speak the words from my own head and heart. But whether I say it aloud or not, my mind swirls with the pursuits of oil bosses, the inaction of spineless politicians and the fear that maybe humans can’t find it within themselves to make the changes we need in order to all survive.

As it becomes clearer that there is “no credible path” to stay within 1.5 degrees of warming - the point when climate change becomes unmanageable - this anxiety over children is becoming more common. This rise in temperature means the death of coral reefs, flooded cities, extreme heat waves and droughts, to name just a few calamities heading our way.

Since children are the essence of our future, the mirror that we hold up to ourselves and what we want to create and put out into the world, then of course they should be at the forefront of all our thoughts and actions. Yet, instead of embodying our incentive for transformative change, the conversation around raising new life in the Anthropocene - the current period during which humanity has begun to dominate the biological, chemical and geological processes on Earth - has been responsible for dangerous, racist scapegoating.

Eco-fascism is the belief that ecological collapse is the result of modernity’s multiculturalism, overpopulation and migration, in what the academic Bernhard Forchtner calls “a radical blend of ethnonationalism and authoritarianism”. The real and escalating threat of eco-fascist violence shows that linking ‘the great replacement’ theory - the racist assumption that Europeans and white Americans and their culture are becoming extinct thanks to non-white immigration - with environmental degradation is becoming increasingly widespread.

Take the 2019 El Paso shooting in Texas, US, for example, in which 20 people were left dead in a targeted attack on the local Hispanic community. Afterwards, it was found that the shooter’s white nationalist manifesto told of “the inconvenient truth” that he believed they must “get rid of enough people’’ to protect dwindling resources and live sustainable lives. When such extreme acts are being enacted over fears that immigration is environmental warfare, we should be doing our best to unsettle these arguments wherever they are found, including on the social media accounts of popular elected officials, or within everyone’s favourite nature documentaries. This matters especially due to the long history of Malthusianism (the theory that the human population will increase at a rate greater than our ability to keep producing enough food and resources, leading to degradation and disaster - as the overpopulation argument too predicts) and racism within the environmental movement. It was the environmentalist Garrett Hardin, after all, who claimed that “freedom to breed will bring ruin to all’’.

‘Eco-fascism is the belief that ecological collapse is the result of modernity’s multiculturalism, overpopulation and migration, in what the academic Bernhard Forchtner calls “a radical blend of ethnonationalism and authoritarianism”.’

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